How to cut a plum tree correctly - tutorial with all instructions

How to cut a plum tree correctly - tutorial with all instructions

Fruit wood on the plum tree

A plum tree has the most abundant fruit wood on its two- and three-year-old branches . Under ideal site conditions, a shoot remains vital and blooming for up to four years. After four to five years, the fruit wood on plums, Reneklode and Mirabelle plums is exhausted. At this point in time, the aging branches in the rear area have fresh, two-year-old side shoots to offer. Gardeners do not miss this opportunity and redirect the old wood to the vital offspring. With the beginning of the harvest phase, an annual maintenance cut is advantageous in order to clear the way for new fruit wood.

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Types of cuts and dates

Although a plum tree can live to be a proud 50 to 100 years old, its fruitwood already ages after three to four years. If you prune it every one to two years, the fruit tree will give you a lush harvest of juicy, sweet plums, venison and mirabelles. The following overview summarizes the types of pruning with which you can build and maintain a splendidly blooming and productive plum tree:

Cut typeGoal / occasionbest date
Plant pruningBuild up a rich crown frameworkspring
Upbringingeducate perfect crown shapeLate autumn or winter of the first 2 to 3 years of standing
Conservation cutvital fruit wood and ideal crown shape preservedat the time of harvest or in autumn after the leaves have fallen
Taper cutrevitalize old plum treebetween October 1st and February 28th

Prologue of pruning - pruning

The pruning course for a high-yield crown formation takes place in the spring after planting. If you planted your plum tree in the fall, postpone the prologue of pruning to a frost-free day in February or March. This is how you complete an exemplary planting pruning on plums, Reneklode and Mirabelle plums:

  • Appoint the strongest shoot to the central shoot with three to four evenly arranged leading branches
  • Remove excess shoots or cut back to 10 cm
  • Shorten strong leading branches by a third
  • Cut weak leading branches by half
  • Place scissors over one eye pointing outwards

You have done everything right when pruning the plants when the tip buds of the three to four leading branches are at the same height at the end, in the so-called juice scale. This does not apply to the dominant central shoot. Its tip bud protrudes over the juice scales by 15 to 20 centimeters.


Pay attention to the spread and angle of the guide branches

Beginners in pruning plum trees fall victim to two common mistakes when pruning plants. So that a stable crown can form, the guide branches on the central drive must be arranged in a balanced manner. Specifically, this means that the attachment points should be at different heights . Furthermore, the angle to the central drive must not be too steep. A conveniently positioned guide branch is at an angle between 45 ° and 90 ° to the trunk, ideally at a 60 ° angle. A shoot that is too steep is splayed at the right angle. Tie up branches that are too flat with a cord.

Raising the plum tree crown productively

Plum trees naturally form a narrow, upright crown. The growth is characterized by numerous steep shoots that compete with the central shoot and shade valuable fruit wood. In order to ensure that plums, renekloden and mirabelle plums absorb a lot of sunlight and develop a full aroma, pruning care is dedicated to beneficial crown training in the first few years. Upbringing should be completed by the start of the yield phase after two or three years. How to do it correctly:

  • The best time is after the leaves have fallen in autumn or winter on a frost-free day
  • Leave a maximum of 8 outwardly directed side shoots per guide branch as future fruit wood
  • Cut this year's growth by a third or half
  • The point of intersection is 5 mm above an outward-facing bud
  • Cut back all other side branches to 5 to 10 cm

The danger of competitive instincts that rise steeply should not be underestimated. In particular, so-called slit branches impaired the stability within the crown. Harvesting accidents can often be traced back to a broken branch. So stay on your heels from the start and remove the danger from the crown. If a steep drive is in a very favorable position, tie the wood with cord at an advantageous angle of 60 °. The inclination reduces the pressure of the juice, whereupon flower buds and fruits form.

Plum parenting cut

Preserve vital fruit wood

A plum tree in the harvest phase benefits from a maintenance cut every one to two years. Gardeners are happy to combine the pruning with the plum harvest, because at this point in time, removed fruit wood is easy to see. The crown presents itself more clearly after the leaves have fallen in autumn or winter. The greatest treasure in the plum tree are two and three year old fruit shoots. These can be easily identified by means of spherical flower buds that are already created during the current season. In contrast, the shoot and leaf buds reveal themselves by a narrow, elongated shape. How to cut with horticultural expertise:

  • Cut back prominent, drooping fruit shoots to a two-year-old side shoot with flower buds
  • Shorten strongly growing fruit shoots to compete with the main branch to 10 cm cones
  • Cut steep shoots, stunted twigs directed towards the inside of the crown to 5 to 10 cm
  • Massively ramified leading branches with broom-like tips narrowed by a derivation cut

This year's unbranched young shoots are treated with caution. In the rarest of cases, flower buds can be found here. A branch more than 20 centimeters long cut back a third to just before an outward-facing bud. Shorter young shoots remain uncut.

Plum tree maintenance pruning


A plum tree sprouts numerous shoots of water from spring to autumn. The vertical shoots are formed from the rootstock of the game underlay, below the crown or on the upper side of the leading branches. As long as the unwanted shoots are in the unwooded state, they should be removed. Either tear off a water shot or cut off the shoot just before the bark.

Makeover for old plum tree

Without an annual maintenance pruning, a plum tree is exhausted within a few years. Since access to sunlight is blocked for the young fruit wood, the crown becomes bald inside. The outer branches are characterized by massive ramifications, the weight of which pulls the wood towards the ground. You can turn back the wheel of time with a taper cut. This applies under the premise of a restrained cut . The diameter of the old branches to be removed should not be more than half the diameter of the guide branch or trunk. Here's how to properly rejuvenate an aged plum tree:

  • The best time is between October 1st and March 1st when the weather is frost-free
  • First remove the steep shoots at an angle of less than 45 ° to the trunk or central shoot
  • Cut out dead, inward-growing, crossing, or rubbing branches
  • Cut branches more than 5 cm thick onto 10 cm long cones
  • Overhanging branches lead to an internal, two-year-old side shoot
  • Cut back massively branched old shoots without young side shoots to 10 cm short cones
  • Do not intersect inclined, horizontal, unbranched young shoots

In the professional rejuvenation of plum trees, the derivation pruning plays a key role. Basically, plums, venison and mirabelle plums do not respond well to radical pruning. You successfully mitigate the effects by redirecting old shoots to a young, outward-facing side shoot. Ideally, it is biennial wood garnished with flower buds. Use pruning shears or a saw where old and young wood fork. Do not cut into the young shoot, but a few millimeters behind the fork in the old wood.


Gently cut old wood with tenon cuts

The cone pruning is one of the advantageous pruning techniques for pruning fruit trees. On the plum tree, old wood tends to dry out deeply on larger cuts. This increases the risk of fungal infections and rot. By cutting a thick, old branch on cones, you prevent the dilemma. Leave a stub that is four to six inches long. Smooth the wound with a knife and spread the edges of the wound with tree wax. In the following 2 to 3 years, young shoots form at the base of the cones. This is the signal to remove the last remains of cones in summer. Thanks to this approach, your plum tree can close the wound better and faster.

frequently asked Questions

Are plum trees self-fertile?

Usually, plums thrive as self-fruiting trees. On the other hand, some historical varieties are dependent on a pollinator. When purchasing a tree, ask at a tree nursery and garden center. In principle, it is advantageous for the harvest if two plum varieties are in close proximity. If there is not enough space, this can also be a columnar plum.

I planted my first plum tree at the end of March. Is it really necessary to carry out a parental cut this spring?

Indeed, it is advisable to prune a plum tree as early as the first spring. The tree is well positioned for high yields with a central shoot and up to four main branches that are at an advantageous 60 ° angle to the trunk. Excess shoots are removed. Then shorten the frame shoots by half so that they are in the juice scale. Leave the central shoot a little higher. It is important to note that the buds of the leading branches point outwards.

I want to plant a grafted reindeer tree in the garden. Should the refining point be above or below the ground?

The refinement point on the Reneklodenbaum always remains above the ground. With all plum trees for the home garden, there is a risk that the noble variety will take root on its own. In this way the good properties of the base are lost.

Is it possible to limit a mirabelle tree to a height of 2 meters?

Like all plum trees, mirabelle plums are stone fruits. A strong growth towards the light is characteristic of these fruit trees. As a result, mirabelle plums grow tall. Well-planned parenting and regular pruning will help control growth. However, a height of at least 2.50 to 3 meters is realistic. If there is not enough space in the garden, it is advisable to cultivate mirabelle plums as column fruit.

I underestimated the strong growth of a plum tree and would like to replant it. When is the best time? What should I pay particular attention to?

It is easily possible to replant a plum tree within the first five years of standing. The best time is in autumn, when the harvest and leaf fall are complete. Dig up the root ball as much as possible. At the new location there should not have been any plums, Renekloden or Mirabelle plums beforehand, because otherwise soil fatigue is to be feared. A plum tree can cope better with the change of location if you prune the crown back by a third or half before or after. In this way you compensate for the lost root mass.

The 3 most common mistakes

If a young plum tree consistently refuses to display the picturesque blossoms and juicy fruits, or if rejuvenation leads to total failure, the gardener has made typical cutting errors. In order to protect the readers of this tutorial from classic mistakes, the following overview draws attention to common mistakes and gives tips on how to prevent the annoyance:

Cutting errorsDamageprevention
no parental cutdense, upright crown without flowers or fruitsraise with a central drive and 4 guide branches at an ideal 60 ° angle
never cutpremature aging, exhausted fruit wood, little yieldcut every 1 to 2 years and rejuvenate fruit wood
old plum tree cut back radicallySpread of wood rot, total failurerejuvenate moderately by drainage or tenon cut


Recommended dates for a rejuvenation cut in summer fall on the deaf ears of responsible home gardeners. In the dense crown of the old plum tree there is a lot going on during the warm season. Hard-working bird parents like to build their nests under the protection of the foliage in order to devote themselves to rearing their offspring. Radical cutting measures would have fatal consequences for the already endangered bird world. The Federal Nature Conservation Act emphasizes the demand for a grace period with Paragraph 39. Between March 1st and September 30th, pruning of all kinds is prohibited.