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PRUNUS domestica

Image of Prunus domestica

Forest & Kim Starr



Botanical Name

PRUNUS domestica

Plant Common Name

Plum, Prune Plum

General Description

The European plum is a great stone fruit for the home gardener. It has been cultivated for centuries but originates from western Asia and near the Caucasus Mountains. The earliest trees were brought to the United States with colonists; Spanish missionaries on the west coast and the English on the east coast. Today, commercial orchards exist across temperate regions worldwide. Most North America production orchards are in the Central Valley of California.

The small to medium-sized tree is deciduous and has a rounded, somewhat sparse canopy lined with oval leaves. The spring flowers are typically fragrant, white and five-petaled. About half the known varieties require compatible trees nearby for cross-pollination and subsequent fruit set. The rest are self-fruitful but still produce more abundantly if another compatible variety is nearby. The smooth-skinned stone fruits (technically called “drupes”) can mature from summer to fall, depending on the location and variety. They have a waxy bloom on the surface and may be purple, red, yellow, or green. Their flesh is tart, sweet and juicy and the fruits ideal for cooking, canning, drying or eating fresh.

Plum fruits are categorized into four groups; the greengage type, which is round with green or golden colored fruits that are great for canning and the fresh market. Yellow egg types are large, yellow and used for canning. Lombard types are oval with red or pinkish rose skin and are typically sold fresh. Finally, prune types are freestone plums with oval, dark blue or purple skin and are best eaten dried.

European plum trees require full sun and are tolerant of nearly all soil types as long as they offer good drainage and moderate fertility. They are hardy and bear flowers and fruit on older wood. This means they are best pruned annually in summer to optimize fruit output. Suckers and unwanted old wood can be removed when the trees are dormant. These trees are susceptible to a number of pests and diseases, such as powdery mildew, bacterial spot and plum pox virus. Resistant cultivars, or those grafted onto vigorous, resistant rootstock, are available


  • AHS Heat Zone

    8 - 3

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    5 - 8

  • Sunset Zone

    2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22

  • Plant Type


  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    15'-18' / 4.6m - 5.5m

  • Width

    0'-8' / 0.0m - 2.4m

  • Bloom Time


  • Native To

    Hybrid Origin, Western Asia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate


  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit


  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest


  • Fragrant Flowers


  • Fragrant Fruit


  • Fragrant Foliage


  • Bark or Stem Fragrant


  • Repeat Bloomer


  • Showy Fruit


  • Edible Fruit


  • Showy Foliage


  • Evergreen


  • Showy Bark


Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Edible, Fruit / Fruit Tree, Topiary / Bonsai / Espalier

  • Sharp or Has Thorns


  • Invasive


  • Self-Sowing