Japanese Plum - frost hardy - early ripening?

Back around 2002, I purchased and planted two Japanese Plum trees. I could not tell you for sure at this point what varieties they were… but one had reddish/purple fruit and the other yellowish/orange fruit… and they were both excellent for fresh eating or preserves. We loved them.

The problem with them was… here in Tennessee zone 7a - we regularly have frost in March and even early April… and they bloomed (one around Feb 15, and the other just a few days later). They both grew well here and looked healthy, but around age 13-14, they both died. One died first, then the other died the following year.

In the 13/14 years that I had them we got one good (loaded) crop off them and in a few other years very small crops. They just bloomed way to early for my location. Frost almost always got them.

In Spring 2018 I was ready for more plums… and did some research and found out that there are Japanese plums, and then European Plums… The Japanese bloom early, and the European bloom later, and fruit later… It’s been a few years but that was basically what I discovered.

I purchased two European Plums from raintree (Mt Royal, Rosy Gage) in the Spring of 2018 and planted them in a 2 in 1 hole type planting… about 18" apart. They have grown nicely, I just pruned them this evening. Looking good for this year. This is year 4 for them…

One question I have is this, I was expecting them to bloom last spring, but none at all. So I have yet to see these European Plums bloom. We did have a late frost April 15, that wiped out my peaches, apples, grapes, etc… But there were no blooms on the European Plums at that time, and they did not bloom after that either.

Is that normal for European Plums, not to bloom for a few years ? This will be their 4th leaf this year, surly I will see some blooms this year right ? They look very healthy, growing nicely, getting plenty of sunshine.

And back to the Title of this Post… Japanese Plums - frost hardy, early ripening, good fruit.

Is there a variety of Japanese plum that blooms later ? or is just very frost tolerant ? and ripens late June, Early July ? Would be nice to avoid late July/August (SWD wise).

My older Peach trees (Early Elberta, Reliance) start blooming mid March, usually within just a few days of each other… and I get peaches sort of hit and miss about every other year, 50% of the time. When they do produce, usually loaded. When frost gets them, usually nothing.

I would love to grow one or two Japanese Plums, if there was such a variety, that would give me fruit on a more frequent basis than my old ones did. I could live with getting fruit only every other year… 50% of the time, I could deal with that… What I got with my previous Japanese plums was more like 10%. Not willing to do that again.

I went to town this week, and our local TSC had a bunch of fruit trees out front… and I had to go over and check them out. They had a few, nice, large, Santa Rosa Plums, potted… that were sure tempting me. I have seen lots of folks on youtube growing that one and having good luck with it, and bragging on the flavor.

But I am thinking, if it blooms in Feb… like my others did… I will just hardly ever get any fruit off it.

Is there such a Japanese Plum that would be worth my time and effort ?



European plums can take awhile to fruit, 6th year is not uncommon.

I have grown many Japanese plums and they all were early or earlier for their bloom… no winner I ever found unfortunately. If you were to try one I would say Shiro as it has produced in some years where other plums did not. It also ripens fairly early and is relatively disease-resistant (except for black knot which many plums get).


Hey Scott… thanks for the Shiro recommendation… I researched that some and found several on youtube and many growers happy with them. Some say self fertiel, others say need another pollinator to set good crops.

I found some Japanese Bloom charts and they show that Shiro cross pollinates with Santa Rosa and Satsuma. I am not sure if either of those is considered cold/frost hardy…

I would really like to do another 2 in 1 hole planting of Japanese Plums… if I try them agian.

When searching Google U… on frost hardy plum trees… I found that there is an American Plum Tree which is very hardy, thriving in Zone 5-9 but has been known to grow successfully in Zone 3. Negatives are smaller fruit and lack of availability as growing stock.

But there are Hybrids of American-Japanese… here is what i found on those…

Although sometimes included on the Japanese list of plum trees, hybrid plums vary a little from their full Asian plum. These hybrid varieties are a mixture of American and Japanese plums and generally well liked by growers, combining the cold hardiness of the American plum with the larger fruit of Asian varieties. They are often labeled as Prunus salincia hybrid in their scientific name, to set them apart from other Japanese plum trees. Some of the better hardy hybrid plums are the “Alderman,” “Toka” and “Superior.” “Superior” (Prunus salicina hybrid “Superior”) grows well in USDA zones 4 through 8 and was developed by the Minnesota University breeding program in the mid-1900s. Developed in 1985 by Minnesota University, “Alderman” (Prunus salicina hybrid “Alderman”) grows in even colder climates with a USDA zone range of 3 through 8. Growing to a maximum height of about 12 feet, this tree does well as an ornamental variety in a garden setting. “Toka” (Prunus salicina hybrid “Toka”), sometimes referred to as the bubblegum plum, can get as tall as 14 feet and provides large fruit in USDA zones 4 through 8. Preferring sandy or even clay soil, “Toka” does well in humid areas. To develop fruit on your plum trees, grow more than variety. Most hybrid plum trees need to grow near other hybrid varieties in order to pollinate and grow new fruit.

I found the Alderman at Starks and here is how they start out describing it…

Here’s a delicious, large, Japanese-style plum that is so cold-hardy, it will gladly bear huge crops of beautiful, red plums even after the coldest winters! It says ripens Late August… so not so sure how that would work with SWD.

Gurneys says this… on Alderman
Developed at the Univ. of MN, Alderman is extremely cold hardy. Huge, dark red, sweet and juicy clingstone fruit ripens mid July. Gorgeous spring blooms! Can bear one year after planting. Pollinate with Superior. Zones 3-7.

They recommend Superior as pollinator and below is what they say about Superior.
Fast-growing clingstone bears red-blushed crimson fruits bursting with super-sweet yellow flesh. Ripens mid to late Aug. Hardy Japanese-American hybrid. We suggest Alderman or wild plums as a pollinator.

Those sound like they might be hardy enough, to give me more fruit… but they ripen later in the year… which is one thing I was hoping to avoid. I already have the 2 European Plums, that are supposed to ripen Aug/Sept…

Now here is one thing that I have realized is that the ripening dates that some of these places list can be just way off compared to when they ripen here in TN.

Stark Brothers is right at 400 miles north of me.

So I expect the Alderman and Superior plums would ripen much earlier for me, than they do up there.

Anyone growing Alderman, Superior (American/Japanese hybrids) in Tennessee or a neighboring state that can give details on when your get ripe ?



I’m in middle Tn, and have several varieties of Japanese plum. I’ve vowed to never plant any more plum trees. They bloom way too early, and the flowers are killed off by late freezes almost every year. It’s just not worth the hassle and effort for no reward.


It really depends on regions. In my back yard Shiro blooms way earlier than Santa Rosa does. They don’t pollinate to each other.

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Early wake ups are going to be more common for all of us welcome to denver weather America!

I don’t really have that problem of early wake ups in Michigan. Worst case for me is the plum only produces a few fruits. Even then, it’s not every tree. They work very well here. I heard in warmer zones and down south a lot of the native plums do well. I’m trying beach plums for fun, should make a good jam.
I’m growing from seed, I only have one tree right now. I planted a few more seeds.
Here peaches, pluots and plums all bloom at the same time. Photo taken May 3rd 2020. Bloom time is between April 1st and May 15th depending on the year. We had a cold spring last year.


Alderman, Superior, Toka… anyone ?

Japanese/American crosses.

They sound promising.


I have Superior and Toka. They seem bloom in the same time in my yard. But I also have so many plums blooming within general time window. Can’t really pin down who exactly pollinated who

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It looks like your concern is about your J plums blooming too early and may get wiped out by late freeze, right?

In my yard, zone 6a, J plums seem to bloom earlier than Euro plums. My J plums bloom about 7-10 days before E plum. Would you be interested in growing E plums? They taste better and more complex than J plums, in my opinion.

Pluots would be something you may want to consider, too.

Anyway, you asked about Shiro. Taste-wise, it is fine, not a top notch, but it is very cold hardy and productive. It needs cross pollination to set fruit. Satsuma is a good pollination partner for Shiro. Satsuma is tastier than Shiro. Unfortunately, Satsuma’ fruit buds got fried by late freeze or untimely frost too many times. (while Shiro has been fine) I removed Satsuma.

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I think your springs are probably much like mine. I have a superior that has fruited once out of the last five years. That is pretty good though. I have an auburn plum au rubrum that has fruited zero out of the last ten. I have a plum supposedly an elephant heart from Starks that is not as it is yellow fleshed that has fruited lightly three of the last five, and a santa rosa that has fruited zero of seven flowering years.

What do you fruit successfully?

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I have two European plums, (Rosy Gage, Mt Royal) started spring 2018. This will be 4th leaf for them. Hoping they start fruiting soon… they are looking good.

I have 3 peach trees, 2 older ones, and 1 new (2nd leaf)… the older ones have fruited several times, but over all only about half the time do I get fruit. It’s usually all or nothing… loaded, or frost got them all.

I have 5 apple trees, 2 older, 3 new (2nd leaf). My apple trees have about the same luck as my peaches, about 50/50.

Years ago I had Japanese Plums for 14 years, got one good crop off them, and a couple of other small crops. They bloomed in Feb… just way to early. That is why I switched to the EU Plums…

I have Jujube, CHE, Mulberry, Elderberry, Muscadine, Grapes, Shagbark Hickory, SpiceBush, Fig, Cherry, blackberries wild and tame, blueberries, apricot, raspberry, loganberry, red current, jostaberry, strawberry, goumi, honeyberry… probably left out a few…

Blackberries never fail… Blueberries and Figs very dependable, Raspberries, Loganberry great dependable producers.

Some of the stuff mentioned above are rather new for me, so can’t say how dependable they are, expecting to get first fruit off several of those this year, or next.

As you can see I like to grow just about anything that is good to eat.


Il847 so you are in zone 5, up near Chicago…

You mentioned that your Superior and Toka (Japanese/American varieties)… bloom at the same time…
I read today that all 3 of those would pollinate… Alderman included.

Are they more dependable at fruiting successfully than the other Japenese (only) varieties that you are growing ?

That is what I am wondering… is there a Japanese, or perhaps Japanese/American hybrid that would produce fruit for me more often.

The Japanese/American hybrids are supposed to be very cold hardy… but do the successfully fruit more often in areas that often have late frosts ?



I don’t have Alderman yet. If it increases the pollination I might add a branch of Alderman next year. I have Superior for about 8+ yearish. It is cold hardy and fruits reliably. Added Toka increased the fruits set. But it sets fruits with/without Toka for I have so many plums that many bloom overlaps. Toka on the other hand, don’t set a lot of fruits. I have not figured out what is its problem yet.
Late frost is a normal thing in spring time here. I don’t recall a single year without later frost, it is the matter of how late. Last year the late frost was late, down to upper /mid 20s in May 20+ something(sorry don’t remember exactly the date), this caused fruits drop or no fruits depends on the varieties. But I still have fruits harvestef on Superior.
Another reliable plum is Shiro.

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What is your local extension serivce? They may know best what fruit trees that are late bloomers (to avoid late frost) for your area.

I had Mt Royal graft. It tasted good but the plums were small so I removed it. I have other bigger and tastier E plums I like more.

mamuang… before I bought that Mt Royal Eu Plum… I did what I normally do… checked to see if anyone on Youtube was bragging on it… I found the vid below.

Could be that it just loves her location, and not yours ?

I will see if it loves mine before I yank it out… got a few years into it now, going to give it a shot.

If I got half of what that gal was getting… I would be very happy.



IL847… I appreciate the details on Superior and Shiro…

At one online nursery I checked this weekend, they recommended Alderman/Superior as pollinators. Another site listed all 3 as successful pollinators… Alderman, Superior, Toka.

Below is what Raintree says about Superior…

Proving its name since 1933, this very hardy Asian-American hybrid from Minnesota remains a favorite both for flavor and for toughness! The very large fruit has true red skin and delicious, meaty, yellow flesh. Even folks who don’t usually like plums, from Michigan to Virginia, agree this plum is Superior!

It blooms with and is pollinized by late-blooming Asian plums like Shiro, Emerald Beaut, or Toka. The tree bears a heavy crop of heart-shaped, clingstone fruit at an early age. Plums ripen in August, and keep well on the tree.

They mention Toka… and Shiro… as pollinators for Superior. And where they give details on Shiro, they say it is partially self fertile.

Here is what OGW says about Shiro… just the start of their description…

Reliable, hardy, and very productive

One of the early posters on this thread mentioned Shiro, and I researched it some and it sure looks like what I was hoping to find.

Perhaps a combo of…

Superior + Shiro


Superior + Shiro + Toka or Alderman…

Thanks for the details. Appreciate it.


Below is what Stark says about Alderman… and they list Shiro as a pollinator…

Here’s a delicious, large, Japanese-style plum that is so cold-hardy, it will gladly bear huge crops of beautiful, red plums even after the coldest winters! Developed in Minnesota, Alderman yields fruit as early as one year after planting. Burgundy-red skin gives way to golden flesh, which is sweeter than most other Japanese plums. Clingstone. Ripens late August.


Trev, Interesting to read what they say about these three plums. Thanks for posting it. I feel I want to try aldermen now.

But I have different experience to share.

Well, it is medium size in my yard. Maybe I can achieve the goal of letting it bear large size fruits next year. It is not meaty when ripe. Acutely its flesh becomes very soft, juicy and I just suck the juice out of it and leave the skin and seed behind.

Shiro is the first plum to bloom here. It is a early bloom plum and It does not pollinate Superior.

I gotta say superior is delicious and for me the american-japanese plum hybrids are my first trees to bloom within days of my apricot/plum hybrid and 2-3 weeks earlier than my late blooming european plums. I wonder how these would do for you as far as chilling hours and disease resistance?