How to prune a plum tree- European plum or Common plum


How to prune plum trees correctly? Many orchard owners keep asking this question over and over again and here is the answer. At the beginning of the tree life, it is necessary to go for a radical cut to define the shape of the crown. Later, you can use much less radical cut which is sometimes called “rejuvenating” pruning. But make sure your tree is large enough. If you have a small tree leave it like it is for the first season and then you may start pruning. The cut shall be based on the fact how much the tree has grown. We shall take a look at both the radical and rejuvenating pruning process. What rules should you follow?

Training pruning during first years of the tree life

During the first years of the tree life you should focus on training pruning. This will help the tree to create the correct shape of the crown. Shoots on the first level should be trimmed to one plane to support even growth. When defining the first layer, it is necessary to leave about three to four main branches with sufficient spacing. Other branches may be pruned alternately. Skeletal or main branches shall not grow at acute angles as this is not optimal for the tree. You may shorten the shoots during the next following years only if they exceed 60 cm.

Rejuvenating pruning for small trees or saplings

Small trees or so-called saplings, i.e. trees that do not grow too high are commonly planted in gardens these days. For this type of small trees, a pyramid shape without a terminal is an ideal shape. Terminal is cut out when the second layer is defined. This keeps the sapling at the optimum height and makes harvesting and any additional treatment easier. If annual increments in growth are small, up to 40 cm, go for regular pruning, just to thin the crown out.

Rejuvenated tree is more fertile

Trees with small gains in growth will significantly lose their fertility over time. This is one of the reasons why the rejuvenation pruning of the crown is worthwhile. Branches 2 to 3 years old should be shortened. You should cut approximately 50 to 100 cm. The optimal time to prune plum trees is when they begin to bloom. When you finish, make sure to seal the cuts with pruning wax.    

Photo: Radek Štěpán

Radek Štěpán

Gardening is my hobby, I have a lot of experience and I am happy to share it.


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