Home Fruit Trees How to Prune a Plum Tree: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners and Experts

How to Prune a Plum Tree: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners and Experts

by Gregory
4 minutes read

How to Prune a Plum Tree: A Comprehensive Guide


Plum trees are a popular choice for home gardeners, but they can be susceptible to silver leaf disease. Pruning your plum tree properly is essential for maintaining its health and productivity. In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of plum tree pruning, including the best time to prune, the tools you’ll need, and step-by-step instructions.

Why Prune Plum Trees?

Pruning plum trees serves several important purposes:

  • Encourages a good size and shape: Pruning helps to control the size and shape of your plum tree, making it easier to manage and harvest.
  • Keeps the tree productive: Regular pruning removes dead and damaged wood, allowing the tree to focus its energy on producing fruit.
  • Helps remove dead and damaged wood: Pruning removes diseased or damaged branches, preventing the spread of disease and promoting the overall health of the tree.

When to Prune Plum Trees

Unlike many other fruit trees, plum trees are best pruned in the summer, from mid-June onwards. This is because plum trees are susceptible to silver leaf disease, a fungal disease that can spread through pruning wounds. Pruning in the summer allows the wounds to heal before the spores of silver leaf disease become active during the damp months of autumn and winter.

Tools You’ll Need

  • Secateurs: Sharp, bypass secateurs are ideal for pruning small branches.
  • Pruning saw: A pruning saw is necessary for removing larger branches.
  • Loppers: Long-handled loppers can be used to reach higher branches or cut through thicker branches.

Step-by-Step Pruning Instructions

Step 1: Remove Crossing Branches

  • Identify any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other.
  • Prune away the weaker or less productive branch.
  • Cut the branch back to just above a bud, sloping the cut away from the bud.

Step 2: Prune Side Shoots

  • Side shoots are the branches that grow off the main branches.
  • Prune side shoots back by about half.
  • This will encourage the growth of new, fruiting wood.

Step 3: Prune Weak or Damaged Branches

  • Inspect the tree for any weak, damaged, or diseased branches.
  • Remove these branches by cutting them back to the main branch or trunk.

Step 4: Prune for an Open, Goblet Shape

  • Plum trees should be pruned to create an open, goblet shape.
  • This allows light, air, and sun to reach the developing fruits.
  • Remove any branches that are growing into the center of the tree.

Step 5: Thin the Fruit (Optional)

  • In July, you may need to thin the fruit to improve the size and quality of the remaining fruit.
  • Remove any fruit that is damaged, diseased, or too close to other fruit.

Pruning Tips

  • Always prune on a dry day, using clean and sharp tools.
  • Cut just above a bud and sloping away from it.
  • Don’t worry if you end up pruning out some developing fruit – you may need to thin the fruit anyway.
  • And don’t worry if you don’t get your pruning exactly right – plums are more forgiving than apples or pears.


Pruning plum trees is an essential part of maintaining their health and productivity. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can keep your plum tree thriving for years to come.

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