Plum tree - Lots of leaves, no flowers

tigrrrl(Zone 9)March 15, 2009

We have a plum tree that was loaded with fruits when we moved in to this house in July, but not very good b/c they hadn't been watered consistently for several years (property used to be vacant.) The fruits were dry and flavorless, very small, even the birds didn't care much for them.

We began watering consistently with a good soak every week and a half, starting in July. All of the fruit dropped within a 3 day period. I know the tree most likely went into shock from the new watering regime and I can't do much about that now. I pruned back the tree (cross branches, suckers, rubbing branches, the basics) in the beginning of January and followed up with fertilizer in February, the recommended amount from my area (16-8-4) all organic.

In late February, I saw about 4 open flowers at the very tip top of the tree, but nowhere else. The plum tree is now sprouting leaves and no more flower buds :( Does that mean I won't get any fruit this season?? Did I do more harm than good? Any advice would be great!

Thanks!

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tim45z10

Fruit grows on branches that are 2-4 years old. No flowers no fruit.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 5:37PM
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juniorpilot(USDA 10 Suns 20)

tigrrl:

My opinion is that you did NOT do more harm than good.

The tree was probably in survival mode according to your description. Thus it had more important things to do than procreate. Fruiting (from our point of view) which is seeding/procreating (from the tree's point of view) is for times when there is plenty - of water, nutrients, sunlight. So there probably weren't many flower buds or precursors to flower buds on the tree when it first came under your care.

The foregoing can also explain why there were just a few flowers at the tip top which is where the tree managed to have a little bit of new growth despite its survival mode.

From your description of pruning it does not sound like you pruned off what might have been fruiting wood. It just seems to me that there weren't many flower buds or precursors to flower buds on the tree because of its being in survival mode.

If the tree continues to leaf out it will probably put on good vegetative growth this year considering the nitrogen you gave it. One year from now there may be some flowers on the one year new growth. (one year old wood)

tim45 is correct when he says that plums flower and consequently fruit on 2 to 4 year old wood. But I have seen a few exceptions. Note that I say "a few." If you don't see many flowers one year from now, don't be dismayed. Your tree is just stocking up and building a head of steam.

Two years from now you should see a good amount of flowering and then fruiting from the wood (that grew under your care) that will then be 2 years old. If not, then you can be dismayed.

Make sure your soil drains well because of the water you are supplying. The single biggest cause of fruit tree failure for residential orchardists is drowning the tree with wet feet.

As tim45 has pointed out, you won't have plums from this tree this year. That's OK because orcharding is not an instant gratification proposition by its very nature. (except when you pluck a beauty from the tree and do the chomping thing)

If you want to keep your spirits up, I'll take the liberty of suggesting you plant a couple tomato seedlings. You'll have fruit this summer and before you know it, it'll be spring next year. And you can then bask in the health you gave to your tree.

juniorpilot

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 12:58AM
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tigrrrl(Zone 9)

Thank you for your advice. That's reassuring to know I didn't mess up completely!

I also have a peach tree that is about 5 feet over from the plum. Same situation, but it had only 5 fruits last summer, the squirrels got to them before I did so I don't know what condition they were in. I will have to wait and see what that tree has in store for this Spring (if anything at all).

On a lighter note, I have 5 citrus trees here that I "rescued" and they are flowering like crazy as well as some healthy kumquats and a strangely shaped small apple tree that is blossoming too. We had two ping pong sized tangerines this fall and that was it out of all the citrus trees. I still don't know what varieties the others are, but I do know they are all different b/c of the leaves, flowers, size, etc. So I have more to look forward to in the fall while waiting for my plums next Spring!

As far as tomatoes go, I have some Brandywine seeds that I started a couple of weeks ago. They will be ready to go out soon! I also saved some seeds from some heirloom varieties I bought at the market so I look forward to seeing what surprising mystery tomatoes they will produce as well...but that's another topic entirely. I could go on for days with my gardening adventures, mishaps, and woes...

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 1:41AM
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calistoga_al

Your plum tree sounds to me like an ornamental flowering tree that will not ever produce eating fruit. It also sounds like your tree does not get enough winter chilling to flower well. Your peach tree may also not be getting enough chilling. Talk to your local county extension service about fruit trees where you live. Al

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 9:38AM
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