VICTORIA PLUM TREE
By David Marks
The origins of the Victoria plum are not known. It is reputed to have been found in a garden in Alderton, Sussex. But those who recount this information are in error because there is not now and never has been a town called Alderton in Sussex. Walderton in Sussex yes, Alderton in Suffolk yes, but not Alderton in Sussex!
The first we really can be sure of is that a Mr Denyer first called it Denyer’s Victoria in 1837, the same year that Queen Victoria began her long reign as queen of England.
PARENTAGE OF VICTORIA PLUM TREES
Not known, it has been widely cultivated in the UK from 1847 onwards. It was awarded a First Class Certificate by the RHS 1973, awarded an Award of Garden Merit by the RHS in 1993 which was again confirmed in 2013.
APPEARANCE, TASTE AND CHARACTERISTICS OF VICTORIA PLUMS
The fruits start off as green turning to an orange / red colour and then finally a purple / dark red. The significance of the colour change from orange / red to purple / dark red is important because the Victoria plum is both a cooker and an eating variety. When the colour is orange / red the plums are at their best for cooking. They have good acidity and texture which is ideal for pies, jams and preserves. See the picture below for the correct colour for this usage. When cooked this plum variety breaks down easily with a full plum taste with an almond scent in the background.
Victoria plums ready for cooking use
When the plums turn a much darker colour (as shown in the picture below) they are at their peak for eating. At this stage the sugar content of the fruit has increased significantly making them much tastier to eat raw. Even at this stage the plums can only rate as good eaters, they will never be one of the best plums to eat raw but see further down this article for reasons to grow this variety. After picking the fruits will keep for about a week.
Victoria plums ripe for eating
The size of the individual plums varies but on average they are about 5cm / 2in long and 3cm / 1½in wide. This makes them just slightly larger than the average plum and weighing in at an average 45g. The fruit flesh is dark yellow / gold, grainy, firm and with lots of juice, it has a medium sized stone. The blossoms are white and the leaves are a very average green colour.
Overall tree size is of course primarily dependent on the rootstock but also on the growing conditions. On average the following tree sizes by rootstock are for a fully grown tree after 7 years:
- St Julien A – unpruned height 4m / 13ft, pruned height 3.5m / 11ft
- VVA-1 – unpruned height 3.5m / 11ft, pruned height 2.5m / 8ft
- Pixy – unpruned 3m / 10ft. pruned height 2.5m / 8ft
Our advice, regarding rootstocks, for growing a Victoria plum tree in most conditions would be the St Julien A rootstock. You’ll get a decent sized, relatively vigorous tree which won’t swamp the average garden. If your garden is on the small size it may be worth thinking about a Pixy rootstock. However, even in a smallish garden we would suggest that an appropriately pruned Victoria plum tree on Julien A rootstock would be your best bet.
Your tree should produce a small crop two to three years after it has been planted and will reach its full-cropping capability five years after planting.
One very common characteristic of this variety is that it over-crops. This can have two undesirable effects the first of which is that a large number of the fruits do not develop to full ripeness. The second effect is that the sheer weight of the fruit can cause branches to break. Both of these can be avoided by correct pruning – see below.
BUYING A VICTORIA PLUM TREE
Victoria plum trees are the most commonly bought and grown plum tree in the UK. If any garden centre / online supplier sells a plum tree they will almost certainly sell the Victoria variety. This gives you an enormous choice of suppliers both online and in the High Street.
PRUNING VICTORIA PLUM TREES
All the normal rules for pruning plum trees can be ground on our page dedicated to this subject which can be found here. If you have an old or neglected Victoria plum tree then more information about pruning these trees can be found here.
Specifically for Victoria plum trees we would suggest the following pruning regime which will be better suited to their known weaknesses:
- Pay special attention to thinning the fruits in mid June 2017 . This will reduce the weight of the fruit produced
and help to stop branches breaking under the weight of excessive fruit.
It will also help the remaining fruit to ripen fully.
- Prune in the first three years of your tree's life exactly as
described on our plum pruning page which can be found
here. This will establish a good basic shape.
- Only prune lightly in subsequent years but prune each year.
- If branches break cut them back to solid wood as soon as possible whatever time of year the breakage occurs. It's true that plum trees should best be pruned in June time but a breakage is an unavoidable type of self-pruning which will almost always result in damage which will let in infection. Far better to immediately prune back to solid wood and allow the tree to heal over the cut as quick as possible.
PESTS, DISEASES OF VICTORIA PLUM TREES
Victoria plum trees are susceptible to all the pests and diseases of which
attack plum trees and for a comprehensive list of symptoms and cures see our
plum tree pest and disease page. It is
unfortunate however that Victoria's do have a reputation, and quite rightly
so, of suffering from the following problems in particular:
The classic signs of canker are:
- Branches and stems have sunken and malformed areas on them. The size
of the affected area can be as small as a two penny coin but can also
spread over very large areas of the branches.
- Damaged areas will often have a dark gum oozing from them which
may harden to become almost solid after time.
- Leaves turn prematurely yellow but do not shrivel. They drop off
sooner than normal.
- There may be small brown marks on the leaves which fall out leaving the leaves with small holes in them, this often referred to as shot hole.
For treatment and prevention of canker in Victoria plum trees read our detailed page here.
SILVER LEAF DISEASE of VICTORIA PLUM TREES
The classic signs of Silver Leaf Disease are:
- A silver sheen to some of the leaves. Consider other causes if the
majority of leaves have a silver sheen to them. A closer look at the
affected leaves will show that they have nothing on their surface which
might be the cause of the apparent colour change. See lower down for the
reasons why the leaves turn silver.
- Some branches may well die back. You may or may not realise it but
affected branches will be those which were incorrectly pruned or damaged in the
- Affected branches may have fungi on them. These look a bit like flat
toadstools. They can vary in size and shape. Initially they are a purple
coloured but they turn brown in summer.
- If you cut through an infected branch which is greater than 3cm / 1in wide there will be dark brown marks in the wood. If these aren't visible try wetting the wood which often makes the brown marks become more visible. These brown marks are the most positive sign of Silver Leaf disease and are rarely caused by anything else.
This disease is more common on Victoria plum trees because over-production of fruit often causes branches to break in late summer / early autumn and if not dealt with immediately the break points provide easy access for the Silver Leaf Disease fungus to enter the wood. For treatment and prevention of this disease read our detailed page here.
PLUM MOTH OF VICTORIA PLUM TREES
The signs of Plum Moth are:
- Small pinkish maggots inside the plums
- Dried drops of gum which form near the entry hole
- Premature fruit drop and discolouration of the plums.
BROWN ROT OF VICTORIA PLUM TREES
The signs of Brown Rot are:
- The skin of the affected plums will have grey, small raised bumps on it
- If you cut into the plum, the flesh will be discoloured and rotting where the bumps are most
- The fruit will shrivel and fall off.
The sooner you take action the better chance you have of minimising the damage. See here for more specific details about brown rot of plum trees.
POLLINATION PARTNERS FOR VICTORIA PLUM TREES
Victoria plum trees are self-fertile and will produce a more than adequate crop of plums on their own without any other plum trees nearby. If any fruit tree sellers tell you otherwise they will simply be trying to sell you two plum trees where in truth, a single tree of this variety will do fine by itself. However, this variety, in pollination group 3, makes an excellent pollinator for the following other plum trees
- Avalon - pollination group 2, partially self-fertile
- Belle de Louvain - pollination group 3, self-fertile
- Blue Tit - pollination group 4, self-fertile
- Cambridge Gage - pollination group 3, partially self-fertile
- Coe's Golden Drop - pollination group 2, self-sterile, needs another pollination partner
- Czar - pollination group 3, self-fertile
- Denniston's Superb - pollination group 2, self-fertile
- Excalibur - pollination group 2, partially self-sterile
- Farleigh Damson - pollination group 3, self-fertile
- Haganta - pollination group 3, partially self-fertile
- Herman - pollination group 2, self-fertile
- Jefferson - pollination group 2, self-sterile
- King Damson - pollination group 2, self-fertile
- Langley Bullace - pollination group 3, self-fertile
- Merryweather - pollination group 3, self-fertile
- Opal - pollination group 3, self-fertile
- Reine Claude de Bavay - pollination group 3, self-fertile
- Rivers Early Prolific - pollination group 2, partially self-fertile
- Sanctus Hubertus - pollination group 2, self-sterile, needs another pollination partner
- Shropshire Prune - pollination group 3, self-fertile
- Warwickshire Drooper - pollination group 2, self-fertile
- Yellow Pershore - pollination group 2, self-fertile
SUMMARY CHARACTERISTICS OF VICTORIA PLUM TREE
USE: Cooking and eating
SKIN COLOUR / TEXTURE: Deep purple when fully ripe
FLESH COLOUR: Golden orange
TASTE AND TEXTURE: Sweet and juicy when fully ripe
FRUIT SIZE: Medium
TREE SIZE: Average
REGULARITY OF CROPPING: Crops well and regularly
POLLINATION: Self fertile, does not need a pollination partner
POLLINATION GROUP: 3
FULL NAME: Prunus domestica 'Victoria'
AWARDS: Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit reconfirmed in 2013
SPECIAL FEATURES: Heavy crops of good quality fruit. Good resistance to cold and frosty conditions
FLOWERING AND FRUITING TIMES:
The average flowering time (optimum time for pollination) and date when fruits are ripe in the UK for the Victoria plum tree are set out below. If you have set your home town we can give you a more accurate estimate, if you have not set your home town (do it now by clicking here) the dates below will be the average for the UK.
Your town has not been set, the average main flowering time for your Victoria plum tree in the UK is the third week of April. Fruit will be ready for picking in the third week of August. Click here if you want to set the dates to your home town.
Flowering and fruit picking dates vary according to the weather in any particular growing season so the above dates may well change slightly from one year to the next. The flowering date above is when the plum tree produces the maximum number of blossoms, it will also produce blossom, although less, a week or two either side of the date given.