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Guide to Growing a Plum Tree in Australia 

Plums are so much tastier when you grow them yourself on your own tree.

I’ll never forget the young plum tree I planted in my previous garden. I selected a tree that had been grafted with two different varieties of plums, which meant that I didn’t need a second tree for cross-pollination.

Once I had planted the tree, it bore fruit in the following year and the plums were absolutely delicious. But, I did have to fight the birds and the possums to get to the fruit before they did.

As the tree was still a manageable size, I covered it entirely with bird netting and this helped to preserve some of the fruit.

Sadly, two years later, the tree was absolutely laden with fruit but we had one of those freak wind storms and one part of the tree broke at the graft point. It was quite disappointing to see all those lovely developing plums go to waste.

So, if you have a young tree that is producing fruit, it might be a good idea to provide some support for any heavily laden branches in case heavy winds come through your garden. Or, you can thin out the fruit in order to reduce the weight on the branches.

When to plant a plum tree in Australia

The best time to plant a plum tree in Australia is in winter because plum trees are deciduous and are often available bare-rooted. This gives the roots of the tree plenty of time to become established before growth starts again in spring.

How to plant a plum tree in Australia

Planting your plum tree is fairly straightforward. You want to choose a sunny spot in the garden. If you can provide some protection from strong winds, then this is ideal.

Enrich the soil with some compost and animal manure as this will give the tree a good start. Create a nice wide planting hole that is as deep as the roots of the tree.

planting tree in a hole | Fruit & Vegetables

It’s a good idea to mound up some soil in the centre of the hole so that you can position the roots nicely over this. Backfill the hole with soil and water the tree well. At this point, you could also add a layer of mulch over the soil to keep in moisture.

Expert tip: To give your tree the best start in your garden, soak the roots in a bucket of water to which you’ve added some liquid seaweed before planting. You can do this while you’re preparing the soil and creating the planting hole.

How to care for your plum tree

Plum trees don’t require a great deal of pampering. All you have to do is water your tree during periods of dry weather and give it an organic fertiliser twice a year in spring and autumn.

However, once your tree starts producing fruit, it’s a good idea to also feed it in summer and winter. This will ensure that you end up with plenty of lovely juicy plums.

Plum tree 1 1 | Fruit & Vegetables

When to harvest plums

Plums need to be left on the tree to fully ripen. You can harvest the fruit when it’s nice and plump and just slightly soft to the touch.

harvesting plums 1 | Fruit & Vegetables

Just pick a couple to test their ripeness first and leave the rest a little longer if the ones you’ve tested aren’t quite ripe enough yet.

Pruning plum trees in Australia

Young plum trees should be pruned in winter in order to create a nice open vase shape. For this, you want to remove crisscrossing branches and try to open up the centre for adequate airflow.

pruning plum tree | Fruit & Vegetables

There are two types of plums that are commonly grown in Australia, Japanese and European plums. These produce fruit differently and require slightly different pruning regimes.

Japanese plums will produce fruit on one-year-old lateral branches. These varieties are best pruned just after they’ve finished fruiting in late summer. Remove any dead branches or those that are growing inwardly. Then reduce the length of the new growth on the remaining branches by half.

On the other hand, European plums will produce fruit on two-year-old lateral branches. With these trees, you want to remove the one-year-old wood or the new growth that has grown in the recent growing season. This is best done in winter.

Plum tree pests and diseases

Fortunately, apart from protecting your fruit from birds and possums, plum trees don’t suffer from too many other pests or diseases in Australia. However, if you’re in a fruit fly area, you’re going to have to put up traps or baits if you want to protect your fruit.

The other insect pest to look out for is cherry and pear slugs as these can easily defoliate your tree if left unchecked. These pests are the larva of the sawfly. They are glossy black in colour and only around 1 cm in length. They can be controlled by removing them by hand or with a strong jet of water.

As sawflies will pupate in the soil under the tree, some gardeners recommend adding either wood ash or lime to the soil to control these pests.

Plum tree varieties in Australia

There are quite a number of different plum varieties that can be grown in Australia. Apart from the Japanese and European plums, there are even native Australian plums such as the Davidson plum.

Here are some of the other more common plums grown in Australia:

European plums

  • Prune d’Agen
  • Greengage
  • President
  • Mirabelle
  • Damson
  • King Billy
  • Victoria
  • Angelina

Japanese plums

  • Mariposa
  • Satsuma
  • Amber Jewel
  • Black Amber
  • Donsworth (a blood plum)
  • Queen Rosa
  • Santa Rosa
  • Tegan Blue

FAQ

How long does it take to grow a plum tree?

It normally takes around 3 to 6 years for a plum tree to start producing fruit. However, if you purchase a large tree from a nursery, you could expect to get fruit in the second year and a much greater harvest in years after that.

Do I need two plum trees to produce fruit?

You’ll find that there are numerous plum tree varieties that are not self-pollinating, so you’ll definitely need two trees if you want fruit. However, there are also many grafted varieties with some even bearing two different types of plums. Look for one of these if you have limited space.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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