How to Prune Plum Trees

comments (1) October 13th, 2014

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AllisonTaylor AllisonTaylor, member
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People often neglect the importance of annual pruning and training of plum trees. Without these essential aspects of tree maintenance, fruit trees cannot develop proper shape and form. On the other hand, properly pruned trees will yield higher fruit quality and quantity, live significantly longer and look much more beautiful than their untrained counterparts. Today we'll take a closer look at the subject of tree pruning and show you how to care for your plum trees.

Benefits and Importance of Pruning

The main objective of tree pruning is to develop a strong tree framework that can support and increase fruit production over the years. While improperly pruned plum trees typically have upright branch angles and limb breakage, trained plum trees stay healthy and produce quality fruit. Another important goal of annual pruning is to remove broken, diseased or dead limbs that may reduce the yield of the plum tree.

Proper plum tree pruning also maximises light penetration which is essential for flower bud development, fruit quality, flavour and set. Opening the tree canopy allows enough light to reach the inner part of the tree as well as permits adequate air movement. The latter minimises the risk of disease infection, promotes rapid drying and thorough penetration of pesticides. Finally, a well trained plum tree is aesthetically pleasing, whether in a garden, backyard or commercial orchard.

Tools You'll Need for Tree Pruning

Tree pruning London experts recommend that you use the following tools to prune plum trees:

  • A pair of clean pruning shears - make sure to use sharp shears as a dull pair may crush the wood which can lead to infections.
  • A bottle of bleach and a clean cloth - you'll need these to wipe the shears after each trim as this will kill off any disease or harmful bacteria that can potentially infect other areas of the tree.
  • A bottle of protective pruning sealant - use it to seal bigger cuts and prevent silver leaf disease from entering the tree wounds.
  • A sturdy ladder - consider obtaining an extension ladder as you may need to reach the higher sections of your trees.

All of these items are available from garden supply shops or can be ordered directly online.

The Ideal Time to Prune Your Plum Trees

The best time to prune your plum trees is during the growing season (June and early July) when trees can heal more quickly. This is also the time of the year when there's a minimal risk of silver leaf infections - a disease, that once contracted, spreads through the entire plum tree, reducing the quality, quantity and size of your fruit. This infection typically enters the tree through cut wounds making incorrect pruning one of its main causes.

Make sure that you prune a plum tree on a dry day. Pruning in cold or damp weather significantly increases the chances of contracting tree diseases. Do not attempt to prune plums in the winter as extreme temperatures may lead to dieback in trimmed limbs. You should also avoid pruning plums during midsummer as the tree's energy will be directed towards new growth rather than fruiting.

The First Year

Remove dead branches and leaves including anything else that looks stuck or sick. Cut the main limb of the tree:

  • One meter above the soil for a bush
  • Half a meter above the soil if you want to achieve a pyramid shaped tree
  • Two meters above the soil for a standard shaped tree

Make sure that you cut just above a bud and once ready remove that bud. Ensure there are a minimum of three buds underneath the cut. Consider removing branches that prevent others from having adequate room for growth and enough sunlight to give quality fruit. Also, trim limbs that intersect or rub up against each other. According to tree pruning professionals these should be either separated or cut, since they can scrape each other and limit the size and amount of the tree's yield.

The Second Year

Prune your plums again in June of the second year. Cut the main branch just above the budding limb. Make sure there are at least three branches below the cut. Next, trim the remaining branches from the previous year with about 20 centimetres and ensure that you leave healthy new buds intact. Make clean cuts at a 30 degree angle to promote fast wound recovery.

The Third Year

When pruning in June of the third year consider leaving the main trunk if you're going for the standard plum tree shape. Instead, cut only the stems from the main limb making them about 30 centimetres long. For a pyramid shape, you'll need to cut the main trunk to the first healthy bud. New branch growth should be cut back to 20 centimetres.

After the Third Year

After the third year, you just need to cut off any dry, dying or dead branches. Once cut, burn them to avoid the spreading of silver oak disease. Check the tree for overcrowding or crossing of limbs and remove one or the other of the crossing branches. If the tree needs cutting, trim it in June to provide adequate sunshine to bear healthy fruit. Additionally, you should also cut back any new growth that fails to produce plums. To encourage extra fruiting, trim all side shoots to a maximum of six leaves from their parent limb.

These tips will help you increase the yield of your plum trees as well as improve their health and appearance. Always work with a partner when pruning plums as you risk injuring yourself or causing property damage while cutting heavy branches. To reduce the risk of such dangerous accidents ask a friend of yours to help you. If in doubt, consider hiring a professional service offering tree pruning in London.


posted in: tree care, tree maintenance, Plum tree pruning, tree surgery

Comments (1)

GuyMPalmer writes: Nice information. Very helpful information..Thanks for sharing.
Posted: 11:09 pm on April 18th
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