Plum trees, cherished additions to any garden, not only enhance the landscape but also yield delicious fruits. However, without proper pruning and training, these trees can pose challenges rather than being assets. Pruning plum trees is a crucial task, shaping not only the tree’s aesthetics but also influencing its health and fruit production. In this guide, we delve into the intricacies of when and how to prune a plum tree, ensuring a robust foundation and a plentiful harvest.

plum tree pruning

Why Pruning Matters:

Pruning serves as a vital practice to maintain tree health, prevent diseases, and enhance fruit yield. Neglecting this aspect might lead to overburdened branches, risking breakage under the weight of an abundant harvest.

When is the Best Time to Prune a Plum Tree:

  1. For Young Trees: Early spring, before bud break, is ideal to prevent silver leaf disease. Immediate pruning upon planting ensures the tree’s proper shape.
  2. Established Trees: For mature plum trees, prune in winter or right after the plum harvest, typically between September and November. This timing fosters optimal tree growth.

Pruning in the First Three Years:

  1. First Year: Adopt a vase shape by cutting the central main branch 60 cm above the ground. Ensure the cut is just above a bud, with at least three buds below.
  2. Second Year: Trim the main stem 18 inches above a bud. Keep three branches below, pruning them to 25 cm at an angle above a healthy bud.
  3. Third Year: Similarly, cut the main stem 45 cm above a bud. Trim three or four branches below to 25 cm.

blue plums on plum tree

Pruning an Established Adult Plum Tree:

  1. Remove Dead Wood: Focus on branches that haven’t borne fruit in the current year. Eliminate dead wood and dispose of it.
  2. Six-Leaf Side Shoots: Prune all six-leaf side shoots from the parent branch to encourage fruiting in the following year.
  3. Central Stem Length: Ensure the central stem is not more than 90 cm from the highest branch for optimal tree structure.


Mastering the art of when and how to prune a plum tree is a rewarding endeavor. By following these guidelines, you provide your plum tree with the care it needs, resulting in a healthy, happy tree adorned with an abundance of flavorful plums. The basics of plum tree pruning, once understood, empower you to cultivate a thriving garden, celebrating the joys of a successful harvest. Explore additional insights on growing plum trees from pits to enrich your garden further.