The Case of the Fruitless Plum Tree

I wanted to share a short story about a plum tree.
I’ve been working on a plum tree for a client for the past 3 years. They originally got in touch because their 8 year old plum had only been producing one or two plums a year, and was otherwise looking healthy and growing vigorously.

The healthy and vigorous plum tree in question

The healthy and vigorous plum tree in question

I thought maybe it could be a pollination issue, despite the tag saying it is “self fertile”, which in my experience is true for Italian prune plums. I was a bit suspicious though when I took a good look at the leaves. They appeared to be a little bit of a different shape and a bit glossier than the typical Italian plums I see. I was also curious that it said it was a semi dwarf, which means it had been grafted onto a dwarfing rootstock.

Semi Dwarf Italian Plum, says the tag...

Semi Dwarf Italian Plum, says the tag…

I suggested either planting another plum tree to help with pollination, or grafting some additional varieties onto the tree. There wasn’t a lot of additional space in the client’s yard for another tree, so I ended up putting 4 grafts (new varieties of plums) onto the tree in spring 2019.
I was called back for a spring pruning this year (2020) and was greeted by a tree that had put on a ton of new growth, and had several plums! The most interesting thing to me was that the side of the tree where two of my grafts took (and flowered) the original tree had 4 immature plums on an adjacent branch! The proximity of the branch with the plums, to my grafts, gives me confidence in saying that the issue all along was a pollination one, and that whatever scion (grafted variety) they grafted to whatever rootstock, had some unintended consequence of making the tree self-infertile. The tag was wrong. I wonder how many other people are out there with a fruitless plum tree…
 I pruned the tree to allow the new grafted branches lots of light and space. Hopefully they will become significant branches in the next few years and the tree will bear an abundant crop of Italian prune, Golden Drop, and Mirabelle plums.

If you’re interested in getting additional varieties of fruit on your trees, get in touch and we can schedule an appointment for the spring.
Check out an older post of mine for more information on grafting

A fruiting graft

A fruiting graft

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