Plum Tree Pruning

Hi All, I have a plum tree that we’ve had for a couple years. It needs a little help- first, it had one year that it was so overloaded with fruit that it fell over (my fault). So I cleared the fruit off, and got it sort of upright. And then this year, I just straightened it some more (by manually pulling it up straighter) and have it staked to help keep it there. The main trunk is now about vertical. I haven’t pruned it before since it’s had a couple rough years, but I want to make a couple careful cuts this year to both help get it into better shape, and to encourage it to stay straight by being more balanced. Can you help recommend me what to cut?

The main trunk takes a turn, there is a single smaller branch that goes up straight, but curls around other branches (you can kind of see it in the 4th picture), and there is a lot of crossing of other little branches, but I don’t want to overprune this year. I can take more pictures if that’d be helpful.


For shaping the tree,I’d wait until late Winter/early Spring.That way,the leaves will be gone and it will be easier to see which branches need to come off.

I’m interested too, regarding general pruning philosophy for plums. What should a plum tree look like? How far apart should be the branches?

What I see is a tree that has many scaffolds but very few laterals growing to fill in the voids as you go around the tree.
I would suggest that you try study the practice of notching on the attached video. It does an excellent job of explaining how you can shape any young tree into what you want it to look like.

Notching utube:

In your case you should walk around the tree, identify void spaces that if filled with new limbs would more balance the load on the main trunk. Cut very few branches for now, but after you exhaust the notching process to cause new branches to grow, next spring you may need to tip prune some of those long dropping branches that have very few laterals to force them to put energy into growing new laterals.
But first, try starting now tow get some new laterals growing where you see none by following the instructions on this video. Good luck!

Kent, wa

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It may be that you would have more success if you wait until early spring just before bud break to encourage the lateral growth you want on each scaffold. It’s a bit late in the growing season but I think the video gives you what you need to do and plenty time to study how to do it before next spring.

Does modified central leader work with plum? Peach?

Yes, the key for all fruit trees is the distribution of growth to allow sunlight to reach all branches: All young fruit trees need some pruning to get them off to a good start. Plum trees are best pruned in a vase format to get a short trunk with three or four major branches to come off of the trunk at a 45-degree angle. This allows plenty of light and air into the tree.The modified form explained I. The video does just that. Most mature plum trees develop long drooping limbs as scaffolds bend down laden with fruit. So starting them off in a pattern that encourages good air flow and light penetration is your best approach.
Kent, wa