Plum Qa


Article by David Marks
Our main plum tree article can be found here. But sometimes our readers ask specific questions which are not covered in the main article. This page lists their comments, questions and answers. At the end of this page there is also a form for you to submit any new question or comment you have.


Date 1 August 2020 From: Mike W
QUESTION: Chelmsford. I have a plum tree bearing small fruits which was a sucker from the mother tree that had to be cut down due to age. These small fruirs are numerous and I am wondering if they are edible or useful for jam making?

ANSWER: Without knowing which variety the sucker was taken from it is impossible to answer your question.

Certainly the best plum jam I make is from the small fruits of wild plum trees. As far as being edible, you will need to wait until they are ripe and taste them. Just be absolutely sure that they are indeed plums.


Date 6 July 2020 From: dom
QUESTION: Incorrect pruning has caused my plum tree to have lots of watersprouts, is it ok to prune them all off at one time but does the rule of a third apply to them as weIl?

ANSWER: I would prune out all watersprouts entirely as soon as possible.


Date: 20 November 2019 From: Alan
QUESTION: I have a 2yr old plum tree, Victoria. I want to keep the height to 7ft [fruitcage]. Can branches be trained horizontally?

ANSWER: Plum trees are not suitable for horizontally training the branches. I forget exactly why, it may have something do with the timing of pruning. But for this reason you will never see an espalier plum tree.


Date: 1 September 2019 From: Chris
QUESTION: We are thinking of planting an Opal plum in our garden. As in Leicester the date for last frost is second week of May while Opal blossom comes out in the last week of April, would that make it a bad choice, or is the last frost referring to ground frost and won’t affect blossom up in a tree?

ANSWER: A top quality question which is difficult to answer with certainty.

First, the date of second week of May is for a frost, not just a ground frost. However, that last frost date is calculated to be the last frost date in six out seven years. That means, in most years the last frost date will be slightly earlier.

One other statistic which may influence your decision is that a temperature of -2C at blossom time will cause roughly 10% of plum tree blooms to fail. A temperature of -4C will cause roughly 90% of blooms to fail. Some varieties are more prone to frost damage than others.

Given the statistics in the above two paragraphs and the fact that UK weather is so unpredictable, you will understand that any answer to your question involves an understanding of the risk any person wants to take.

My personal opinion is that whilst Opal is not the most frost resistant variety as far as blossom is concerned, you should have a crop in the majority of years in Leicester.

I live not far from you, near Warwick. On a previous allotment I grew a plum tree variety (the name escapes me now) which was one of the most prone to frost. For four years it fruited perfectly. I have also grown Blue Tit, one of the least likely to be affected by frost. It also produced masses of fruit over 3 years. My current allotment has a Victoria plum tree which might well fruit next year.

I have given my opinion on Opal above, but it is only my personal opinion.


Date: 4 June 2019 From: Dierdrie G
QUESTION:I have a plum tree (actually it has six trunks from base .. maybe was cut down before i owned it. It is fruiting very sparsly. There are 3 young trees about 3 yards away (trunks now measuring about 3inches height10 ft) which i was told were coming from parent tree i was thinkin of cutting down tree as its huge and gets very little direct sunshine except in morning. Should I also remove smaller trees or are they viable?

ANSWER: It sounds like you have a plum tree that is not dwarfing and has grown on its own roots. If that is the case it will grow to a very large size, not manageable in anything but a very large garden. The fruit will also be so high on the tree that they will be impossible to reach without a ladder.

I suspect the three younger trees have grown from fruit which has fallen to the ground. They will also grow to be huge. The fruit will almost certainly be different (and worse) compared to the mother tree. My advice would be to get rid of all of them.


Date: 21 May 2019 From: Sonia
QUESTION: I ordered a potted czar plum tree. Can I leave the tree in the pot till October. I should have read information earlier but as I found on internet that the best time to plant is in October. This is Meay now, should I just go ahead and plant in the ground or wait till October.

ANSWER: The best time to plant a plum tree is autumn or early winter. The reason for this is the moisture in the ground at that time of year is ideal for the tree to establish a good root system.

However, moisture in the soil is the key. If you have a potted tree at this time of year, moisture in the pot will also be key. Personally, if you can water the ground every couple of weeks where the plum tree is planted that is probably the best idea. Leaving the tree in a pot may require you to water it every three or four days.


Date: 2 October 2016 From: Neil
QUESTION: Can I prune my 10 year old plum tree in October after collecting the fruit? Its getting out of hand.

ANSWER: You can prune it in October but you run the real risk of infections entering the wood where the pruning cuts are made. Our advice is to leave it until June next year.


Date: 24 July 2016 From: Penny
QUESTION: What do I do with the water shoots that are coming all over after a major prune 2 years ago? Victoria tree, probably 15yrs +, was in a very bad state, which luckily didn’t get silver leaf though cut right out of season by ‘experienced’ fruit tree pruner, it has good plums forming.

ANSWER: I have added a couple of paragraphs in the main article above about pruning water sprouts (see here). In all fairness to your “experienced” tree pruner, the tree may have been in such a bad condition that he judged it best to prune it out of season rather than wait until the correct time of year. If there is a danger of a branch breaking of its own accord it can be best to prune cleanly on a dry day immediately.


Date: 18 July 2016 From: Dan Lane
QUESTION: In the US we should prune in June/July also?

ANSWER: The US has larger weather fluctuations compared to the UK so I can’t say definitely without knowing the town / city you live in. However, the principle behind the timing of the pruning is to do it when the plum tree is growing vigorously.


Date: 21 March 2015 From: Gill
Thank you for such straightforward, easy-to-understand guidance. Can’t wait to get on with the job in June.


Date: 09 September 2014 From: Frances Grieve
Very helpful advice. This has given me the confidence to prune in early June next year.


Date: 06 September 2014 From: Debbie
Great advice, I’ve been looking for some straightforward, easy to understand instructions for years! Thank you.


Date: 31 August 2014 From: B. W. Broad
Good sound advice on how to prune plum trees


Date: August 2014 From: Lots of people
Lots of people are asking can they prune they their plum tree in August. My advice is don’t do it for two reasons. First you open up the tree to fungal and bacterial infections. The best time for pruning to avoid this danger is in early summer. Late May to early July.
The second reason is that significant pruning in August and September will, as always, result in leaf loss. This means the tree does not get the opportunity to absorb nutrients from the leaves before they fall off in autumn.


Date: 7 May 2016 From: Chris
QUESTION: I have bought a plum tree and the roots are wrapped in plastic. There are shoots starting to come out of this. Do I remove them before planting (p.s. I am new to gardening)!

ANSWER: Yes, you need to remove all the plastic. It will not rot down and will restrict the spread of the roots. Have just received your latest email and you point out that you were referring to the shoots not the plastic! The answer to that question is difficult to answer without a picture. But if the shoots are definitely from the roots and not the base of the trunk then don’t remove them.


Date: 7 May 2016 From: John
QUESTION: We have a 40 yr old standard Victoria suffering badly from dieback in the last two years, I plan to dig up and replace with a new variety, can it go in the same spot?

ANSWER: I would definitely plant any new fruit tree in a new position. Dieback of trees is a generic term which doesn’t identify what caused the problem. It could be bacterial, a virus or any number of problems. The soil where the tree is planted could well be infected, and it certainly won’t be in prime condition for a new tree.


Date: 2 September 2015 From: Richard
QUESTION: My sister in law is about to give me a plum tree that I think is about 3 years old and is being dug up from her garden. It’s produced good fruit this year. Is it possible to keep this tree in a very large pot or must it go into the garden? I have a fairly limited space for a tree.

ANSWER: I have never grown a plum tree in a container but the RHS says that this can be done successfully. First, you need to be sure that the tree is on the correct rootstock, it must be dwarfing (see here). Then you need to be sure the roots will fit in the container, after three years I doubt it. However, trimming the roots to fit is a real possibility. When doing this make sure that sufficient of the tiny fibrous roots remain because these are the ones that absorb water and nutrients.


Date: 9 August 2015 From: Joaane
QUESTION: I have a plum tree that is 2 years old, How and when can I take a cutting from ?

ANSWER: If you take a cutting from a plum tree and it takes, then you will end up with a plum tree which may be up to 10 metres or more tall. It will also take many years before it bears fruit. The only way to do this sensibly is to obtain an appropriate rootstock from a plant nursery. You will then need to “graft” a piece from the original tree onto the new rootstock and bind the joint. After six months or so the join will have healed and the cutting will be joined to the rootstock.
More information can be found on the internet about grafting fruit trees. It is something which requires a degree of expertise to succeed.


Date: 20 July 2015 From: Frances McLean
QUESTION: Can we move a one-year old plum tree which has been grown against a fence, into the open garden and grow it as a proper tree?

ANSWER: Yes you can. There are a couple of points to note though. The first is the variety of the plum tree and your local climate. The combination of the two will dictate how well the plum tree grows. Against a wall, the tree is protected from wind and to some degree colder temperatures. Some plum tree varieties need this to thrive, others, such as Victoria, are quite happy to grow in the open in most areas of the UK.

Check out our plum tree varieties page for details of specific plum varieties.

When you move the tree, take as much of the rootball as you can and plant the tree to the same depth as it was previously. Water well and don’t let the soil get dry for the next few months. This shouldn’t be a problem if you do it at the best time of year for this transplanting which is late October to early March. Do not prune the tree at the same time.

When you do start to prune the tree, you may be faced with a situation where the major branches are on opposite sides of the trunk because the tree has been growing against a wall. You need to encourage one, preferably two more main branches to form at right angles to balance the tree out.


Date: 8 March 2015 From: Edward Dodoo
QUESTION: After planting the plum tree, does it need pruning straight away?

ANSWER: Good question, I have updated the main article above to answer your question. Click here to go to that specific section. As for pruning it straight away I would say the quicker the better but leaving it for a couple a weeks will be fine, just make sure you don’t forget it!


Date: 10 June 2014 From: Michael
QUESTION: Thanks for the article – one question – how long does it take for a European plum tree to reach maturity (in years)?

ANSWER: The answer depends on several factors. If your plum tree is on dwarfing rootstock you can consider it mature after four to six years. If the tree is on its own rots then 10 to 12 years old would be more likely. The position of the tree and ground in which it is grown will also affect the growth rate.


Date: 4 August 2015 From: Sarah
QUESTION: Thanks for providing such a comprehensive and well-linked website, it’s a pleasure to work through. I’m a horticulturalist and someone asked me about their 3yo plum tree, with a lot of fruit – probably a Victoria. I’m not very experienced with fruits yet but I could see that a) it needs pruning as the leader’s just been left to reach skywards and b) that there are suckers. The graft would appear to have been planted well below soil level, and I can’t even see it. So, a) as it’s now early August is it better to leave pruning until next June, and b) is there anything I can do about this suckering issue – who knows what the rootstock is? Thank you very much.

ANSWER: I would leave pruning the suckers until next year. There’s about three months growth maximum left this year and why risk infection for such a short period of time?

In theory however, fungal diseases such as Silver Leaf spread through airborne spores which need to land on an open wound to infect the tree. If you pruned away the suckers to below ground level and made sure the ground was firmed down above the pruned suckers, then the spores will be unable to infect the pruned suckers.

There appears to be no research to prove this absolutely but there is no evidence that moving trees in winter, which will always result in some degree of root damage, exposes them to the risk of above ground fungal infections.

Two thoughts about the rootstock being buried below ground. Firstly, are you (or the owner) sure that the tree is on a dwarfing rootstock? If it isn’t the tree will quickly become unmanageable.

Second, having the graft point below ground is going to cause problems throughout the life of the tree. The problem won’t go away. Have you thought about digging the tree up and re-planting to the correct depth to solve the problem once and for all? It does take some work to do that but a three your old plum tree can be successfully replanted.

Conventional wisdom says that any replanting would need to be done in winter when the tree is dormant and it’s what I have always done. However, there is a thread on the Gardenweb site which is very interesting on this subject. It can be found here.

Replanting will also enable you to see for certain if the tree is on a dwarfing rootstock.

Date: 8 December 14 From: Liz
QUESTION: I live in Aberdeenshire at about 700 feet. I know that the blossom is frost hardy but will the blossom survive with us? It is still fully in leaf (10th December) – beginning to wonder if it’s evergreen!

ANSWER: Different varieties of plum tree do better than others in conditions like yours. I would suggest Czar as the first choice and then Victoria as the second. Both are self-fertile and both are well known for tolerating inclement conditions. Certainly, not all varieties will do well in your area and the blossom is not frost hardy, it’s more a question of will it be produced when the frost is not a hard one.

Date: 30 August 14 From: Bert
QUESTION: How long does it take to grow a plum tree from the stone?

ANSWER: Seven to 10 years before it produces fruit (if it ever does). It is very unlikely to be the same variety as the original tree. Also, because it will not be on dwarfing rootstock the tree will be huge both in height and spread. Don’t bother is our very strong advice.

Date: 29 August 14 From: Ren
QUESTION: Is it possible to grow an old Victoria Plum tree from a cutting and, if possible, when should it be taken and how?

ANSWER: Yes it is but it is quite a complicated and skilled process. You would need a rootstock (see above), a sharp knife, something to bind the rootstock and the cutting together, a very sharp knife and some basic knowledge. We haven’t tried it but this article here is helpful although it doesn’t really stress enough that practice is required to graft fruit tree successfully. Good luck.


Date: 25 August 2016 From: Pauline
QUESTION: We bought a Victoria plumb tree last year, it’s laden with fruit, so much that it’s heavy on the branches. Trouble is I’ve noticed a few plumbs with little holes in them, when I open there is a little many legged creature inside. How can I stop this, I’ve sprayed the whole tree with fairy liquid and water I don’t want to spray any insecticide and this was my mums old fashioned way to kill off bugs. Also when is the best time to harvest, some plumbs are soft but half yellow and half red, The few plumbs I’ve picked are delicious and would hate the rest to be eaten by insects.

ANSWER: There are two possible insects which may have affected you plums, Plum Moth and Plum Sawfly, click either of the links for more information.


Date: 01 May 2016 From: Dot
QUESTION: My 2year old miniature plum tree new leaves are starting to droop and curl there is no sign of aphids I have looked at them with a magnifying glass there are a few tiny holes in them, could you please advise

ANSWER: One likely cause is shothole which results in holes in the leaves. See the section above for more details.


Date: 13 March 2016 From:
QUESTION: For a few years we have had a white/grey powdery growth on the branches of our plum tree. This is also on other trees in our and our neighbours garden. The tree still fruits but each year there is less fruit and more branches become brittle and break off. What is this and is it treatable? Can I prevent this spreading to other trees?

ANSWER: This sounds very much like Powdery Mildew. We have a page devoted to the causes and possible treatment of this problem which can be found by clicking here.


Date: 29 January 2016 From: Betty C
QUESTION: I have a ten year old Marjorie seedling used to be called a damson but now a plum? It Has always cropped well but last year was badly pruned by someone “helping” my sick husband. Yesterday I noticed the whole of the trunk and larger branches are covered in white mushroom like fungi growths. We have had a very wet winter but not actually had any flooding here. A Victoria plum close by seems to be OK at the moment. I am worried that whatever it is might spread.

ANSWER: The bad pruning and the fungal infections may or may not be connected, it’s difficult to know. If the pruning was done in winter it’s more likely that they are connected. Plum trees should only be pruned when the tree is actively and strongly growing, June is a good time.

Any fungal growth is likely to release massive amounts of spores and if they have infected one plum tree they can infect another one nearby.

The decision is up to you as to what to do with the Marjorie’s seedling, without seeing it I can’t say. But plum trees are prone to fungal infections and they are difficult to control especially because most of the fungicide sprays are now banned or not for use on plants which produce edible crops.

If you keep the tree, don’t prune it this year and don’t prune the Victoria plum tree either. Open cuts are prime sites for fungal infections to enter.


Date: 10 October 2015 From: Michael Back
QUESTION: I have a plum tree 6yrs old normally good crop but this yr half of the tree died and the bark is splitting, I will prune out the dead and treat the cuts

ANSWER: Sounds like a good course of action to me. I do hope it recovers. Choose a dry day if at all possible.


Date: 01 October 2015 From: Roy F
QUESTION: My plum tree is 2 yo not a very good crop this year if the birds didn’t eat them wasps invaded them. What can i do to guard them? Is there any insecticide or other means to protect next year

ANSWER: The section on wasps above sums up the current situation. We also have a section on pigeon damage above which does the same.


Date: 27 August 2015 From: Madeleine S
QUESTION: My Victoria plum tree had a white blight on the leaves and plums but with all the rain we have had recently the blight has gone. Can I eat the plums now if I rinse them off with tap water?

ANSWER: Without knowing more about the “white blight” I can’t offer advice about eating the fruit. I can say two things however, I am unaware of any disease of plum tree fruit that makes them inedible after a wash with water. The “blight” does sound to me like a form of mildew and that can simply be washed off and the fruit then eaten.


Date: 22 July 2015 From: Arthur
QUESTION: My 20 year old Plum tree seems to have attracted loads of what looks like mini wasps. Can they damage the fruit? I Have already sprayed with Bayers. Thank-you in anticipation.

ANSWER: We have added a new section above about plum trees and wasp damage  which can be found here.


Date: 12 June 2015 From: Wendy
QUESTION: I have a Victoria plum tree which I planted 4 years ago. I had leaf curl disease badly in year 2, sprayed in year 3 which cured most of it.

Last year there was 3 plums on the tree which grew to eating stage. This year sprayed again, twice, as recommended on bottle. Still got some leaf curl and got clumps of leaves which turned brown and looked unsightly. There was about a dozen plums growing which all dropped off when they were about 2cm long.

There is also spots of sticky goo in places. Is this the canker you mention and why did the plums drop off? I only found your site yesterday and went straight out and pruned the tree. Great advice to other questions by the way. Keep up the good work, US amateurs rely on people such as yourself.

ANSWER: There are a couple of questions to answer. First, there is no such thing as “leaf curl disease”, it’s important to understand that. See our section on this above here. The problem is almost certainly aphids and they are causing the leaves to curl. To treat this you need to get rid of the aphids organically or spray with an appropriate insecticide.

A bad infestation of aphids can severely restrict fruit production (causing developing  fruit to drop off) and this seems to be what has happened to your plum tree.

As far as the sticky goo is concerned, if it’s on the fruit then it is not canker, see here for what it may be. If it is on the stems and branches, especially if they are cracked, then in all likelihood it is canker. See our page dedicated to this bacterial infection here.


Date: 12 June 2015 From: Wendy
QUESTION: This is a leaf off my Victoria plum tree would like to know if you could tell me what it is and what I can do about it. My hubby and I are not gardeners and we don’t have a clue. Edges of the leaves are curly with green lumps all over them like little pods

ANSWER: Not sure what that is. If you send a picture I will will do my very best to diagnose. Send the picture to the email address on our “Contact Us” page.

Without a picture to confirm, the most likely cause of the lumps is small insects between the two layers of the leaves. The insect is either growing or laying eggs. In the vast majority of cases there is nothing to be done and the tree is likely to be relatively unaffected. Spraying the tree with an insecticide will do no good because the insecticide will not permeate the leaf surface.


Date: 9 June 2015 From: Pamela Hammond
QUESTION: Just bought a mini plum tree which have left in pot as it appears to be ‘bleeding’. The buds are still tightly shut but brown liquid is trickling down the trunk!!

ANSWER: It sounds very much like your tree has bacterial canker. Full details o this bacterial infection can be found by clicking here. If you have just bought the tree I would take it back to the supplier and ask for a refund because the infection was clearly there when you bought the tree.


Date: 5 June 2015 From: Mark
QUESTION: I have a Victoria plum it had lots of blossom this year but after they seem to go brown and drop off have you any idea what this could be?

ANSWER: I have added a new section in the main article to answer this question in depth. Click here to go there now.


Date: 26 May 2015 From: John Windibank
QUESTION: We have been here 2 years now. There is a plum tree in the garden that is well established. Last year it had a lot of fruit but developed a problem by way of white pussie type spots on the fruit which culminated in the plum shrivelling up, the leaves also dried up. Having sprayed the tree with what ever it was that our local nursery gave us we accepted that we would get no edible fruit from it. This year there has been no blossom = no fruit. Could this be due to last years problems? Many thanks in anticipation.

ANSWER: It sounds very much like your plum tree suffered from Brown Rot last year. If that’s the case and all that was done was to spray the tree (there are no sprays which are proven to be effective against this fungus) then your tree has suffered significantly. It’s no surprise that it has not flowered this year.

It may well recover next year and I would wait until then to see what happens. If still no blossom appears, then I would be tempted to prune the plum tree rather more severely than is normal. The reason behind that advice is because Brown Rot sometimes affects the fruiting spurs and the only solution when that happens is to prune away the fruiting spurs and allow others to develop.


Date: 20 May 2015 From: Adrian
QUESTION: I have a plum tree that seems to have a few problem last year most of fruit lost along with leaves. This year didn’t blossom very well only few branches with leaves a lot with out which appear to be dead and brittle. Some of the large main branches have small buds which developed leaves. This hasn’t happened before. Looked like it has brown rot from googling so have started too cut dead branches and seal and heal. I cut one of main and this appears to be soft in middle. Do I have too cut back until solid as this might go back too main trunk. Another question can I graft on to this from healthy branches from other parts of tree.

ANSWER: It’s essential to cut back into good wood to remove the infection. I would suggest cutting back at least 5cm / 2in into good wood. I have never tried grafting from different parts of the same tree but can see no reason why this shouldn’t work. Personally I would leave it until next year to ensure that the tree is healthy.


Date: 15 March 2015 From: Graham
QUESTION: I have a number of plum trees in my garden all of which are probably over 20 years old, I have noted rows of hard fungus growing in Trunks and branches which just break off. I have done this and burned them. Is this fungus damaging for the trees, will I need to replace them? Thanks Graham

ANSWER: I would need a picture to be 100% sure but normally hard fungi don’t do any significant damage. They can sometimes however be a sign of over-damp conditions.


Date: 15 March 2015 From: Hamish
COMMENT: Regarding wasps. If you use a bottle glass or plastic instead of a jar put about 1 inch of sugar solution 1 measure sugar to 1 hot water dissolve and put into bottle. The wasps want to get out through the side and hardly ever make it to the top narrow exit. Once you have 2 to 3 inches dead wasps clean out and refill with another inch of solution


Date: 16 February 2015 From: Ian
QUESTION: Last year my Victoria plum tree (about 8- 10years old) was in full fruit when for no apparent reason some of the branches and fruit started to die back. It became quite widespread so I cut back the affected branches and found a black centre -some spreading outwards in the branches. Now I have left a 3′ stump where my tree was!! Can you tell me what the likely cause was?.

ANSWER: The most common cause (almost exclusively) of marked wood in plum trees is Silver Leaf Disease. It is also commonly accompanied by “silvered” leaves but you may have missed this. The quick spread of the problems also points to Silver Leaf Disease. Click here for more information, but it does sound very much like a dead tree in your case.


Date: 11 September 14 From: Dreamer
QUESTION: My Victoria plum tree was fine last week and now looks as if it is dying. Some leaves have holes but the underneath of all leaves looks as if it’s covered in rust and has some tiny white maggots. Would appreciate some advice.

ANSWER: We have added a new section above (see here) on plum rust. Because this fungus tends to occur at end of the season it does little damage to plum trees – it’s worse than it looks. As far as the tiny maggots go I would suggest ignoring them this year. If you tackle the rust as described above the leaves should be healthier next year and hopefully the maggots will not appear.


Date: 11 September 14 From: Ron Dark
QUESTION: For anyone’s interest: For a number of years I had a problem with pear mite on a purchased espalier pear tree. Although no solution appears in any source I have consulted, I found that a fairly strong solution of Jeyes Fluid applied liberally after leaf fall in the Autumn completely eradicated this pest.

ANSWER: Thanks for that information Ron. Just to be extra clear where did you apply the Jeyes Fluid? On the ground around the tree or sprayed on the tree?


Date: 21 August 14 From: Lila
QUESTION: Hi, our plum tree this year hasn’t grown nearly as many plums as last year, the leaves look as though they have Shot hole disease and we had to get rid of one of the branches as almost snapped. The leaves also have little yellow dots on them. Does this mean my tree is dying? we have picked around 900g of plums, also some of them had maggots. What can we do to ensure next year we have a health tree. We didn’t prune it last year and you seem to suggest we do this June time.

ANSWER: Yes, wait until June time before pruning. Late August is definitely too late for a couple of reasons and would do more damage than good. As far as Shot hole goes read the section on this problem above. Your tree can recover if you take the action suggested. For the maggots you don’t say what they look like but the most common are the maggots of plum moth. Read the section above here for lots more information on how to deal with them.


Date: 21 August 14 From: Carol Cunningham
QUESTION: My single plum tree is covered in tiny plums each spring but they all turn yellow and drop off when they get to 5-6mm in size. I keep the tree well watered and mulched. It’s in part-sun area of the garden. What’s going wrong?

ANSWER: Plum trees naturally drop some of their fruit in June time but to loose all the developing plums is a different matter. In almost all cases it’s an environmental or nutrient problem. Too much or too little water, a late frost etc. If you can rule those out I would suspect a nutrient problem. In autumn and early spring sprinkle a handful of blood fish and bone per square metre around the base of the tree out to the edge of the canopy. Gently trowel it into the surface of the soil and water in. Anyone else have any other thoughts?


Date: 19 August 14 From: Val
QUESTION: We have just moved and have a large plum tree in the garden we have identified brown rot, have started to prune and there is a black ring through the inside of each branch cut, what is this and can it spread to a large cherry tree we also have? Picture 1, picture 2.

ANSWER: This sounds like Silver Leaf Disease, the brown marks in the wood indicate this. See our section above for more information.


Date: 10 August 14 From: Cherie Crozier
QUESTION: What can I spray my plum tree with as I have identified it having the plum moth, due to pink maggots inside fruit.

ANSWER: It’s too late to spray this year, the bug is already in the fruits and no spraying can kill them now. The time to spray is about mid June and there two common sprays which are Westland Resolva Bug Spray and Bayer Sprayday Greenfly Killer.


Date: 07 August 14 From: Mamta
QUESTION: I read your very interesting article above. My Victoria plum tree has become infested with saw fly this year. It is 4 years old. It fruited very well for the first 2 years, very little fruit last year. I had only 2 bunches of plum this year. When I picked a ripe looking one and cut it open (thank God I did not bite into it!), it had a few small larvae crawling inside, ugh! On the outside, there was a resin like drop at the base of each fruit. I have disposed off the fruits. I will mulch around it with chip bark soon. What else should I do?

ANSWER: Burn any affected fruits, picked ones and those that have fallen. In February / March break up and turn over the top 8cm / 3in of soil with a trowel around the tree. This will bring the bugs to the surface and birds will eat them. The chemical deltamethrin, sprayed when the blossom is falling off, will definitely help control sawfly. You need to time the spray so that it occurs before the bugs burrow into the forming fruit. Once inside the fruit, spraying will have no effect.


Date: 04 August 14 From: Brian G
QUESTION: I have a 5 year old Victoria plum tree that was full of fruit. I took a load off but it has not improved the size of fruit that I left on the tree.

However I am starting to have problems with the fruit. There is a bit of brown rot which I am used to, having a Victoria plum. I pick them off and put them in the dustbin.

But all the fruit is rather scabby but only on the side that faces the light. The backs of the fruit are green and clean. The scabbed fruit is turning a red colour

I gave the tree a winter wash and have sprayed it with horticultural soft soap to keep it free from aphids which seems to have worked.

I attach photo of three of the fruits and one of the tree. If you zoom in on the pic of the it highlights the problem quite well.

I would appreciate your views on this. Is it terminal? If not what can be done? Pictures attached here and here:

ANSWER: Any help in identifying this problem will be much gratefully appreciated.


Date: 03 August 14 From: Not Given
QUESTION: My 3 year old Victoria plum tree has very hard scabby fruit on it. How can I treat it?.

ANSWER: I’m not sure from the limited description what the problem is. Send a picture (send one using our email address) and I’ll do my best to identify the problem.


Date: 21 July 14 From: Peter
COMMENT: I have a plum moth (plum sawfly?) infestation of my greengage in Cambridgeshire. Rather than “burning” the infected fruit as you suggest, I have placed a bucket of water next to the tree, and every time I pass the tree, I throw any infected fallen fruit into the water. The fruit immediately sink to the bottom, as do the white grubs themselves (they cannot swim – I tested this on one grub).


Date: 21 July 14 From: Jean C
QUESTION: My plum trees have holes all over the branches and tree trunks and there is a clear sticky sap coming from each hole, one tree looks dead and now the other tree has shrivelled up leaves and also hole all over the branches and trunk with sap coming from them as well. What is this and can it be treated.

ANSWER: Are you from the UK? I ask because that sounds very much like shot-hole borer and I wasn’t aware that it commonly affected plum trees here.


Date: 20 July 14 From: Caroline
QUESTION: Please could you help me identify what is the problem with my Victoria plum tree. I can’t decide if it may be brown rot. Picture is attached here.

ANSWER: You’ve identified Brown Rot correctly, the small grey blobs on the fruit are a definite identifying sign. I have added a section on Brown Rot of plums in the article above for more identification details and what to do about this disease.


Date: 13 July 14 From: Patricia
QUESTION: 1st yr of setting plum tree. Lots of fruit but started to notice clear jelly sticky stuff on plums which set hard, have been wiping off and destroying plums but still it comes – can you please tell me how to get rid? Thank you

ANSWER: Without a picture (send one using our email address if you want to) it’s difficult to say for certain but it sounds like a normal reaction plums have when they suffer from environmental problems (water, heat, cold etc) or as a reaction to some other pest or disease. See the section “Clear Blobs of Hardened Resin / Jelly on Plums” above for more information.


Date: 11 July 14 From: Robert Martin
QUESTION: All the plums that were on two of my three plum trees have gone none left on the trees none on the ground

ANSWER: If there is absolutely no trace of them then the only conclusion is that they have been eaten by a human who has then disposed of the stones. You don’t mention if you have eaten them or possibly someone you know. If that’s not the case then I fear that they have been stolen.


Date: 6 July 14 From: Jim Wells
QUESTION: Plum tree about 12 years old for first time showing sticky, white/grey powdery leaves though at present developing fruit seem unaffected. Any idea what may be and how to treat? Thanks, Jim

ANSWER: Sounds very like Powdery Mildew. I have added a section on this pest above entitled “White powder on Plum Tree Leaves”.


Date: 6 July 14 From: Jackie Rees
QUESTION: Victoria plum tree leaves turning brown around the edges also brown in the centre some have small holes in the leaf. Your help please tree about 4years old with plenty of fruit.

ANSWER: There are many fungal diseases which can affect plum tree leaves and environmental problems, especially water-logged soil, can also have the affect you describe although the holes are slightly more unusual. It may well be shot hole which causes brown spots in the leaves and some holes. I would spray a fungicide on the tree as a first course of action. There are several on the market, one well known one is Scotts Fungus Clear Ultra.


Date: 26 June 14 From: PJ
QUESTION: My plum tree has come into leaf as normal, but now nearly all the leaves look withered and are dying, but there is a lot of unripe fruit forming normally. No sign of any disease that I can see, but it looks very poorly. Could it be old age? It\’s probably about 20 years old at least

ANSWER: I doubt very much that age is the problem, plum trees normally live a lot longer than 20 years. If there are no signs of aphids (use a magnifying glass to look at the underside of leaves to be 100% sure) or other pests / diseases then the problem sounds environmental. Has the area flooded last winter / spring? Has it been pruned regularly? Anything else changed in the last year or so?

Date: 01 June 14 From: Walter Awlson
QUESTION: I have a mature Victoria Plum tree which is badly affected with “pocket plum”. Following advice to remove branches with affected fruit, there is very little left and obviously no crop this year. Is there any treatment which will help save this tree and prevent a recurrence?

ANSWER: Plum pocket was previously very rare in the UK but over the last three years it is becoming more widespread. I have included a new section above in the main article on this pest to describe its lifecycle, identification and treatment.


Date: 23 May 14 From: Irene G
QUESTION: My mature Victoria plum tree has failed to come into leaf this year. There was early evidence of small buds but they have failed to open. There are no visible signs of canker or damage to the the outside of the tree. The only change to its environment was the stacking of logs from a tree we cut down last autumn approx. 2m from the tree base. Could this have damaged roots? Some twigs can be snapped but others still appear to have sap. Any help/suggestions welcomed.

ANSWER: A difficult one to diagnose because the first possibility is environmental. Too cold, too wet or (most unlikely) too dry. That pile of wood you mention may be causing water to remain in the ground longer than it normally would and after all the wet weather we have had that could be the problem.

Plum trees are notorious for changing their growth habits from one year to the next. I would suggest waiting until next year to see what happens especially because the tree is obviously alive with no external signs of damage.


Date: 19 May 14 From: Brian H
QUESTION: I have pea sized black blisters on the underside of the branches of my yellow plum tree. What are they and how can I treat it. Pictures attached.

ANSWER: These are scale insects, almost certainly Lecanium Scales. I have added a section in main article above on how to identify and treat them. Thanks for the pictures which greatly help to identify the problem.

1 May 2016 From: Najam
I have a few years old plum tree in my house when I bought it. Last year it’s main branch broke with the weight of its heavy fruit about 1 foot from main stem. Now no branch grows from this broken main branch. Is there anyway to get growth around this area.

ANSWER: When a branch breaks on any fruit tree, new growth will only appear if there are buds on the remaining branch. If there are no buds on the remaining branch, no new growth will appear. There is nothing you can do to encourage new growth on that branch. Over time the tree will attempt to “balance” itself out and new growth will tend to be more vigorous on the side with the broken branch. However, this can take five years or so on an established plum tree to show significant results.


3 April 2016 From: Joanne
I have planted a 2 year old Victoria plum tree this March 2016 do I prune it this June or next June?

ANSWER: This answer applies to all varieties of plum trees newly planted in spring. First, follow the instructions which came with the plum tree at the time of planting. Then prune the next year in June time as described above.

If the tree came with no instructions or they are lost, it’s probably best to prune the main stem to 1m / 3ft high but make sure there at least four side branches (or buds) below the pruning point. These side branches / buds will be the main branches for the remainder of the tree’s life. If you prune below them further buds may not form on the main stem. If in doubt, don’t prune in the first year.


4 September 2015 From: Lee Williams
I have a mature Victoria plum tree sometimes it crops heavy and the next year it produces very little fruit.

ANSWER: This is a very common problem with many plum trees and Victoria is no exception. It is a natural reaction of the tree. If it crops heavily one year it is quite likely to undercrop the next year. To some degree this can be corrected. When you notice lots of plums forming in a year simply snip 30% of them off. This will have two effects. First it will help the tree to produce a good crop the next year and secondly the crop in the current year will tend to produce larger plums.

The reasons for this are not fully understood but it seems to be in-built into plum trees in particular. Fruit trees are wise old things and they know how to survive in the wild. A slight intervention as suggested above helps to “domesticate” them!


26 July 2015 From: Tony Ford
QUESTION: I have inherited a tree about 30 foot tall. It has red leaves. I did not realise it was a plum tree until it produced sparse small red plumbs. It is about 2ft 6 wide at the base and the lowest branches are 6 foot off the ground. I don’t where where to begin, it is a beautiful looking tree but very neglected.

ANSWER: At 30 foot tall there is really nothing an amateur gardener can do. Any pruning needs to be left to an expert with the correct climbing and cutting equipment. If you do intend to get an expert in I would take some photographs of the whole and cut fruit now.

The tree you describe, if it is indeed a plum tree, is not common so identification of the fruit would be key. It may also not be plum tree, it could be a damson or something else. If it were a damson tree the pruning could be far more harsh (and rewarding) than pruning a normal plum tree. Do not prune plum trees in winter, the risk of fungal infection is too high.


4 July 2015 From: John A
QUESTION: My plum tree is 5 years old plenty of fruit on developing nicely, but getting new growth on all the branches. Can I prune this new growth now 04/07?

ANSWER: Yes, it’s fine to prune a plum tree in July. Ideally early spring to early summer is best but up to mid / end July poses little risk. Prune in August onwards and the risk of fungal infections increases significantly. To further reduce the risk prune on a dry sunny day.


27 June 2015 From: Josh
QUESTION: Last year my nan got her plum tree chopped half its length, and we began to grow it as a hedge, but realised that this was wrong and this year there was no flowering, but mid June this year i thinned it all out and the branches have become thicker, will it blossom next year and fruit or is it lost? Also, it normally bears small yellow plums, and my nan doesn’t know what it is called, do you have any ideas?

ANSWER: All is definitely not lost! After a severe pruning a plum tree can take a couple of years to start producing fruit again. So continue looking after it and you should have plums again in a couple of years. The variety may be a Mirabelle, click here for a picture and description


22 June 2015 From: Tim Fortune
QUESTION: I bought a czar plum tree 3 years ago and it has grown well but not blossomed or fruited at all. Why?

ANSWER: Three to four years iss about average for a Czar plum tree to produce fruit so give it another year or two and you will be having plums for the next 30 to 40 years. Czar reaches full plum production after about six years.


21 June 2015 From: Diane
QUESTION: Do plums fruit on new shoots and when pruning plum tree should you touch any of the new growth? Thanks.

ANSWER: Normally plums fruit on wood which is two to three years old or older. They do not fruit on shoots grown this season.
In the first three years (as described in the main article above) growth of new main shoots should be pruned back by about 60% of their length and some of that will be the current year’s growth. On an established tree, new growth will also be pruned especially to keep the centre of the tree open.


17 June 2015 From: Celine
QUESTION: I have a two year old greengage tree that has grown with a u giving two leaders. should I cut one out?

ANSWER: It really depends on how high the two leaders have split. If they are 1m or so high then leave well alone, just consider them as two separate branches and try and encourage two more main ones to form so the tree is balanced. If the split occurs below 1m then the problem is that the fruit will hang very low near to the ground and liable to pick up infections etc. They will also require bending down to harvest the fruit. In that case you might want to cut away one of the leaders and encourage branching to occur higher up the tree.


26 May 2015 From: Celine
QUESTION: Thank you for very clear advice on pruning. I have a cherry plum tree and a greengage tree both growing in containers. How do you recommend feeding them (I’m growing them organically)? Many thanks, Celine

ANSWER: Plum trees and greengages are tricky to grow successfully in containers, so good luck with them. As for feeding, blood, fish and bone fertiliser (which is organic) is the best solution. A good handful gently worked into the top soil in April and then again in July is all they need. If you feed them too much they will be very reluctant to produce fruit.


10 May 2015 From: John Clark
QUESTION: We planted our tree last year and its first pruning will be this June but I don’t know how old it is. It looks like your sketch of the 3 year tree. It’s about 6ft high and 5ft wide, 3 branches at 18in from soil, 2 more 3ft from soil then a ‘v’ of branches to the 6ft height. Quite a few branches are around 2-3ft long. Do I really cut all these to around 12 inches long as the sketches suggest? Thanks, John

ANSWER: Difficult question to answer because when you say “we planted our tree last  year”, that could mean January 2014 or December 2014, a difference of nearly a year. The principle behind pruning in the third year is based on the premise that most plum trees will only produce a useful crop from ages four to five years onwards. The pruning in years one to three is aimed at creating a good structure and also branches which will be strong enough to support the weight of a full crop of plums in later years. So in summary, if your tree is three years old I would prune it exactly as described in the main article, if it is four years I would prune it as described in the section ‘pruning in later years’. I have updated the article to try and make it easier to understand but I think there are no significant differences to the original information.


11 January 2016 From: Derek Fairfield
COMMENT: Have found unwanted DVDs a good deterrent to pigeons and other birds. They do not seem to worry bees etc.


04 January 2016 From: Kim Gartmann
QUESTION: Hello, I live in the So. of France, it’s cold here (ca. 5 – 12° C) and locals say now is a good time to prune plum trees, however various sites incl. yours suggest June? We have 1 very old and 4 – 5 4 yr. old (wild) trees, about 2 – 3 m tall, flower in Feb. and produce fruit in June/July. BTW, like your wine glass form pruning suggestion and want to contain the trees before they get totally out of control. Pls. advise. Many thanks.

ANSWER: The locals are wrong. Correct for apple and pear trees but definitely NOT plum trees. Do not prune plum trees in the middle of winter, you risk infection especially of Silver Leaf disease. Prune when the tree is growing strongly, May / June is a good time. That applies to your area of France as well as the UK.


02 September 14 From: Margaret
Dave this website is fantastic.

FROM DAVE: Thanks, glad it’s of use


01 September 2014 From: Lucy
QUESTION: We have a very old neglected 10 year old plum tree. It produces masses of tasty plums. But unfortunately the wasps always beat us to them, and lots that we pick have maggots/ grubs inside which has completely put us off!! Any advice ??

ANSWER: Yes, have a look at our page dedicated to plum tree pests and diseases. The most likely causes are Plum Sawfly or Plum Moth both of which are described in detail on that page. As far as wasps are concerned I know of no solution because setting sugary traps in jam jars just seems to attract more wasps. I will be investigating this in more detail over the next few months and will post what I find on the pests and disease page above. There is a product called the Waspinator but I have not tested it yet.


31 August 2014 From: Pauline Logan
QUESTION: I have an 18 year old plum tree which produced 2 tiny plums last year for the first time. Was looking forward to some fruit this year – but nothing!! Can you help? Very informative page. Thank you.

ANSWER: Hi Pauline, plum trees are notorious for producing fruit one year and then missing a couple. You don’t say how it has cropped over the past five years or so. Also, how tall has the tree grown which may give some indication of the rootstock its on.


22 August 14 From: j. graham
QUESTION: I finally found your page on the internet and I found it to be very informative, answering all my queries on Victoria plum trees. Thank you so much.

ANSWER: Thanks, glad you’ve found it useful.


08 August 14 From: Andy
QUESTION: Can I prune my tree in August after it’s fruited it’s in a fan shape?

ANSWER: It’s possible to prune a plum tree at any time of year but from the beginning of August onwards the risk of fungal infections getting into pruning wounds increases. It’s up to you to determine how much risk you want to take. Minor pruning now should be OK but anything significant poses a risk.


04 August 14 From: Patrick
QUESTION: We have a 2 year old Victoria Plum tree that bore a great deal of good fruit in year 1, which was a big surprise. This year it has only produced 3 plums but otherwise looks healthy. We need to give it a trim next June as per your advice. We missed this year. Any reason to panic yet?

ANSWER: That’s absolutely normal Patrick, in fact the unusual feature is getting fruit in the first year! Now that is unusual. Three years or so until the tree produces fruits is about normal for a Victoria.


30 July 14 From: Colin
QUESTION: Can you prune a plum as a cordon tree?

ANSWER: The basic advice is that it is possible but not practical. See our new section on your question here.


23 June 14 From: Doug Doran
QUESTION: My six/seven year old Victoria Plum tree is bearing fruit, some of which look scabby, but very many of the leaves are curling up and withering. See attached picture (click here). Is this terminal or just a bad case of Plum Leaf Curl Aphids.

ANSWER: To diagnose Plum Leaf Curl check the leaves for signs of aphids and / or the white skins they shed. Sometimes they are not particularly visible to the naked eye so use a magnifying glass or take a digital picture of a single leaf and look at it in full size. Those two methods may show up aphids that normal viewing misses. Having done that, if there are no signs of aphids then the problem is elsewhere.

Plum trees are notorious for looking not so good one year but then recovering the next year. On that basis I would never diagnose the problem as terminal until two years have passed. If there are no aphids, has the ground been water-logged? It was a very wet winter / spring and plum trees do not like water-logged soil at all.

I can’t see the whole tree from the picture but it does appear that the branches are very long, with some unusual, almost right angled, bends in them, presumably as a result of some harsh pruning a couple of years ago or broken branches? I think the tree would benefit from some pruning to help it produce leaves and fruit earlier down the branches. My website will be updated to include how to do this but it’s not there at the moment. However, this video from Stephen Hayes (see link below) is excellent. He is very practical and willing to explain the realities of pruning plum trees. Take a look and decide how to proceed from there on. To add my own little bit of advice, I would spread the pruning out over two years rather than one and I would also try and shorten those branches which have the right angled bends in them to end up with straighter branches. See the video here. Good luck.


13 June ’14 From: Hilier Ward
QUESTION: I planted a Victoria plum tree last year and there are some green fruit on the tree. Most of the leaves have gone brown and curled up. What’s wrong with it. Do I prune it before the fruit matures as above (July) thanks

ANSWER: That sounds like two questions. First, do prune in July time, see the question and answer below if you are concerned that you may be pruning away fruit. Second, it does sound like you have a pest problem and it it is probably Plum Leaf Curl Aphids, click here for more details of this pest and how to treat it. If you send a picture to our
email address I can diagnose it more definitely.


August ’14 From: Lots of people
COMMENT: Lots of people are asking can prune they their plum tree in August. My advice is don’t do it for two reasons. First you open up the tree to fungal and bacterial infections. The best time for pruning to avoid this danger is in early summer. Late May to early July. The second reason is that significant pruning in August and September will, as always, result in leaf loss which will not have time to be replaced. This means the tree does not get the opportunity to absorb nutrients from the leaves before they fall off in autumn.


01 June ’14 From: Harry
QUESTION: I have a plum tree which is now in its third year my question is
will it flower to produce the fruit first and if so when does this happen and what time of the year.ANSWER: Yes, the tree must produce flowers before it can produce fruit. The flowers are pollinated by insects and only after a flower has been pollinated can it produce fruit. Varieties differ and flowering times are dependent on where you live but in general the end of April is the average time for flower production on plum trees. With a bit of luck it should produce flowers and fruit next year.


01 June ’14 From: Sue Green
QUESTION: Hi I have a plum tree that has been In for two years now and has never flower or had any fruit on it. I feed it and make sure it has a lot of water so can you tell me what I am doing wrong kind regards sue green.

ANSWER: The average time for a plum tree to start producing fruit is about four years. Some varieties produce fruit earlier or later than the average. So your two year old plum tree probably has no problem at all, just wait a year or two. Good luck.


25 May ’14 From: Sally
COMMENT: Thank you my tree is at least 10 years old and has not had any pruning so i need to give it a really good one.


10 May ’14 From: Diane
QUESTION: Are pigeons likely to be eating my Victoria plum tree? Last year and this, the three year old tree started off well then, within a couple of days almost all the leaves were ripped to shreds and the twiggier branches snapped off. I have not seen pigeons doing this but last year witnessed them ripping up a Forsythia which is about eight feet away. No fruit developed last year and looking the same sad way this. Help!

ANSWER: The simple answer unfortunately is yes. This problem is not uncommon. I’ve updated our plum pest and disease page with lots more detail about this problem and how to cope with it.


24 April ’14 From: Babru
COMMENT: Excellent article, informative and well laid out page


12 April ’14 From: Judy
QUESTION: I have inherited an old plum tree with my recent house purchase and need to remove a three inch diameter lower branch. When is the correct time of year to do it and do I need to seal the cut afterwards? If so with what? Hope you can help. Many thanks.

ANSWER: Plum trees should be pruned when they are growing vigorously, June is a good time in the UK. The jury is still out about using sealants. My personal opinion is not to use them, let the tree heal itself. But I definitely would prune on a dry day to reduce the risk of any fungal infections.