Starting with (Japanese) plums -- 6b east coast (VA) trying to pick pollinator partners

So, for several years I’ve been wanting to plant plums, but we started with trees we were more sure of – apple and peach. I’ve been doing a lot of reading here and elsewhere to find disease resistant cultivars for my area–we are trying to go the low-spray/organic/slightly lazy orchardist route :wink: as much as we practically can-- but still have a few unanswered questions maybe someone can help me with. :slight_smile: I hope the discussion will help other growers in similar areas. I am in VA , Shenandoah Valley, zone 6b.

I prefer the taste of Japanese (round) plums (and know these are better for disease pressure in my area)-- I like ones from the grocery store so I doubt I’ll be too picky! I’d like to have both firm/mild and juicy/more acidic varieties.

My problem right now is trying to get a pair matched up that will pollinate each other…in case I only get two now and no more for a few years. I am also concerned about late frosts --we know it’s an issue here-- but this may be unavoidable with all Japanese varieties? If there are any I’ve listed below or something else that is both disease resistant and later-flowering, I’d certainly love to hear about it.

Also – I can’t find much very clear about rootstock differences – we have well-drained, rocky, more sandy type soil and won’t be doing much irrigation once they’re established so I’d like something that can handle these conditions. We are also pruning most of our trees to be open and low for ease of care…

I am looking at (now or eventually)
AU Rubrum
Purple Heart
Toka (maybe – can’t tell for sure if I’d like the flavor.)
Spring Satin (Plumcot?)
Santa Rosa (I have read some reviews on shy bearing, but willing to give it a try. Might try the weeping form just for the beauty of it.)

Guthrie & Odom – chickasaw plums I believe ? look to be hardy for 6b. Willing to give them a shot if they are easier to grow/tend than larger, better tasting varieties.

I would be open to grafting – I don’t know that we need so many trees (we have the space but would be overwhelmed with fruit!) but I don’t know which tree(s) to pick as a vigorous, reliable graft-onto plant.

I did grow up with Damson plums though and would really like to have one for jam. I know they can get black knot and I remember it was a pain for my grandparents to cut out but the fruit was amazing when cooked and sweetened. So my question here is – should I just get any ol’ generic “damson” or are there any cultivars that offer improvements? OneGreenWorld listed a “Shropshire” damson, though out of stock this time.

Thank you all so much…I very rarely find time to post, but I read, read, read :-). You all are such a great resource for a newbie backyard grower like me!!


heartforhome, I am here in 6b shenadoah valley virginia eagerly awaiting the comments. I have a damson, shiro, and ozark premier. All selected with no forethought regarding hardiness, disease resistance, soil preference, rootstock difference (but leaning to semi dwarf size) or bloom dates. Speaking of a newbie…


As someone who lives in your area and has tried the low/no spray route let me help. If you want stone fruits in this area you better plan on doing a little spraying. I have plum, peaches, apricots, cherries and more. They all grow great here on any rootstock but they have more issues than anywhere else in the country. I’m still learning about a few.
For me each fruit type pretty much blooms at the same time. Your going to need a good bit of spraying no matter what varieties you buy. Might as well buy what you like.

This was @scottfsmith’s report from 2005/- 2015. I could not find a newer version. Scott lives in MD.

Scotts stone fruits variety experiences 2005-2015.

Shiro is one of the best pollination partners. It is also productive. Fruit taste good if you let them hang for a while.

To me, most Asian plums taste similar, juicy and sweet. Lavina has nice aroma to it.

I am not sure how minimal spray you can get by growing plums. The most troubled plum disease I dread is black knot. Neither Euro or Asian are immuned. Not even Shiro.

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I would say the biggest problems for plums are plum curculio and brown rot… these two problems will ruin 100% of the crop every year once they take hold. If you want to be organic you can spray Surround to deal with the plum curculio, but it takes a lot of practice to get good at that. For brown rot it is very hard to deal with organically and it requires lots of sprays. See my Low-Impact Spray Schedule (2019 Edition) where I list what I did when I was 100% organic. I now use a synthetic for rot control but I still don’t use any broad-spectrum poisons.

Overall you will need half a dozen sprays per year to get a decent plum harvest, mainly spraying Surround for curcs and moths, and sulphur for rot control. Note that these are the exact same problems you will have on peaches. You may have not had your peaches long enough to run into these issues. The moths tend to be worse on peaches but the curc is a bit worse on plums. I need to use spinosad on the peaches for moth control.

In terms of varieties, the #1 issue is brown rot as susceptibility varies. After that fruit set. I would skip Santa Rosa for fruit set reasons but Weeping Santa Rosa and Laroda are very similar in taste but set well. My current overall favorites are Satsuma and Lavinia, they don’t rot much and are very tasty. I don’t like the AUs for flavor, the apricot hybrids are bad for rot, and Chicasaw plums also have the same curculio and rot issues. Skip the Euros for now, they are all super rotters and mega knotters.

Most J plums will pollinate each other as their blooms tend to all be similar enough in timing.

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Agree that brown rot and pests (OFM and PC) are serious issues. However, I use synthetic fungicide to battle brown rot. It has worked quite well. Also, when my timing is right, I can get good protection against those buggers.

I have not found a way to fight against black knot yet.

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It is one of things you need to be always watching for, or it can take off. One year I let it slip a bit and next thing I knew it was everywhere. After that year I am always casually looking for it and I remove it immediately when I see it. No more big problems since then.


I’ve read quite a lot of your experiences and have benefited from your spray schedule. You are kinda an East Coast guru ;-). We have done pretty good with Surround on the peaches despite a high presence of curc, so hopefully can continue to do so…we have a big bag of it. :slight_smile: I actually find it helps with Japanese beetles on raspberries if you spray up until bloom (works best for everbearing raspberries managed for just 1 fall crop)…they just don’t seem to bother so bad plants that they don’t find ASAP after they hatch. Anyway…

We haven’t seen rot, yet. But know it is to come :slight_smile:

What synthetic do you use? I want to be as organic as possible but we can’t spray copiously, I can’t get out and do it usually with 3 kids 5 and under and my husband’s work schedule doesn’t allow for as much flexibility as we’d like. I have used mycobutanil (sp?) on our grapes and just one or two sprays allowed us to beat black rot and phomposis on them.

I’m glad to hear that pollination should be pretty “generic.” Nurseries tend to list only a couple “pollination partners” so I was a little frustrated. Thank you!

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I remember having a couple Damson trees growing up and sometimes spotting black knot and going and cutting it out. One time we had such a bad case of black knot we lost all our trees…I think the problem was a host tree, native, maybe American highbush cranberry? don’t remember. I definitely would be watching for it.

I use Indar and Elevate. They are hard to get in small quantity though, and I would recommend propiconazole as the best easy-to-find source of it, sold as Bonide Infuse. I think with that plus Surround plus eventually some spinosad for the moths that you should hopefully be OK for your peaches and plums.

Re: black knot, if there is a wild source nearby it is much more difficult to control! I was relieved when my neighbors diseased plum finally died.


Thanks for your Low-impact link

I can second that from first hand knowledge. All of the varieties get brown rot but some varieties are a magnet for brown rot. If you wind up with one get rid of it immediately. My magnet was a flat peach and that thing was wildly out of control infecting everything around.

@scottfsmith So far brown rot has exclusively stuck to my plums and peaches. Has it gotten on your cherries and apricots?

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Yes, brown rot likes everything! The apricots and cherries are less susceptible since they ripen earlier, but if you are not spraying they will eventually get wiped out. At least in my climate.

I also had a flat peach that was a massive magnet. Flavor King was another huge magnet.

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If you have apples the plum curculio might focus on them. I had apples and plums both sizing up, and the curc took 95% of the apples because I needed to be harder on the Surround. Meanwhile the plums didn’t have a single strike.


If I wanted to pick one onto which I could later graft – does anyone have input for a variety with vigorous growth/good branch structure? I could most easily get Shiro on St. Julian A from Raintree, but I could get Satsuma on Citation also.

Fruit trees on citation have runted out in the east coast. My Shiro is on a plum seedling. It is vigorous. Re. good branch structure, a plum tree gives out numerous long branches. You will need to shape the tree the way you want it.

I tends to do a vase shape structure for plum trees.

If your choice is Shiro on St Julian and Satsuma on Citation, I would go with Shiro. Have your check Raintree nursery or Schabach?. My Euro on Marianna 2624 were from there. My Asian plums were on seedlings from Schlabach nursery.

For this year I am trying to combine orders so I don’t have shipping charges everywhere :-). I am looking at Raintree and Burntridge – both have Shiro on St. Julian – but if Shiro was a poor choice for a tree to be a graft base I saw a couple other sources that had Satsuma on Citation. We like plums but I don’t anticipate us needing more than maybe 2-3 trees in the end or we’d be overwhelmed with fruit, so I’d like to get “variety” by grafting.

We are doing pretty much all our fruit trees open/vase and dwarf (either with rootstock or pruning) for each of tending and picking. I’m even doing our pears that way lol.

I grafted 17 varieties on Shiro. The tree is very good, cold tolerant, blooms profusely, set fruit abundantly and a great pollinating partner. If you let the fruit fully ripen in a dry weather, they tastes very good.

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Sounds great for what I want then. Thank you for your input!

Wow–17 varieties?! Fun! I really like variety and have been working on transforming an established apple (variety unknown) and a wild pear into “frankentrees.” So far so good – good growth on both but no fruit…yet. Hoping this will be the year! :slight_smile:

Do you get much fruit drop on plums? I had a tree full of blooms, then plums, no pests I could see, and 90% dropped in June. Wrote in my notes DONT THIN. This was on an ozark premier.