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Best (tasting) self-fertile plum variety?

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  • Best (tasting) self-fertile plum variety?

    Hello all! My husband & I have just enough space to plant one plum tree this year, so would like to hear members' recommendations for their favorite self-fertile plum variety along with your reasons for recommending it.
    We have only had one tree-ripened plum ever...but it was soooo good! Sadly, our friend doesn't know the variety they have, and theirs was not self-fertile anyway. We do have neighbors who have plum trees about 75-100 yards away, but I have heard that isn't close enough. Is that true?

    We are in St. Paul, MN suburbs, so something Zone 4 hardy would be needed.

    I know taste is subjective, but thanks so much for your ideas!

  • #2
    there are very few self fertile plums--mostly the (few) wildish jam types like Damson (Wild American Plum). Purple Gage also i think. There are a few that are partly self fertile that are considered fresh eating plums such as Shiro.

    Japanese type plums are more cold hardy than Europeans. THe Japanese types are considered by most to be the best fresh eating types. The trade-off being that they don't keep very long. My favorite Japanese is the yellow Shiro. But there are several that are very popular. Japanese types are generally hardy for Zone 4 (one zone colder than European plums). We have Shiro, Santa Rosa, Weeping Santa Rosa, and Methley.

    With a little planning you probably have space for more trees than you think. Plums are very trainable. I've seen them grown on Rebar framed arched trellis (that you walk through--Lewis Gitner Botannical Gardens, Richmond, VA) and on short fences (Longwood Gardens, near Brandywine, PA). They also can be kept small by pruning (you can prune standards to dwarf size or otherwise plant varieties on dwarf rootstocks. You could grow them as fans along fences or up against the house.

    You also can do one of two things to have at least 2 varieties in the space of one tree. You can buy a 'combo' tree having usually three varieties grafted onto a single rootstock or you can plant several trees in one location--same idea but rather than grafting onto one truck you have 2 or 3 trunks in one hole spaced with some thought to the intent. I have done this with standard European pears. The 3 trees were planted in the late 90's and although they are standards, it is easy to keep them at 6 - 7 feet in a small space due to root competition. Fruit is full size.

    Raintree ( has offered a combo Japanese plum for years and are highly recommended. They ship good stock always.

    I pulled out the St. Lawrence Nurseries catalog ("St Lawrence Nurseries: Northern Climate Fruit and Nut Trees 2011 Catalog"). They list 2 that are self fertile--Mt. Royal and Blue Prune type good for fresh eating...Natural semi-dwart and Northern Blue--"Developed by Gene Howard at USDA Station in Cheyenne WY. The Best of 6000 seedlings. The fruit is blue-skinned and tasty. The tree is precocious, self-fertile and a natural semi-dwarf."

    The American Horticultural Society has a great book on pruning -fruit trees included.


    • #3
      Wow, what a lot of nice ideas you've given me! A neighbor has a combo apple tree (both golden & red on one tree) but for some reason that had never occurred to me until your suggestion.

      My husband has been talking about adding a framed arch into our backyard...was talking about (gasp!) hardy kiwi, which I have heard is quite an aggressive grower. Re-directing our thougths to trained plums might be good.
      Thank you for the great ideas and resources! More fun homework for us while we wait for the snow to melt...