When it comes to providing information on growing plums in the UK, it is not altogether easy. While apple and pear varieties can be grown just about anywhere, plum trees have a very great sensitivity to local conditions, and the variety choice will be reflected by the tree’s longevity.
By way of example, in Suffolk, bacterial canker and silver leaf, the most serious fungal diseases affecting plum trees, are not so dramatic, while in western and northern areas with greater humidity, these diseases can cause grave difficulties to certain plum varieties.
The only practical suggestion is to go by local knowledge when choosing the plum tree varieties. For example, damsons will crop anywhere in the UK, while greengages will only crop in the South and south east of the UK.
Plum tree growing has major limitations; spring frosts and over-cropping can cause serious problems. Therefore planting in a frost pocket must be avoided.
Secondly over-cropping will lead to a far too heavy crop in one year, followed by a year with no crop at all. To avoid this, fruit thinning, to be carried out in the period late May-early June, is essential.
Pruning plum trees
How to prune plums trees? It is very important to plant varieties which are resistant to silver leaf and bacterial canker. These diseases will attack the trees when resistance is at its lowest. For that reason, choose a system of growing which makes it possible to prune only when the leaves are fully developed. That means plum tree pruning in the winter or late autumn should be avoided at all costs. Watch the video on green gage pruning for further information.
There are many varieties of plums available (see our list of plum varieties with links to descriptions). There are no varieties which are totally resistant to late spring frosts, when these occur. However each county of the UK has its own specific plum varieties most suitable to cope with the climatic limitations. Pollination requirements therefore differ according to in which county the plum trees are planted. Click here to read about plum tree pollination, with a plum variety pollination compatibility chart.
From the overall point of view, when growing plum trees it is best to plant a minimum of 2 varieties. This is true even in the case of self-fertile varieties, because the presence of a pollinator improves fruit set.