The plum is just one of the oldest cultivated trees in the world. There are more than 140 varieties of plum offered in the USA. They may be used for hedges and hurdle plantings in addition to fruit or ornamental shade trees. Most varieties are grown for their fruit or flowers. They aren’t very long lived trees, though thickets can live almost indefinitely by producing new shoots and spreading outward. Many plums tend to be as broad as they are tall.
European and Asian Plums
Asian and European plums are grafted onto various rootstocks that order the size of the tree. A dwarf fruiting plum will disperse 10 feet and a typical size will spread 20 feet, with variations in between depending on the rootstock range. The Asian plum is a little more upright in shape compared to the European plum. Asian plums, which grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 9, are sweeter and used for fresh dishes and eating such as plum sauce. European plums, best in USDA zones 5 through 7, might also be eaten fresh but they might be dried for prunes or used in cooking or to make jam.
American plums (Prunus americana, USDA zones 3 through 11) are the wild plums that grow during the eastern two-thirds of the USA. Their small, tart fruit is used chiefly to make jelly. The species varies widely depending on local conditions. A single plant may be from 3 feet to 25 feet tall and wide, but they generally form thickets, which may spread much farther. Chickasaw plum or sandhill plum (Prunus angustifolia, USDA zones 5 through 9) is just a larger native plum that may grow to 35 feet.
Flowering plums are more tolerant of drought and poor soil than many other flowering trees. The Purpleleaf plum (Prunus cerasifera, USDA zones 5 through 8) is the most frequent flowering plum. This rounded tree rises 25 feet tall and 25 feet wide. It produces pink and white blooms in spring. American plum and Chickasaw plum varieties are also employed as flowering trees.
Quite a few additional plum species exist; many of these are thicket-forming shrub species with thorn-like spurs. Others are hybrids of tree species. Apricots are closely related to plums and there is much more of a continuum of species in plums to apricots instead of distinct differences. For instance, Prunus mume can be called both Chinese plum and Japanese apricot.