Plum fruiting habit (pluots too?)

What is the best way to prune Japanese plums to encourage fuiting wood/spurs/buds.

I have found easy references for peaches, apricots (last year’s wood), apples, pears ( old wood spurs), etc.
but, I haven’t found any similar info on J. plums. I am eyeing my espaliers for summer pruning to set up for next year and am just wonderingif there is a definitive way to encourage or renew for fruiting wood.

And do we prune pluots, apriums and plumcos like we do for peaches or plums or what ???



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I don’t need to prune or train mine to get fruit in the 2nd leaf. They’ll set buds at each leaf axil on first yr wood. The next yr spurs develop that set buds heavily.

The more difficult endeavor is renewing fruiting wood. But really all that requires is cutting back to force new wood. The trick is getting the new wood low enough since my trees are limited to 7ft.

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I don’t grow any espalier type,but generally prune in the Summer to keep the size in check and then in early Spring to go after anything that looks out of place. Brady
Here is a video that has some espalier pruning in the Summer,by Dave Wilson Nursery. Brady




This is my same question.

I have two 4 year old interspecifics from Zaiger, Cot-n-Candy Aprium and Flavor Grenade Pluot.

They are about as big as I want them to be height wise.

As the original poster asked, I was looking for a guide to increasing fruiting wood.

Reading that basically second year wood develops spurs, the idea is to increase growth in the reachable zone.

I’ve read winter pruning spurs rapid growth, which I’ve experienced on these trees, and summer pruning shapes and reduces vigor.

My thoughts have been to summer prune to push as many laterals at the leaf node buds to increase wood for future fruit buds.

I am wondering if there is a time in the growing season that is more likely to activate branch growth on more nodes and further down the branch as opposed to only the several at the top of the pruned branch.

This late winter I pruned these two trees before bud break.

First two photos are from my Cot-n-Candy Aprium. You can see, hopefully, that the pruning this winter pushed the top 3-5 buds.

The last photo is the Flavor Grenade Pluot. It pushed a lot more short laterals further down from the pruning cut. This is more of what I was hoping for. Perhaps the difference on the two is simply the difference in the variety of the tree.

Anyway, next year after fruit harvest (fingers and toes crossed - they haven’t fruited yet) I will prune them and see what I get. Hopefully this later pruning will set more short growth laterals than just a few top leaders.

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Hi Phil
I think we all want to increase fruiting wood but this past spring I learned an important lesson, that being to accomplish this as close to the main scaffolds as possible so that each limb strength is sufficient to carry the fruit load to follow. This is particularly important for any grafts. The graft union strength as well as the limb diameter carrying the graft must be considered. This spring I had a one year old plum graft that I had splinted to assure it could withstand the bending that 42 fruitlets would present. My splinted graft union held but once a squirrel hopped on to get his due, the cherry branch I had Grafted broke clearly into. I lost the interstem graft and the plum grafted to it! In this case I learned the importance of grafting even closer to the main trunk as possible when top working.
Once I have satisfied this first principle, I then review each limb to identify all growth versus fruiting buds. I make pruning decisions on the following factors:

  1. Fulfilling tree shape to assure each limb is getting adequate sun exposure and Choosing the growth bud to cut above to help growth fill in empty spaces around the circle.
  2. Avoid removing wood with fruiting spurs, often you can reposition a limb by bending it to fill in a space rather than relying on new growth.
  3. Once tied into position for a few months you can then prune other limbs to compliment those that have been re- trained.
  4. Notching above a growth bud lower on a limb is often helpful to fill in a space while keeping future fruit loads close to the trunk.
  5. Most stonefruit trees take on a weeping shape due to fruit loading so keep that in mind to assure you do not keep your tree too short, as they weep and spread you may need to provide mid limb support if fruit loads are not to be thinned.
  6. Remove growth that emerges from below each branch going down, keep those growing up and outward unless they will cross another branch inducing rubbing that will damage bark opening up an infection avenue.
    These are most of my considerations as I decide to prune, always asking first if it’s needed and what’s the purpose? I do the majority of my plum pruning during early summer as soon as the growth buds on the leaf axils are mature enough to immediately use those green scions for summer grafting. After around mid August I stop all pruning until Feb to gather dormant scions. Hope this gives you some ideas to consider
    Kent, wa


Very nice and complete description Dennis. Thank you.

I understand all your points. I’ve painted myself in a bit of a corner as far as the space I planted these trees in, but I’ll just deal with it. If they live and start fruiting I may be ducking a lot to avoid bent branches! That would be a problem I would welcome.

Currently I only have a single successful graft on one of the trees. I was practicing. I even lost what it is that I grafted… It’s a plum on the aprium.

Anyway I’m glad you brought up of where you graft as I was pondering another thread. These two trees I’d like to add several different fruit varieties to, be it apricot, pluot, etc. Knowing the current size of the laterals near the trunk I know my scion will be smaller than the graft point wood.

There are so many different ways to graft. I’m thinking of tongue and grove on the side of the larger parent wood. It may be called something else but I’ve seen several videos spin that. The parent wood is a too small to really do a bark graft. I don’t have the confidence I can provide the dexterity needed to manage it.

Maybe a cleft graft would be easier, but the diameter of the host wood will be about 2 times the scion diameter.

Bud grafting would be another possibility. What I like about bud grafting (not that I have done it) is that the resulting branch is better attached to the parent tree and perhaps would have less likely hood of breaking from loading. I hope that is what has been seen in practice.


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Bark grafts require a tremendous amount of care and proping up over the life of production being one of the weakest grafts I can think of. Only do one as a last resort! If you have another permanent strong limb or scaffold to somehow tie it to for several years while the graft develops strength then they work ok, but without that I avoid them. The exception is where I could anchor a parallel strong pole to tie them to is where I use them such as topworking the central leader of an apple tree.
Your comment:
“ Maybe a cleft graft would be easier, but the diameter of the host wood will be about 2 times the scion diameter.

Bud grafting would be another possibility. What I like about bud grafting (not that I have done it) is that the resulting branch is better attached to the parent tree and perhaps would have less likely hood of breaking from loading. I hope that is what has been seen in practice.”
My Response:
Cleft grafts can work as long as your rootstock diameter is big enough to accommodate a smaller scion. The easiest way to cleft graft a smaller scion to a larger rootstock is to place the cleft in the best location so that the width of the cleft cut matches the maximum diameter of the scion when trimmed equally on both sides. In other words you offset the vertical cleft cut away from center at the location where it matches your scion diameter. ( for a single scion only, I call this a modified cleft); see pic below
Or you use two scions and place one on each side of the cleft and in both cases you match the cambium on the outsides only! (Two smaller scions).
Whip and Tongue: Many people also think this method requires a size match to work. Ideally that is true but we don’t live in an ideal world! Just as in the cleft graft, you can do a modified W&T by offsetting where you make the cuts. The only thing that matters is matching the cambium on both sides of the graft union. Once the graft union heals, the callousing will eventually grow new bark over the unmatched pieces of wood. It’s not as pretty, but if you have a larger rootstock receiving a smaller scion, there’s enough stored energy to heal the wound. This type of graft make need splinting for two growing seasons; and you may need to thin fruit it produces initially but it’s far stronger than any bark graft or side graft.
Off center cleft alignment:Takes some practice as the knife can readily slip out towards the side if you go too fast cutting the vertical. First measure the scion diameter after trimming both sides. Then place it where you need to make the vertical cut so that you can be certain the cambium match can occur. If you misjudge where to cut the vertical and cannot match one side only very well, or try again at a lower point on the rootstock.

Your idea of bud grafting is ok as long as you are high enough on a rootstock to give it apical dominance. I very often plant a chip bud right below my other grafts as an alternative should my main graft fail.
This summer I performed three W&T grafts of a DV persimmon rootstock that had three healthy forks. I had one extra bud left so I placed a chip bud just below one of my W&T grafts. As of this week the only healthy looking take I have is the chip bud! So it’s often well to use this technique!

This chip bud may become my new central leader. I will know for sure if by next spring the W&T graft above it has failed to grow! In that case I simply prune off everything above it and tie a vertical cane to train it to!
Hope this helps
Kent, wa

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Good stuff @DennisD

Modified W&T was what I was thinking, just didn’t state it properly. Good tip on placing a bud graft as insurance.

Besides discovering I used what I will call a scam of a budding tape that doesn’t breath and never degrades, even girdling some grafts, my biggest issue in my first year grafting was losing the successful grafts to wind and perhaps bird loading.

Most of my first try at grafting took, regardless of my clumsy efforts and methods, but the grafts broke in what I would very generously call a modest wind.

Besides using the right damn grafting tape that hopefully heals a healthier graft, I will pay more attention to support. I even cut back the new scion growth to limit how long it got and product some laterals, but still lost many.


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I get my parafilm from Amazon. It always works well if you keep it from overheating and melting together on its roll. But I use 1” wide plastic strips that I cut with a razor blade from plastic newspaper bags. They are much stronger, allowing me to applied a good amount of pressure to the graft union. I apply parafilm only to the budstick above my graft union, then I use the plastic strips to graft the union. So I usually have no problem with wind or birds due to the stronger grafting tape. Then after the scion is growing well, I decide when to carefully remove the tape to avoid girdling the union. When I do remove it, I splint the graft for bird and wind protection. The middle of my splint is at the graft union where again I use a couple wraps of my plastic tape to snug the splint to the union. Then I use twist ties to secure the rootstock end and the top of the growing scion. That splint stays on all growing season. Next spring I replace the splint to assure no girdling and to ready for stronger winds before the foliage appears.

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Great explanation @DennisD.

The broken grafts typically were after I removed the graft point tape.

I had wrapped the graft with the bad tape, then with white electrician’s tape.

Alternately I used raffia then tape on top.

Protecting the graft area with a stronger wrap makes sense early, but I wonder if it doesn’t heal as strong initially if you artificially support it for too long. Movement develops thicker wood (most obvious in vegetables that are not exposed to wind being spindly) but movement could break the scar tissue on a healing graft. It’s a balance act perhaps.

Obviously millions have been grafting for thousands of years. I’ll figure it out.

Great news is bamboo sticks and tape are cheap. Support is easy.

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I don’t know much about fruit growing. But, on internet I think I can act like one :wink:

TLDR on what I understand now: too much pruning/cutting is not helpful if the goal is to obtain fruit.

I got two Apriums sometime during April-May, I purchased the Flavor Delight first and Summer Delight after a week or so because it blooms later and has higher chances of fruiting in my PNW climate. I promptly planted the Summer Delight in the ground and relegated Flavor Delight to a 10 gallon pot as TBD. I tried to train Summer Delight with multiple pruning sessions while mostly left the Flavor Delight alone.

After reading R.S. Martin’s book on pruning as suggested by Richard on this forum I learnt Apricots set fruits on spurs, branches and they can set fruit either at the tip, in the middle or at the base depending on the variety. The paradox is Its difficult to know the habit until it sets fruit for something like Aprium which isn’t widely grown.

I was looking at my “not cared for” flavor delight couple of weeks back and I see what looks like flower buds that are bulkier than what I can see on “well cared” Summer Delight. I also think the spurs where they fruit don’t grow as a response to pruning but they grow organically as plants natural response. I see these spurs growing on untouched Flavor Delight scaffolds and nothing on Summer Delight.

Spur growth on Flavor Delight.

Fat buds on Flavor Delight (what I think is flower).

I have decided not to cut my Summer Delight Aprium anymore next year. Apricots doesn’t need yearly renewal of fruiting wood or risk unable to grow branches due to lack of sunlight. Worst it will get bushy and overgrown which can be handled anytime.

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