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Zone
Zones 2-23, 31-44
Full Sun
Full
Regular Water
Moderate

Plum, European

Rosaceae
Deciduous, Edible fruit, Trees

European plums and prunes bloom later than Japanese plums and are better adapted to areas with late frosts or cool, rainy spring weather. Many are self-fruitful, but others need cross-pollination to produce good crops. Their flesh is firmer than that of Japanese plums, and can be cooked or eaten fresh.

Prunes are a form of European plum with a higher sugar content that makes it possible to sun-dry the fruit without it fermenting; they are used for drying or canning, but they can also be eaten fresh if you like their very sweet flavor. ‘Damson’ plum, which is sometimes considered a separate species, is probably a type of European plum (P. x domestica insititia); ‘Damson’ interbreeds freely with other European plums.

European plums demand 700 to 1,000 hours of chill to produce fruit.

As orchard trees, European plums reach 15–20 ft. tall with a somewhat wider spread, but with pruning they are easily kept to 10–15 ft. high and wide. There are no truly dwarfing rootstocks for plums, and semidwarf trees are only slightly smaller than standards. European plums do not branch as freely as Japanese types, so the selection of framework branches is limited; these plums are usually trained to a central leader. Mature European plums require pruning mainly to thin out annual shoot growth; otherwise, little is needed.

‘Mirabelle’ plum (photo courtesy of WILDLIFE GmbH/Alamy)
‘Mirabelle’ plum (photo courtesy of WILDLIFE GmbH/Alamy)

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‘Mirabelle’ plum

Pollinated by any midseason non-‘Mirabelle’ European plum. Small, yellow fruit with orange to red dots on the skin; yellow flesh. Mild, sweet flavor. Ripening time varies. A type favored in Europe for making brandy. Also good in preserves. Look for ‘Geneva Mirabelle’ and ‘Reine de Mirabelle’.

‘Stanley’ plum (photo courtesy of Susan A. Roth)
‘Stanley’ plum (photo courtesy of Susan A. Roth)

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‘Stanley’ plum

Self-fruitful. Large fruit with purplish black skin and yellow flesh. Sweet and juicy. Midseason. Good canning or dried prune variety. Fruit resembles a larger ‘Italian Prune’.

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