J Plum fruit set in challenging 2016 east/midwest

This year seemed to really separate the “men from the boys” on plum fruit set. Tolerance of cold weather and ability to deal with poor pollination conditions were at a premium. I was out spraying in my orchard this weekend and there was a large difference in set between varieties, much more than in past years. Here is my data, please add your own.

Super Setter Award
Shiro left all the others in the dust with a massive set (as usual). The only downside is they grew a lot faster than I thought and the curc hit them before I sprayed. Fortunately the tree has a zillion fruit so I could thin out all the bitten ones and its still massively overset.

This year good just means I will get a full crop. Most of these are setting very close to what I would have aggressively thinned to.
Weeping Santa Rosa - This is my most reliable west-coast plum. It overset by a fair amount.
Satsuma - this plum usually way oversets; this year its not going to need much thinning.
Earli Magic

These plums are usually overset.
Emerald Beaut - this is a young graft but it set a decent amount which I expect will translate to a good set once it matures.
Spring Satin - almost a full crop. Well, the curc also hit it early and I lost half sigh. This plum is an extreme curc magnet.

These are also usually overset.
Purple Heart

Nothing or nearly so
AU Rubrum and AU Producer - I guess they did not breed for good pollination. Yet another reason to not like these plums.
Elephant Heart - it continues its long streak of poor set. Maybe one more year and its a goner.

The Euro plums all seem fine, including some I had problems getting set on in past years such as Pearl and Reine des Mirabelles. They had much more favorable blooming weather and were still in the bud during the bad spells.

The apricots were all little or no fruit, except for Zard. Zard is the only reliably later apricot, many varieties claim to be late but only Zard delivers for me. It blooms with the peaches and fares similarly.


Great information Scott! I may need some help with Japanese plum identification later this year on Alderman, Toka, Superior, Kahinta, Waneta, and Gracious. Are you familiar with those varieties? I removed all but a couple of the trees and the others have fruit. I had most grafted to prunus besseyi which was a disease magnet here. The ones I have grafted to bounty plums I left which were my control trees for my dwarfing / compatibility experiment. The Japanese plums were all compatible with prunus besseyi.

Ditto with Shiro plum, my saving grace.

Satsuma, I have two trees, 3 and 4 years old. Before the April’s freeze, I saw flower buds on both, some, not many. After the freeze, all turned brown and dead.

All 3 of my Euro are young, going into their 3 rd leave. They came out of dormant later than the Asian’s. I think they are too young to produce but I see one bloom on Coe’s Golden Drop and two on Castleton, yeah!!!


Looks like i should be able to try both Spring Satin and Lavina. Good fruit set on both by the looks of it> Satsuma also fingers crossed looks to have set fruit. Puget Gold/Tomcot both have plenty of fruit. Moniqui/Nectacot both look very thin…but that was winter failure. Robada should have had a ton of fruit, but borer reduced that to about 3. Shaa Kar Pareh also looks loaded… Still early… Still have curculios to deal with.

Scott- Did you manage to get any fruitset on Pluots this spring?

I could never get any fruit set on Spring Satin. But it was such a pretty bloomer with all those tiny flowers.

It took longer than most plums but then turned into a nice setter for me.

@speedster1, I am officially pluot-free as of a few months ago – too many problems to keep. Flavor Grenade and Flavor King set OK but too much rot. Flavor Supreme never set. I also removed my Santa Rosa a few months ago since it was also not setting. It now is a 5" trunk with many Weeping Santa Rosa scions stuck into it and starting to leaf out.

Weeping Santa Rosa I had in a really bad spot but its is one of the very best tasting plums and that plus the fact that it sets so well is heading it into my very top group overall, with Satsuma.

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My Satsuma here in Beltsville (a bit south of you) has set no fruit after flowering. Spring Satin next to it set fruit, though not as much as last year. Stanley Euro plum has a much smaller fruit set than last year. I suspect the difference with your Satsuma and mine might have to do with it being a bit warmer here.

I am about to graft pluots to my J. Plum. Your comment gave me something to think about.

Thats too bad. I’m in your general region and pluots are something I’ve focused on for my young orchard. Not exactly a smart thing to do, especially when you don’t know a whole lot about growing fruit. haha I do have some japanese plums like Methley and Emerald Beaut and I’ve also grafted Laroda and Satsuma. Nothing is of fruiting age yet. I’ll be a bit bummed if I can’t make pluots work out here.

Scott, how are Apricots in your area compared to Plums and Pluots? Are you still growing any? I grafted Tomcot, Orangered, Robada, and Spring Satin plumcot this year. Aside from the early bloom and risk of frost damage what I can expect in terms of rot? Since they are such as early fruit I’m hoping any potential rot will be more manageable.

For me the second leaf Beauty set a small amount of fruit. Apricots, blooming about the same time, froze. Other young plums did not set anything.

I should say that Flavor King and Flavor Grenade are things I could probably grow, if I did enough rot sprays. But one of my goals is when the choice is A vs B and I like them roughly the same in terms of taste but B is significantly easier, I will pick it. I learned this in my experience with vinafera grapes. I used to have to spray copper all summer long, I was doing as many grape sprays as everything else combined (this was organic grape growing in humid eastern conditions). At some point I decided it was not worth it and dug them all up.

Apricots have worked great for a dozen years in a row, until this year when they got frozen out for the most part - 95% losses. I highly recommend putting in one or two and see how they do. Tomcot is the most reliable, Orangered is somewhat prone to rot but not too bad, Robada is highly prone to cracking and rotting so I removed it. Spring Satin is more like a plum; its a poor man’s Flavor Supreme - similar taste when perfectly ripened but not reliable in getting there. See Scotts stone fruits variety experiences 2005-2015 for my complete descriptions if you didn’t already find it.

That is encouraging. Thanks a lot. I’ve read over your stone fruit report many times. It’s great stuff. I know you are a big fan of Satsuma. That is a variety I just grafted this year. I’ve heard it is a good pollinator but can be finicky to bear. I’ve also thought about trying the Hesse plumcot as I am interested in a dark colored aprium type of fruit.

I find that Methley consistently so oversets that it’s a nuisance. At one point I had both Methley and Beauty, but they ripened at the same time and most rotted before I could deal with them. Consensus preferred Methley to Beauty, which went away.

I wonder if Beauty is not preferring west coast weather. It is bland in my yard and I took it out, and it also rots a fair amount. It does set really well, but if you want a good set on a Santa Rosa type get Weeping Santa Rosa!

Beauty wasn’t much of a fruit in my greenhouse which minics CA weather. Not as good as Burgundy and it’s only good because it holds forever and actually dries on the tree under certain conditions, like high water deficit.

There are much better plums and pluots than Beauty for my situation.

Here in W PA we had a 15 degree night 1 and a half weeks ago when all of my 4y old Japanese Plums (Methley, Santa Rosa, Ozark Premier, Stark Delicious and a Dapple Dandy pluot) were in mid bloom, and not a single plum appears to have set. Temps had been moderate, with beautiful sunny weather before and after that night.
My only Euro plum, Green Gage, started blooming a few days later, it appears there are some fruit on it, but not many.

That’s interesting Scott, especially about Shiro. I’m a little south of you, but at higher elevation and I think a bit cooler and as far as I can tell, I didn’t get a single plum to set fruit. I have fruiting Shiro, Ruby Queen and Burgundy and I couldn’t find a single fruit anywhere. I keep hoping that there are some hiding somewhere, but I would have expected to see some growth by now.

My only two Asians ( AU Rosa and Early Golden) didn’t set fruit, but my hybrids (Superior and Kaga) did. Wild American plum looks like it set a few for the first time also. Euro-wise, Purple Gage and President set some fruit for the first time. Cambridge gage looks like it set 1 or 2. All trees are 2-3 years old.

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Tom, the AU plums are also hybrids, they are hybridized with various plum species to give them disease resistance. Nurseries don’t do a good job of making clear what the genetic make-up of “Japanese” plums are. I am surprised at how poorly the AU plums set for us, it seems like they would breed for a good set.