Photo: Oxmoor House
SEASON: May to October, with the peak in mid- to late summer
CHOOSING: Bring home smooth-skinned, wrinkle-free plums without injuries or brown spots. If not perfectly ripe, they’ll continue to ripen on the kitchen counter.
STORING: When plums are as ripe as needed, place them in a plastic produce bag in the refrigerator to stop the ripening. This will keep them in good condition for up to five days.
GROWING: Plums grow on a small tree that fits nicely into a home landscape. With white—and occasionally pink—spring flowers, a plum tree could be mistaken for a purely ornamental tree.
European plums are the elongated, deep purple, or green fruit that can be eaten fresh or dried to make prunes and jams. Varieties include Damson, Green Gage, Italian Prune, and Stanley. These generally require more winter cold and tolerate less heat.
Japanese plums are round, pink to red, and juicy. For gardeners with moderate to mild winters, these are the ones to choose. Select favorites such as AU Producer, Burbank, Methley, Santa Rosa, Shiro, and many others.
The third group is made up of hybrid plums, sometimes called cherry plums, that are the result of crossing native American with Japanese species. These originated in northern states and Canada. However, gardeners far and wide can benefit from these hardy trees and shrubs, including Opata, Sapa, Sapalta, Superior, and Underwood.
When adding a plum to your landscape, plan for two. You almost always need two trees for cross-pollination, and even if your tree is self-fruitful, it will bear more fruit if there is a second plum tree. However, your pollinator usually needs to be from the same family of plums.