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HOW TO PLANT A
Plum trees are extremely hardy plants and can be grown in all areas of the UK. The previous page has helped you select the correct plum tree for your garden, this page will help you to plant your tree at the correct time and in the best place.
The first factor to consider is where to plant your plum tree. They tolerate a wide range of conditions but some soil conditions are better than others. Timing is not crucial but again, some times of the year are better than others. The method of planting is important especially the depth.
WHERE TO PLANT YOUR PLUM TREE
Plum trees prefer a soil with lots of body in in it, loam or clay soils are best. If your soil is sandy and / or light then add lots of organic material prior to planting. This will fill out the soil and help it retain moisture and nutrients. Avoid water-logged soils, they are cold and damp in winter and your plum tree will not provide its best in those conditions.
The site of a plum tree is less important than the soil conditions, but they will do better in an open and sunny site. Having said that, some varieties such as Belle de Louvain will tolerate partial shade very well. Protection from strong winds is good, especially at pollination time. The reason for this is that insects, bees in particular, stay well-tucked up when strong winds are blowing, and you need lots of bees and other insects to ensure good pollination.
WHEN TO PLANT YOUR PLUM TREE
Any time of year is fine to plant your plum tree as long as you can provide it with a good supply of moisture for the first year while it is establishing a good root system. There is a best time however and that is in the early winter. At this time of year the soil will still be warm from the summer and autumn months but at the same time the soil will be naturally moist from the early winter rain.
Natural rain water is best for your plum tree and in winter you don't need to be continually thinking if your newly planted plum tree is loosing too much moisture from hot sun.
HOW TO PLANT YOUR PLUM TREE
It's a good idea to prepare the soil a month or so in advance although this can be done at the time of planting. Dig over the area adding as much well-rotted organic material as you can. A few handfuls of bonemeal or blood, fish and bone fertiliser worked into the soil will also provide a long-lasting supply of nutrients.
To plant a container grown plum tree dig out a hole slightly larger than the pot and plant the tree so that the soil on the tree is level with the soil on the ground. Fill in with soil around the root ball and firm it down. Water well.
If planting a bare-rooted tree then dig out a hole large enough to take the roots spread out. Then place the tree roots in the hole and start to fill round with soil. The tree should be planted to the same depth as it was previously - a soil line should be visible on the main stem about 5cm to 10cm below the join (see here for picture). Never plant the tree with the join below the soil level.
All newly planted plum trees will need a stake to support them in the first three years of their life. Drive the stake into the ground about 15cm / 6in from the main trunk and then tie the trunk securely to the stake. The "ties" are best bought from a garden centre. If string or thin ties are used these may well cut into the bark of the plum tree and this can be a site for fungal infection.
When your plum tree is planted it is best to read the instructions which came with it and follow those as far as first year pruning is concerned. If you have no instructions we suggest pruning a one year old plum tree to a height of about 1m / 3ft. When you do this it is very important to make sure that at least two buds (preferably three) are left below the pruning point. It is from these buds that the main branches will grow. If there are no buds below the 1m height (unlikely) then prune to a higher point so that the buds are present.
If your new plum tree is a two year old then the main branches will already have developed significantly. For both one and two year old new trees see our page specially devoted to pruning both new and established plum trees for much more detail and some useful pictures.
TRANSPLANTING AND MOVING PLUM TREES
Not much is written about transplanting established plum trees, probably because most people never do it. However, if you are moving house then you may well want to move your plum tree with you.
Our experience shows that a three year old plum tree on either Pixy or St Julien A rootstock can be successfully moved. We did this a couple of years ago and the tree is now producing plums. We moved the tree in December when it was dormant (essential) and although all the plums dropped in the first year after moving, the plum tree re-established itself and produced plums in second and subsequent years after moving.
Dig out the soil to contain as much of the root-ball as you can carry and ensure the soil stays on the roots. If the tree is three or more years old then inevitably you will need to cut through some roots but take as large a root-ball as is possible. Replant to the same level in the soil as previously and water well if the soil is dry.
COMMENTS / QUESTIONS LEFT BY OUR READERS
|Date: 7 May 2016||From: Chris|
|I have bought a plum tree and the roots are wrapped in plastic. There are shoots starting to come out of this. Do I remove them before planting (p.s. I am new to gardening)!
ANSWER: Yes, you need to remove all the plastic. It will not rot down and will restrict the spread of the roots.
Have just receievd your latest email and you point out that you were referring to the shoots not the plastic! The answer to that question is difficult to answer without a picture. But if the shoots are definitely from the roots and not the base of the trunk then don't remove them.
|Date: 7 May 2016||From: John|
|We have a 40 yr old standard Victoria suffering badly from dieback in the last two years, I plan to dig up and replace with a new variety, can it go in the same spot?
ANSWER: I would definitely plant any new fruit tree in a new position. Dieback of trees is a generic term which doesn't identify what caused the problem. It could be bacterial, a virus or any number of problems. The soil where the tree is planted could well be infected, and it certainly won't be in prime condition for a new tree.
|Date: 2 September 2015||From: Richard|
|My sister in law is about to give me a plum tree that I think is about 3 years old and is being dug up from her garden. It's produced good fruit this year. Is it possible to keep this tree in a very large pot or must it go into the garden? I have a fairly limited space for a tree.
ANSWER FROM DAVE: I have never grown a plum tree in a container but the RHS says that this can be done successfully. First, you need to be sure that the tree is on the correct rootstock, it must be dwarfing (see here). Then you need to be sure the roots will fit in the container, after three years I doubt it. However, trimming the roots to fit is a real possibility. When doing this make sure that sufficient of the tiny fibrous roots remain because these are the ones that absorb water and nutrients.
|Date: 9 August 2015||From: Joaane|
|I have a plum tree that is 2 years old, How and when can I take a
cutting from ?
ANSWER FROM DAVE: If you take a cutting from a plum tree and it takes, then you will end up with a plum tree which may be up to 10 metres or more tall. It will also take many years before it bears fruit. The only way to do this sensibly is to obtain an appropriate rootstock from a plant nursery. You will then need to "graft" a piece from the original tree onto the new rootstock and bind the joint. After six months or so the join will have healed and the cutting will be joined to the rootstock.
More information can be found on the internet about grafting fruit trees. It is something which requires a degree of expertise to succeed.
|Date: 20 July 2015||From: Frances McLean|
|Can we move a one-year old plum tree which has been grown against a fence, into the open garden and grow it as a proper tree?
ANSWER FROM DAVE: Yes you can. There are a couple of points to note though. The first is the variety of the plum tree and your local climate. The combination of the two will dictate how well the plum tree grows. Against a wall, the tree is protected from wind and to some degree colder temperatures. Some plum tree varieties need this to thrive, others, such as Victoria, are quite happy to grow in the open in most areas of the UK.
Check out our plum tree varieties page for details of specific plum varieties.
When you move the tree, take as much of the rootball as you can and plant the tree to the same depth as it was previously. Water well and don't let the soil get dry for the next few months. This shouldn't be a problem if you do it at the best time of year for this transplanting which is late October to early March. Do not prune the tree at the same time.
When you do start to prune the tree, you may be faced with a situation where the major branches are on opposite sides of the trunk because the tree has been growing against a wall. You need to encourage one, preferably two more main branches to form at right angles to balance the tree out.
|Date: 8 March 2015||From: Edward Dodoo|
|After planting the plum tree, does it need pruning straight away?
ANSWER FROM DAVE: Good question, I have updated the main article above to answer your question. Click here to go to that specific section. As for pruning it straight away I would say the quicker the better but leaving it for a couple a weeks will be fine, just make sure you don't forget it!
|Date: 10 June '14||From: Michael|
|Thanks for the article - one question - how long does it take for a European plum tree to reach maturity (in years)?
ANSWER FROM DAVE: The answer depends on several factors. If your plum tree is on dwarfing rootstock you can consider it mature after four to six years. If the tree is on its own rots then 10 to 12 years old would be more likely. The position of the tree and ground in which it is grown will also affect the growth rate.