Toka Plum Pruning Question

canadianplantJanuary 30, 2013

I bought a Toka plum last year really early in the year. It was a healthy tree, lots of flowers, no noticeable defects as far as disease goes. It was about 8 feet tall, but it was described by my neighbor as "being pruned by a machine or by some idiot" lol

I couldnt see any sort of method to the madness, as the leader was forked once in the middle, then those forks split into 2 forks as well. The lowest branches were grown in a whorl.

My neighbor proceeded to cut the top 1/3 of the forks of, seeing as it didnt make any sense to have it pruned in such a way. I would have properlly shaped it, but I would have removed almost half of the leaf area and trunk/branches, which as far as Ive read isnt the best thing to do, so that leads me to the question.

The picture below is the best I can find of my plum tree. I think its too late to prune it as a central leader, and seeing as the limited info ive found says jap plums do better as an open center, I think I should go that route.

What I plan to do, if you look at the picture, and count the branches 5 starting from the left, you should be seeing the leader. What I wish to do, is to cut that leader all the way down to where the top of the branch whorl, creating an open center. Also what I hope this achieves, is that it will force the lower branches to produce more spurs and branches, filling in the tree.

Here is the pic, let me know if you need more, and thanks for looking!

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franktank232(z5 WI)

I'll be honest...i rarely pruned my plum trees.. a little thinning here and there. Having said that, you could chop that back to completely and start over or at least thin it out a lot and maybe tie down some branches the way you want it shaped. In my experience, plums have a pretty good natural shape, at least the varieties i have growing.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 11:36AM
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If you have any experience growing any Japanes X American plum, I wouldnt mind anything you are willing to share about them (Toka is an japanese x american plum).

I have half a mind to leave it alone to be honest. Pruning the top half will delay fruiting for 2 or 3 years, and lopping it would take even longer. Its about 7 feet tall and if all went well this winter it should really start to grow this year (I only planted it last year).

Maybe I should ask this: If you had my tree, what would you do?

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 3:17PM
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alan haigh

You can create an open center with the lower branches and not lose any time if you don't head them back and spread them to about a 70 degree angle. You can leave the middle for now but head it back to a weak lateral at least a foot down (looks like you have one). It will help you spread you permanent scaffolds.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 5:41PM
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Thanks harvestman

I think that is the direction my neighbor was going. He reiterated the importiance of not hacking down too much per season. I was thinking of removing the center over 2 or 3 years, including last.

I do have to ask, if leaving it, and just thinning it will do anything negative as far as fruiting/shape goes. Ive seen pics, specifically konrads pics and his trees look to be of similar shape to mine - Not open center, but not central leader either.

I wasnt thinking of heading any of the lower branches back. It took a bit of a beating in spring before i planted it ( I got it in april, and it was flowered and almost fully leafed out :S ) but recovered good by the end of the year. Lots of the bottom branches have no spurs or buds along them at all, which I do believe will change when they become a bit more horizontal.

I guess im paranoid about loosing hight, since removing the top will make it loose almost 4 feet of hight.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 6:47AM
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