Pruning An Established Plum Tree

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This article provides helpful tips and instructions for pruning a plum tree
by Brett · Zone 5A · -20° to -15° F to Zone 9B · 25° to 30° F · Pruning · 0 Comments · August 29, 2010 · 10,883 views

First Dormant Season

During the first dormant season, in mid-February to early March, start pruning by removing diseased, broken and low-hanging limbs. Next, to develop an open-center, vase-shaped tree, remove vigorous upright shoots that may have developed on the inside of the main scaffold branches. The tree shown in the image to the right shows what a plum tree might look like at the end of the first growing season, and what it would look like after pruning in late winter.

Once the scaffold system of the young plum tree is established, prune as little as possible until the tree becomes mature enough to fruit, usually the third or fourth year.

Pruning 2nd Dormant Season and TherafterPruning Peach Tree Aerial View

Follow the same principles used after the first growing season. The objective is to open up the tree to allow sunlight penetration and air movement and to improve spray coverage. When the tree is well-grown, pruning consists mainly of moderate thinning and heading cuts back to outward-growing laterals to keep the tree low and spreading. A height of 8 to 9 feet is preferred.

Start by removing low-hanging, broken, and/or diseased limbs. To maintain the open center, remove any extremely vigorous upright shoots developing on the inside of the tree, leaving the smaller shoots for fruit production. Cut them off close the the branch.

Prune out poor-quality fruiting wood, such as shoots growing off the branch that are less than pencil-size in diameter or branches that hang downward and are shaded. The desirable wood left for production should be about the diameter of a pencil and from 12 to 18 inches in length. If the length exceeds 24 inches, cut off about one-third of this fruiting branch.

Finally, prune the vigorous upright limbs growing off the main scaffold branches by cutting them back to an outside-growing shoot.

Summer Pruning

Pruning can also be performed in the summer on established plum trees. At this time you will simply be looking for branches that are growing towards the inside of the tree and removing them at their base. You can also remove any suckers that have emerged from the base of the trunk.

If all of this sounds like too much for you to handle, contact your local arborist or local Extension agent for further consultation.


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