How to Grow Damson

Damsons are an ancient variety of plum first cultivated in the Eastern Mediterranean. They are still grown today for their edible fruit, which is used in a variety of preserves and in slivovitz, a type of alcohol.

The small, shrublike trees grow to just 15 feet in height at maturity, yet they bear a heavy crop of dark bluish-purple fruit with a large stone, or pit, in the centre. Like most species of plum, damsons grow best from cuttings since they do not reproduce reliably from seed, but it is a relatively easy task with a high rate of success.

Prepare growing pots for the damson cuttings before taking them. Fill a 4-inch nursery container with a mix of equal measures perlite and sterile potting soil for each damson cutting. Saturate the mix with water and let it drain. Poke a 2-inch-deep planting hole in each pot of soil.

Select several stem cuttings from a healthy damson shrub in early spring. Choose cuttings with several sets of leaf buds, green bark and a diameter slightly less than that of a pencil.

Measure 6 inches from the tip of the stem and sever it using a pair of pruning shears. Make the cut at a 60-degree angle less than 1/4 inch below the lowest set of leaf buds. Remove the leaf buds from the bottom one-third of the cutting using a utility knife.

Coat the end of the damson cutting in 0.1-per cent IBA rooting hormone powder. Insert the damson cuttings into the preformed holes in the growing pots. Press the soil in around the cuttings.

Enclose each potted damson cutting inside a 1-gallon plastic bag to hold humidity and warmth around it. Set the pots where they will receive five to six hours of bright light per day. Keep temperatures around the cutting above 21.1 degrees Celsius.

Open the bag for an hour each day to allow the damson to breathe. Mist the cutting and soil with four or five sprays from a spray bottle every four days.

Check for roots on the damson cutting in three to five weeks. Tug on the base of the cutting to test for resistance, which means the damson has anchored itself with new roots.

Transplant the damson into a fertile bed with full sun in two months. Water it to a depth of 2 inches every five days for the first month, then decrease water to 2 inches every 10 days from then on.