Time to give up on Plums?

I have been trying to grow plums outside here for quite a few years. I have had some success, with European prune type plums, which do reasonably well here and produce fruit. However the other varieties (European, Japanese and American) just don’t seem to stay alive, much less produce. The typical pattern is there is decent new growth during the summer. But the next spring most of that new growth has died, and growth begins again from near the trunk. This repeats for a few years and then the tree dies.

I have tried moisture sprays in the fall/winter (Wilt-Proof, etc), and it maybe helps some (have not had any trees die since using it) but most of last years growth is still dead. Here’s a pic of a plum which illustrates how these plums come thru a winter (all those brown, dead branches were alive last year)

What do folks think, am I just slow to get the hint or is there something I could try to make these trees thrive here?

Where in zone 5 you are? I am in 5B MA, and never saw this happen to any plum - not in my yard, not in orchards that sell plums other than prunes.

Is that a Superior plum? My Superior has been late to leaf out and spindly now two years in a row. I keep thinking it is going to die but it eventually has some new growth. It kind of looks like your picture, except my leaves are randomly growing in clumps on branches that otherwise appear lifeless. All my other plums (hybrid, asian and euro) seem healthy.

Probably a Superior variant (from Starks and they have their own name for it).

I am in z5a. Temp wise we might even be considered a warmer zone, at least the past few years it has barely gone below 0F. We do however get very strong winds every winter and the relative humidity is quite low compared to many places which grow plums.

@ztom I would not have an issue if it was just that these plums are slow to start growing in the spring. But what I usually see is last year’s growth just never starts growing, maybe from 1" away from the main trunk but that is it. So year after year it is like planting a new tree again. It might be different this time, but the few branch tips I’ve checked are brown and brittle, I don’t hold out much hope.

The fact American plums don’t survive is perplexing. Have you had your soil tested? Since Prune type plums survive, maybe you should look at St. Julian root stock. It is a Damson type plum same as prunes and its compatable with most plums and peaches.

Seems to me your trees are not hardy enough. That they are not going dormant fast enough. So trees are vunerable to cold damage. Make sure not to fertilize late in the year. You could remove foliage in the fall, about the time leaves should be gone. You could spray with wilt-stop. An anti-desiccant that I think works on some plants to retain moisture. Not sure if this will work?

He says he’s using wilt stop.

Steve we live in a canker hot zone and sometimes we win but I loose much more than I care to admit! The bugs are also bad for plums here.

There is a forum member @PlumHill (Eric) who has a plum orchard in zone 4b. He grows the largest number of plum varieties than any forum members.

Lovok your zone definitely is not an issue. Your choice of varieties and rootstocks probably are.

Maybe, @PlumHill could chime in and give you some suggestions.

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Plums do not like to grow in the windy open spaces. And dry winds can be very damaging. If they do not grow well they probably need the place which is better protected from winds, it is not the low temperatures which are killing them. If your winters are very dry without snow you may even consider to water them during late Autumn (when they go dormant) or in the early spring.