Help Me Prune My Plum Tree

I would like feedback regarding future pruning my Coes Golden Drop Plum Tree that is 1 1/2 years in the ground. This is its second summer in the ground since I received it at 4’-5’ tall. The tallest branch is around 7’ now.

The majority of the new growth has been on three steeply angled branches in the center, where the tree was lopped off prior to shipping.

Should I sacrifice this years new growth, and lop the main trunk below the three center forks? I would do this prior to next spring while the tree is dormant, not only to collect the scion wood but also to not waste the trees energy

My goal is to keep the tree small; approx 6’ high and about 3-4’ wide, as its part of a tiny orchard in a small area. Because of this I was planning for many scaffold branches that I could rotate pruning to maintain an even amount for fruit-setting scaffold, while cutting others back to replace old fruiting wood.

My concern is that the steeply forked branches in the center will be prone to shearing off under weight / wind, etc. However, maybe this is not as issue if the tree is kept small?

What do you think?

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I don’t intend for this post to be a complete guide to how to prune your tree but just a few preliminary things I normally do when pruning. Remember to prune the method that you prefer. Some people like to cut back early and go with an open center and others like me prefer to start out with a central leader and later remove the top to look somewhat like a modified leader. There are other ways to prune and I can’t say which is best. There will be many online guides into the details of several methods. I try to space my limbs a few inches apart on different sides of the tree. Hope your pruning goes well.

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For plums i think going for an open center (vase form) tree is usually preferred.

Ideally you start branches at the right high in different directions roughly spaced 6’ horizontaly.

I’d bend those branched slightly above horizontal. until they are a few feet out. And then let them grow close to vertical and make side branches sideways (not facing outwards or into the centre of the tree. That way you get a vase shaped tree, with an open center

It’s hard to judge on the picture. Since i don’t know measurements. So i can’t judge how far the side branches begin horizontally.

CGD_1 (2)
but to give a rough idea,

I’d bend going the blue arrow’s. To set the right crotch angle.

i’d prune at the red lines.

There are to many leaves above the 3 red line from bottom of picture. So it’s hard to judge.

i would however top it somewhere above that. First see if a shoot facing the correct direction with a good angle is there (purple arrow). Otherwise prune back to get new/more shoots to choose from.


Thanks. My main concern is that fork of three branches in the center where most of the new growth is coming off of. The angles of those limbs are steep and tight, (about 60 degrees+) and so I have concerns that they may be prone to shearing off under weight or wind load. The trunk is roughly 1 1/4 inch diameter. I probably should have lopped that center fork off when I received the tree last year. The other scaffold branches are approx 45 degree angles. Some where very horizontal. However, I have been purposely bending them upwards with those strings.

This Blue Damson has been in the ground for about 2.5 years and is about 7 ft tall. It has a similar central fork. I’m planning to prune it out and open up the center next year before springDMSN1

Are we talking about the fork, the 3e red line from the bottom of the picture i posted?

I think your confusing angles. If the angle is 90 degree’s. That’s horizontal. If it’s close to 0 degree’s that’s vertical.

The fork has an angle of lower than 30 degree’s. Not higher than 60. (that would be close to horizontal, which it is not)

If the angle is to small, you get a weak crotch angle, and bark inclusion. Which leads to tearing with fruitload or wind.

I quite like horizontal branch angles (or close to), why did you bend them up?

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Yes, the three at the 3e red line.

I could be confusing how angles are read on tree limbs. Ive always measured 0 or 180 as horizontal, and 90 vertical.

I was bending them upwards because I have little space available and wanted them to form a vase shape. I can only keep the tree around 4 ft wide. The trees in this area are spaced 8’ apart, and I need approx 4’ path between.

usually angles are measured between 2 lines originating from the same point. Like 2 branches.

You could also measure angles to a reference point. But than you mention the center of reference.

Anyway this is not a geometry class. All books/articles if seen, measure angles between the branches, and not to a central reference system.

So an angle of 90degree from the central leader is a horizontal branch.
An angle of <30 degree from the central leader is usually to small, and will lead to bark inclusion/weak union.

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This is my plan to prune and keep the tree tiny while having equal distribution of fruiting wood.

seems like a good plan. I would pay attention to crotch angles (angle of side branch to trunk), they preferably need to be around 45 degree’s or lower.

And ideally the side branches don’t come off at the same height on the trunk.

try and keep ~6" between them vertically on the trunk.