Growing Plums

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In the last few days, I’ve been asked about two kinds of native wild plums and have had others brag about their successful crop of improved varieties. My friend Kermit said his plums this year are some of the sweetest he’s had in a long time.

Plums are a stone fruit and related to apricots, peaches, cherries, nectarines and even almonds. Some of the hybrid varieties, I’ll list below, are well adapted to our area and can resist disease, varmints, and won’t lose their blooms with our typical frosts.

There are two broad types of introduced plums: the European and the Japanese plums. European varieties like a lot more cold weather than you’ll find in Angelina County and typically perform poorly here. If you have ever heard about the Stanley plum, it is a good one for our northern neighbors.

The plums sold in nurseries that produce well are a Japanese hybrid. With an exception or two, most plum varieties are not self-fruitful. You will need to plant two varieties with similar blooming periods for pollination and for fruit to set.

If you are thinking, “I thought they were native,” indeed some are. According to the excellent book, “Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines of East Texas” by Elray S. Nixon, you can find four native plums. Included in the list are the Mexican, Flatwood, Oklahoma, and Chickasaw. Other books also mention the Americana variety as able to be found in our area.

Mr. and Mrs. Butler brought by the office a smaller plum that was identified as the Oklahoma variety. This plum’s specific trait was that it is more of a shrub, growing no more than 5 feet tall. Mr. Butler determined that the plum “bush” had never really grew tall like a true tree.

As expected with most fruit production, the soil type, site preparation, planting and cultivation of plums must be attended to for best production.

Plums also need a pollinator. Yes, you’ll need two varieties for adequate cross pollination. True, you can plant just one and get some plums. But kudos to the gardener with two! He’ll be supplying all his friends and neighbors with fresh plums!

Plums must have well drained soil and a full day of sunshine to perform at their best. I’ve beat the soil drainage topic many times over, but it still holds true.

From the local nurseries, there are a few improved varieties that you’ll want to consider for a quality plum tree in your landscape.

If you are can only plant one, plant a Methley or an Ozark Premiere as they are self-fruitful, not needing a cross pollinator. Ozark Premiere is a large plum with yellow flesh and reddish skin. It is self-fruitful and ripens in late June.

Methley ripens from late May to early June. The fruit is small to medium size with a mottled purple peel and juicy red flesh that is sweet and flavorful. It is adapted across Texas but is soft and does not store well. If you decide to plant another plum, Methley readily pollinates other plums.

Santa Rosa is a large purplish plum with amber colored flesh. It ripens in late June and is a popular home and market variety.

Bruce is a large red plum that must be pollinated to bear fruit. It ripens about the first of June.

Morris will only work in our milder winters where we get at least 800 chilling hours. It needs a pollinator and ripens in early June and is a large plum with firm red to purple flesh.

Author

Cary Sims
Cary Sims
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu

Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.
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