Plum trees come in three sizes: dwarf, semi-dwarf and standard. Land owners should consider their space, need for fruit and ability to maintain the tree before choosing which one is right for them. All plum tree sizes grow well in moist but well-drained soil. They flower early in the spring, making them susceptible to frost damage in colder climates. Plum branches have a tendency to break when they are heavily weighted down by ripe fruit, so crop thinning or supports might be necessary.
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Dwarf Plum Trees
Dwarf plum trees are ideal for small spaces. They require about an 8-foot diameter space, and not much overhead because they do not grow tall. Dwarf trees are easy to maintain with pruning and harvesting because of their short height. Plums produced on the tree remain average size, but are fewer in number than larger plum trees. Fewer plums mean less waste if the owner does not have a need for so much fruit. Like standard-size trees, dwarf trees will begin producing plums about three to five years after planting. Dwarf trees do not live as long as larger plum trees, which can be an advantage if the owner wants to plant something new after several years.
Semi-dwarf Plum Trees
Semi-dwarf plum trees are the most common size plum tree because they produce such a large amount of fruit, but are still manageable by pruning and maintenance. Semi-dwarf trees require a plot of about 15 feet in diameter. The tree grows to a height of 10 to 16 feet. The semi-dwarf plum tree should be pruned about once a year to keep its height manageable and encourage new growth. The tree will produce hundreds of plums annually, though some years it may not, especially after a very fruitful season. Semi-dwarf plum trees are ideal if the owner can use a large yield of fruits, even from just one tree.
Standard Plum Trees
Standard plum trees can live for multiple generations, and will become a "landmark" tree on any property it occupies. They will grow to a height of 25 to 30 feet or taller if not pruned. Standard trees were the only kind available before scientists developed the hybrid dwarf and semi-dwarf versions. It will take many years for a standard plum tree to reach its full height, but can provide a special tree for children and grandchildren of later generations to climb on and swing from. The tree will bear fruit about three to five years after planting. Standards take more effort to maintain and prune because of their size, but they will produce a large yield of plums.
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