Which of these Plums would you choose?

Here in Colorado 5B/Denver area, the Euro plum varieties I’ve seen recommended regularly are Stanley, Green Gauge, Blue Damson, Mt. Royal, Italian, and maybe(?) American.

With limited full-sun space, we could plant two, but one would be preferred, along with grafting multiple varieties over time.

Good flavors for fresh eating is probably the first (but not only) priority. Ability to stand up to harsh conditions (late frosts & freezes, large temp swings) for longevity is very important, as well as maintainability of the tree from a height perspective.

What you choose, and why? Am I missing any options?

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This may be way more information than you want, but here are some great posts with respect to plums:

Instead of Stanley, Damson, or Italian, you might want to try Castleton, De Montfort, or Valor.
Other varieties you might find interesting are Early Transparent Gage or Kirks Blue. Green Gage is always popular.
Castleton might be a good starter tree. I believe it is supposed to be self fruitful.


Mt. Royal is noted as being the most cold hardy of good quality prune plums and at a site where I manage 2 trees of this variety, it bears almost every year. However, I haven’t given it the love of other prune and gage plums on the property and don’t adequately thin them. Even in this context of relative neglect, I have gradually come to respect this plum for its reliable crops, even if it sets TOO MUCH fruit. This year I will make a point to thin at least one scaffold to see how it sizes up. I’m already pretty sure it gets up the brix like any good prune plum which means it will provide plums of far superior quality than what can normally be purchased.

However, if Denver doesn’t have extreme cold weather events these days, I’d probably start with Castleton and Empress for prune plums. If space was limited, I’d recommend Mt. Royal and use it as a mother tree. It has a nice spreading habit and is a bit more vigorous than Castleton, which, in spite of its spreading growth habit, seems to often want to grow in contrary ways to its trainer.


I appreciate the thread references… I went and looked through all of those, and there was some good information.

Honestly, my wife and I just don’t know plums well, which is part of the challenge. We do prefer some tanginess with sweet, but I’m not sure if that comes in any of these varieties.

Alan, ‘extreme cold weather’ is tough to speak to. Regular late frosts, hail, etc. Yes. Extreme events… unfortunately becoming a more intermittent. Last week, we had 3 nights down to 15… not normal, but totally possible. Every few years we dip to -10… rare occasion 5-10 degrees worse. Could Castleton or Empress, de Montfort or Valor hold up and produce in these conditions?

We have a large lot, so space is not my issue… however, with 30 mature trees scattered, all-day sunny space is an issue (though Colorado sun is intense). From the threads, it sounds like Plums maybe more sensitive than other fruits to requiring full sun to produce. Is that true?

As to one or two trees… part of the challenge is I don’t know how much space to expect the tree to consume at maturity in our climate - both width and height for semi-dwarf and standard root stock. I keep seeing photos of plum trees that look low and squat, (and not that shading), but they must either be dwarf or not mature. In my case, there are a few spots I could use with full sun, and some would be excluded from taller trees, due to shading the vegetable garden. Knowing I need a larger root structure for our conditions (and that those conditions will also restrict growth), how much width and height should I be planning for?

In either event, I do see myself grafting multiple varieties to experiment, which may require a larger tree(s), but manageable size is also key.

E. plums are more cold hardy than peaches as far as survival, and their buds are better than J plums because they flower a week later of so.

Your winter temps are mild- most E. plums can certainly survive -20. It is late frosts that are you largest danger, and E. plums are your best bet for stone fruit in surviving that. Speaking of below 25 degrees from the point flowers are almost open.

I just took a lunch break from grafting plums. I won’t choose any on your list. E plums in my area have not suffered any late frost or late freeze. They bloom late like @alan said.

My choices are based mainly on taste. These are my and fans’ favorites , in no particular order:
Coe’s Golen Drop
French Improved

My Valor is really good but I think @alan is not sure if it is a real Valor. I have Castleton from Raintree. It does not look like Alan’s Castleton either.

I feel close to absolutely certain it isn’t the real Valor and I can’t figure out what the hell it is. Adam’s has been no help, although they seem to have accepted my diagnosis. You can’t read the specs of the plum and not know it’s something else. Seedsaver’s says it ripens after Italian, which certainly ripens after Castleton when fake Valor ripens. At one site I call it Julia because that’s the name of the client.

Here’s another source that puts Valor’s ripening time after Italian. Keep in mind that I’ve been growing Valor for a quarter a century and have bought bundles of trees from both from Hilltop and Adams. Originally the Adams trees were identical to the first ones I ever ordered form Hilltop, and then about 3 seasons ago I noticed the plums from recent Adams trees were smaller, rounder and much earlier than true Valor. The quality is fantastic, it’s actually a notch up from Castleton, but isn’t as overall reliable (which doesn’t mean if lacks reliability where you are on the rootstock you are growing it on). It also isn’t so self-dwarfing as Castleton and has Valor’s more upright growth habit.

Valor is as good a flavored prune plum as I grow. What is good and bad about it is the fruit ripens over a long period and ripe or not, it all is of the same color. You either shake the tree lightly and gather off the ground or touch every single plum every 2-3 days through at least a month long ripening season.

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Am I getting this right… Empress is the same as Italian Plum?

For the final ripening fruit… how sensitive are they to frost or light freezes? The reason is that I see that some of the suggested varieties (Empress, Valor, for instance) have pretty late ripening dates, and while not common, we start getting frosts in September, and an occasional freeze.

What size trees (width and height) should I plan for? That really dictates if I can fit 2 or have to go to 1.

A state over in Kansas i find plums very challenging to grow. The late freezes take them out most years. Canker is bad here as well. I grow green gage and a host of japanese plums. The most luck we have is by growing american plum seedlings and beach plums. Ive grown a green gage 25 years and had two small crops. Grafted a host of japanese plums, planted sand plums, goose plums, canadian bounty plums, cherry plums etc… and im not saying you will have no success with others but i have the most luck growing american plums. Like apricots, they bloom to early. Some people grow stanley with some success about 10 miles from here. They get plums every 2-3 years.

I had trouble getting my ‘Stanley’ to ripen here in the Rocky Mountain foothills in New Mexico. My guess is it would work, barely, in Denver. Not what you would call complex flavor.

Too early to make any strong recommendations, but ‘Geneva Mirabelle’ is shaping up to be a good tree after finally getting established. Dodged some late spring freezing weather this year. Attractive landscape tree, too, with a spreading habit.

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Don’t forget black knot. My plums, both J and E have them.

I have about 10 varieties of E plums. They all boolm about the same time. They don’t ripen at the same time. Middleburg ripens too late.

Mirabelle ripens in mid Aug
Bavay, Valor, Empress - mid Sept

Our frost won’t be until Oct.

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Leaning toward an earlier ripening variety for the base tree might be wise. I keep experimenting with later ripening stone fruit here in Spokane and have yet to be able to make October work for me. The stuff that ripens in August benefits from lots of heat and is always very good.

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Does it negatively affect the fruit if they get a frost, while ripening? Take a tomato - disaster. Take a winter squash - almost a requirement.

I have not heard of a stone fruit benefiting from frost during the ripening phase. I think a big concern is cold and wet splitting your fruit late in the season. I am trying steer clear of stone fruits that finish after the first week of September, because the weather can turn cold and wet.

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I have a Valor from AC Nursery from about 3 years ago. It hasn’t fruited yet but I just ordered a new one this spring. Is the old Valor they carried or this new “fake” one even tastier? Only hoping to keep one of the two supposedly labeled Valors.

First, I would contact them to make sure they’ve corrected their mistake- you can ask for Jen and let her know you’ve learned about the issue from me. I’ve started ordering only blue bird plums from them to use as mother trees because of its immunity to black knot so I haven’t gotten back to Jen on this.

I assume they were still shipping out the fake Valors 3 years ago, even if they straightened out the problem, because that was when I first brought it to their attention. I think they sell most of their E. plums to home growers. They used to sell a fake Green Gage plum that was actually an Asian variety and I was the person who brought that to their attention. They then switched to the authentic plum. But in that case they were intentionally selling the wrong variety with the explanation that it looked like a green gage and was much easier to grow in the mid-Atlantic region where much of their customer base is.

I don’t know which one is tastier yet, but neither will disappoint. However, Valor is the more useful plum to me because it bears right into Oct starting in early Sept. The fake Valor season is in August and half as long. Because I’m in the humid region I can’t leave plums on the trees after they are already ripe, even if they don’t rot, birds will find them, especially before so many migrate south. August plums are also more prone to brown rot.

Thanks, kokopelli5A. If your frost/freeze dates are similar, then that would mean the Empress is likely too late. How do your dates compare to these?

Geneva Mirabelle, sounds like a good option as well. Interested to hear how it goes.


I talked with my wife, and she just now told me how she likes Toka plums :slight_smile:

That said, we talked about Mount Royal (with varieties grafted) vs Empress+Castleton. As much as we’d like to do something less mainstream and more delicious, it seems Mount Royal is a reliable option here, and given we don’t know plums enough to know if we have enough light or space for two, it is probably the more surefire approach. We can then try to squeeze in another one after we have had a chance to taste some varieties grafted onto the Mount Royal.

I don’t think bareroot trees are an option at this point (seems I’m either too late, or stock is just cleared out from most online vendors), so it will likely be going to a reliable nursery for a potted variety.

Should I be picky about the root stock they are grafted to? I thinking semi-dwarf?

I am happy with Marianna 2624. The tree is on a small side. Several people prefer Myrobalan as it is a more vigorous rootstock.

I have a graft on Mt Royal. Fruit is on a small size but tastes good. Hopefully, @galinas can chime in. She has a Mt Royal tree in zone 5b.

Toka plum blooms very late comparing to other plums and hybrids I have.

Looks like Mariana 2624 is a semi-dwarf. Are you saying that your is small for semi-dwarf? Do you have a sense why the fruit is small?

Interesting that Toka blooms late. I talked with the owner of Mason Orchard, located near me, today, as I was ordering a few scions to experiment on my apple tree. He said that Superior, Mt. Royal, Italians, Stanley, Toka, and to some extent Elephant Heart can do well here.

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