Fruit trees, such as plum trees, can provide a beautiful ornament for the home lawn and garden, as well as delicious fruit. However, to maintain the beauty and the bounty of plum trees, it is very important to properly maintain them. This includes pruning.
It the plum tree is just there for aesthetic purposes, the process is less complicated. Here are the instructions for pruning a plum tree, courtesy of Lawn-and-Gardening-Tips.com. First, make sure that the shears being used are sharp enough, so that the cut is a clean one. Next, clear away all of the dead or dying branches, as well as any broken branches. It is also important to remove branches that rub against one another or intersect. Intersecting branches causes the canopy of the tree to be too thick, and this means that sunlight cannot always reach the fruit. The big pruning cut should be made just above a bud, at an angle of about 30 degrees. To cut all of the stems, always cut about opposing shoots or buds, as this give the tree a fuller look. When pruning branches, try to prune the vertical branches instead of the horizontal branches, as this also contributes to a fuller look. Lastly, get rid of the shoots towards the bottom of the tree.
Now, it is time for a more detailed guide about how to prune a plum tree for fruit production. Details about these instructions can be found at the North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences website. Pruning a plum tree during the dormant period typically results in the best growth. Therefore, pruning should occur during the very last part of winter to prevent the tree from being damaged further by cold temperature.
During the first year after the tree is planting, wait until buds have started to swell on the tree, and then cut off the top portion of the tree. The top of the tree should only come to about 30-34 inches from the top of the soil. During the summer of the first year, prune the plum tree so that there is only one “branch” leading the upward growth. Trim away the other upward growing limbs near the top of the tree. Try to select four equally spaced lateral branches to grow outward and trim the other branches away. This will allows the branches to have plenty of room to expand, and it will create what is called a “central leader” tree growth.
During the “dormant” pruning time the next year, top the tree off about 24-30 inches above the highest branch. As the tree is pruned year to year, remember to maintain only one central trunk or leader. Keep new branches evenly spaced to prevent overcrowding and eliminate branches that grow at “crotch angles” of less than 60 degrees for the same reason. This type of pruning will allow for a full growth of the plum tree, and it will also allow light and air to reach all of the branches of the tree, including lower interior branches.
Pruning is an important part of maintaining a healthy plum tree. A well-pruned tree will produce better fruit in more quantities.