Do I need to thin plum?

My plum trees flowered furiously this year, now every branch is covered with these fruitlets, large and small. Do I need to thin them?

I have these tree for years, in the past the fruitlet eventually all dropped. But this year seems different. So should I thin them? now or later?

Later. I think you’ll find that the smaller ones drop on their own- if they seem to have long, yellowish stems they are probably not staying on much longer. I’ve found that if I just push them back slightly they’ll fall right off, but they’re going to do that on their own anyway. The keepers are stronger and will resist your touch.


You can see already that some are growing faster than others - those will be your keepers, lots of the rest will drop

I find that stone fruit are more susceptible to brown rot when they touch each other, so I try to keep them thinned so they don’t, but that’s later


I thin plums aggressively as early as possible, but not a tree with no history of cropping. By about 3 weeks after petal fall it should be apparent if plums are sticking- then you don’t want more than a plum every 4" of branch (if they are a decent sized variety). I thin further than that because it generally makes them bigger and sweeter. If the tree is a Santa Rosa, it is probably adequately self thinning- at least in the East.


Thank you @marknmt @ltilton and @alan!

I will wait and see how many left before thinning.

For the five years I have them, I had one small yellow plum from the tree labeled as ByronGold, and one purple plum from the tree labeled as methley. The purple plum disappeared before it ripens.

I sure hope I can get some plum this year.

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Last year was my first year getting a decent amount, fantastic, so good too. Well worth growing. I’m behind you in zone 5b and still waiting to see fruits. Looks like it is going to be a good year though. Every year for some time i should get more and more. Good luck!

And how old was your plum tree when they start to bear fruit? I think I am spoiled by peach trees. :grinning:

For me it was 4 years, and only a few. The 5th year it was loaded. Satsuma produced in 3 years. We had some hard winters when i planted the others. Seems you can get a good crop in 4 years.
Peaches have not been that different for me. Three to five years depending on local conditions.
I added a bunch of plums and pluots, well still adding in the form of grafts. taking a little break to plant out tomatoes and peppers. I still have a few to do. What’s nice about this is the tree is mature enough to produce, so the scion flowers after 1 year, darn cool! Most though I need to remove to let the scion continue to grow and become stronger. Some though grew 3 feet! I’m letting those keep 1-3 fruits. I like plums because they fruit on older and newer wood, some though only on 2 year wood. With peaches it’s a pain once old to keep the tree producing new wood. With plums, you don’t have to worry about that.


Peaches generally all bear young, In my experience E. plums usually take a couple years more and J. plums are somewhat variable, most bear young but some do not- Elephant Heart seems to take its time for one and with its upright growth habit so does Fortune (bend those branches). Because E. plums flower a bit later they are less often damaged by late hard frosts, and yet their reliability of cropping is somewhat variable for other reasons, with some varieties baring reliably at some sites and not others for reasons I haven’t been able to figure out although it seems certain varieties don’t reliably pollinate others. Actually, even very reliable (and self fruitful) ones like Castleton have occasionally been reluctant to bare at certain sites.

Plums are the most baffling and amazing of fruits. There is nothing better than a good plum year and having several types in a fruit bowl at the same time- they come in a wider range of shapes and colors than any other fruit I grow. So far it is looking like a good year- just please don’t stay this wet.


@Drew51, I am glad you are getting plum. But I am curious why your peach tree took that long to fruit, mine fruit easily. I bought all my fruit tree as small potted plants, all peach trees bear fruits the year after I planted them.

@alan, plums are baffling all right! Two trees, 5 years, and a single fruit!
They had flowered well before, but just no fruits!

This year, I pruned off a lot of flowering branches from both trees and used the them to try to cross pollinate the other tree. Don’t know if that will make a difference.

Hope I get to experience what you described soon: plums of different colors and shapes in a fruit bowl. Keep my fingers crossed.:grinning:

Bad winters, In the first 5 winters, 2 were cold enough to damage fruit buds. one winter, all were killed. The other about 50%. So when my peaches were in 3rd leaf, all fruit buds on all stone fruits were killed. So it was not till the 4th year they had some. that winter was brutal too, and killed half the buds on all stone fruit. One peach it killed all buds. I think it was -16F twice for a few hours. With about 7 days below zero.
Also the first year I cut them knee high, so they did not fruit the 2nd year.

Those winters sounds really brutal! I am sure it made you appreciate the fruits more when you get them. I am glad your trees are producing for you now.
Compare with what you went through, the winter here is mild. I should not complain😀

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Well it happens about once every 10 years, where it is that cold. With my luck I got back to back bad winters. I should be good for 15 years!

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