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Pruning Plum Trees for Beginners: Your Ultimate Guide

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Pruning Plum Trees for Beginners: Your Ultimate Guide

Are you ready to unlock the secrets of nurturing healthy, bountiful plum trees in your own backyard? Pruning plum trees is relatively straightforward and has many benefits:

  • keeps your plum tree healthy, in shape and clear of damaged and diseased branches
  • helps your plum tree to produce more and tastier plums
  • helps your tree to form a strong framework

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the art of plum tree pruning, step by step, so you can become a pruning pro in no time. We’ll cover

  • When is the best time to prune Plum Trees
  • What tools you’ll need
  • How to prune step-by-step (including bush and pyramid methods)
  • we’ll discuss Silver Leaf Disease and How to Prevent It
  • and some general aftercare tips.

Get your gloves on, and let’s dive in!

When to Prune Plum Trees

Timing is everything when it comes to pruning plum trees. The first rule of thumb is to aim for early spring. As your plum tree sleeps through the colder months -but the danger of serious frost is passed-, it’s the perfect opportunity to give it some pruning. Pruning during these months allows your tree to heal its wounds before the true growing season begins.

For young plum trees up (to three years old), it’s best to do the annual pruning in early Spring. As your tree matures (3+), you can transition to a more relaxed biennial, late-winter pruning schedule. This ensures you’re maintaining the desired shape promoting healthy growth, and possibly avoiding Silver Leaf Disease (more on that later).

The Tools You’ll Need for Pruning Plum Trees

Before you embark on your pruning journey, let’s talk tools. You’ll need these:

Safety tip: Make sure your tools are sharp. Dull tools can cause unnecessary damage and stress to your tree.


How to Prune a Plum Tree Step-by-Step

Step 1: Pre-Pruning Assessment

Before you make your first cut, assess your tree. Identify dead, diseased, or crossing branches – these are the ones that need to go. This initial assessment sets the stage for the rest of your pruning.

Step 2: Choosing the Right Pruning Method

Now, the fun begins. Decide if you want to go for the bush or pyramid method. The bush method encourages a lower, bushier shape, while the pyramid method creates a more central leader shape. Choose the one that suits your space and aesthetic preferences.

Step 3: Correct Pruning Techniques

To start, always make clean, angled cuts just above a bud or branch junction. This helps with healing and growth. Remember, you’re not just chopping away; you’re shaping your tree’s destiny.

Step 5: Post-Pruning Care

Your tree may look a little worse for wear after its haircut. Fear not, this is normal. Apply wound sealant to the freshly cut branches, which will protect your tree from pests and diseases. Also, make sure to sanitize your tools to prevent the spread of any unwanted guests.

Bush or Pyramid Pruning Methods

Bush Pruning

For those of you aiming for a lower, bushier tree, here’s what you need to do. Prune the branches back to encourage a balanced shape. Remove branches that grow straight up or cross each other. The goal is to create a lovely, open center where sunlight can reach all parts of the tree. Just like in the case of apple or pear trees.

Pyramid Pruning

If you fancy a more central leader shape, pyramid pruning is the way to go. Keep one strong central branch intact and prune the others around it. This allows your tree to grow taller and creates a pyramid-like structure.

  • For the first summer, cut side branches back (to about 6in) and use a stake for training the central leader.
  • In the following years, manually remove the vertical shoots at the top while keep cutting back the side branches.

Pruning Young Plum Trees

To encourage healthy growth for Young Plum Trees, focus on light shaping and training in early-spring. Aim to establish a strong central leader and remove any competing branches. Regular light pruning helps maintain their shape and structure, but remember! If you prune in damp, winter conditions, your tree can easily get Silver Leaf Disease infection. Prune young trees in the spring!

Pruning Common Plum Trees

Plum trees come in various shapes and sizes, and their care needs can differ. European plums, Japanese plums, and Damson plums all have unique growth patterns. European plums tend to be more upright, while Japanese plums have a wider, bushier shape. Tailor your pruning to the specific needs of your plum tree variety to ensure the best results.

Silver Leaf Disease and How to Prevent It

Silver leaf disease might sound like a fantasy novel threat, but it’s a real concern for plum trees. This disease can weaken and potentially kill your beloved tree. This fungus infects the tree through wounds and activates in damp conditions. Look out for symptoms like silver-gray leaves and a white, silverish cast on branches. To prevent silver leaf disease, always prune during the recommended late winter and early spring months. Sanitizing your tools can also help to prevent silver leaf disease infection.

Pruning Plum Trees for Beginners: Your Ultimate Guide
Silver leaf disease on a plum tree


You’ve pruned, shaped, and protected your plum tree – now what? Aftercare is just as crucial as the pruning itself. Properly mulch around the base of your tree to retain moisture and regulate temperature. Regularly fertilize your tree to ensure it receives the nutrients it needs for healthy growth. Remember to water your tree as needed, especially during dry spells. Keep an eye out for any signs of disease or pest infestations and address them promptly.


Congratulations, you’ve completed your crash course in pruning plum trees! With the right tools, a little knowledge, and a dash of patience, you’re well on your way to nurturing healthy, fruitful plum trees that will reward you for years to come. Happy pruning!

Frequently Asked Questions

When to prune plum trees?

The first rule of thumb is to aim for early spring for younger trees. Pruning during these months allows your tree to heal its wounds before the growing season begins. Mature plum trees can be pruned during summer.

Can you prune plum trees in September?

If the winter in your area can be especially tough, we’d recommend NOT to prune your Plum Tree in September. Generally, you want to prune your tree right before new growth starts, and frost can damage your freshly pruned tree big time.

When to prune plum trees in California?

If you live in California, you want to do your annual Plum Tree Pruning session in January or early February, before the new growth starts.

How do I shape my plum tree for better fruit production?

To get maximum fruit production from your Plum Tree, shape it into a vase form to promote sunlight penetration plus overall tree vitality. Trim the trunk annually, reducing its height by one to two feet to foster a bushier lower structure.