Like their cherry, peach, and apricot relatives, these are stone fruits belonging to the genus Prunus; for owering plums, see page 524. Three categories of edible plums are grown in the diverse climates of North America: European, Japanese, and native species. Plants bloom in late winter or early spring. Harvest season is from June into September, depending on type and selection.
The two most widely grown groups in the South are European plums (P. domestica) and Japanese plums (P. salicina). Prunes are European plum selections with a high sugar content, a trait that allows them to be sun dried without fermenting at the pit.
Plums come in many colorsboth inside and out. The skin may be yellow, red, purple, green, blue, or almost black; the esh may be yellow, red, orange, or green. Japanese plums are the largest and juiciest of the lot, with a pleasant blend of acid and sugar; they are typically eaten fresh. European kinds are rmer eshed and can be eaten fresh or cooked; prune types are used for drying or canning, but they can also be eaten out of hand if you like the very sweet avor.
European plums live longer than Japanese types, and they are more cold hardy and bloom later, making them less susceptible to late freezes. Japanese types need less winter chill and tolerate heat and humidity better, making them good choices for the Lower and Coastal South (USDA 8-9)but greater susceptibility to diseases and insects makes them short lived in most areas. Plant disease-resistant selections, if possible.
Most European and Japanese types are grafted onto a rootstock. Standard trees grow about 1520 feet high and wide, but with pruning are easily kept to 1015 feet high and wide. There are no truly dwarfing plum rootstocks; semidwarf trees are only slightly smaller than standards.
Native species include wild plum (P. americana), Chickasaw plum (P. angustifolia), and Mexican plum (P. mexicana). These tough, hardy trees are easy to grow; their fruit is used to make jelly and preserves.