Why hasn't my Methley plum born fruit yet?

nick_b79(4/5 Southeast MN)July 7, 2013

In 2010 I purchased from Burnt Ridge Nursery a grafted Methley plum as a bareroot sapling. In 3 years, it has gone from a 3-ft tall stick to an filled-out, 10-ft tall tree with beautiful form. Since it is supposed to be on dwarfing rootstock, it should be close to it's maximum mature size. Other than removing a few branches here and there that were too closely spaced, I haven't had to do anything else with it. It has really been a maintenance-free plant so far.

The problem is that it has yet to bear fruit, or even flower for that matter. I have kept a close eye on it the past two springs, and no hint of a flower has been found. In comparison, the bareroot Toka plum I planted next two it last spring already flowered this spring, and has a few small plums forming!

Is this variety just slow to bear, or should I be worried at this point? I would hate to have to remove it, and I'm willing to give it another year or two, but a fruitless plum tree has no place in my edible landscaping. Thanks!

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2 things might be the problem...

You might be so close to the edge of its hardiness, that the flower buds get zapped before they even get a chance to grow.

or as you mentoned it could be slow to bear...

another thing, despite the tag or information saying "self fertile", they fruit MUCH better with a pollinator, and nothing pollinates hybrid plums like the plain old wild prunus nigra (americana)

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 8:32AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Look late fall to see if you have fruiting buds. Google for pictures of plum fruiting buds on dormant wood, they often are in tight clusters. My guess is they are getting frozen since you are on the border of hardiness for that plum. Japanese plums usually flower fairly soon in their lives, Santa Rosa being the main exception for me.

Note that a plum on a dwarf stock will get to be about 20' tall based on my experience. Plan on keeping it topped or all your plums will be way up there.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 10:51AM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

It has to flower first to really see if it sets fruits,..to do so, patient
is needed for about 5 years. Also, you might have too much lushes growth?

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 12:43PM
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Try feeding it triple superphosphate in august for next year. Your soil may be phosphate deficient, and without it, your tree won't bloom. I would also check for lime deficiency.

This post was edited by rayrose on Sun, Jul 7, 13 at 19:07

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 7:05PM
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alan haigh

I agree with Scott and CP. I wouldn't expect to get fruit if temps get much below -18 F. What have your lows been last couple of winters?

I can't remember if J. plum flower buds are more tender than peach but I think they are. Back when -15 was our normal low here, J. plums often had blank years, including Methely and Shiro. Lately they are amongst most reliable fruit since getting Z6 winter temps last 10 years.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 7:46PM
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Konrad has a great point too! The tree just might be too young. It's only been planted for three years? Needs a bit more time. Mrs. G

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 9:18PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

Too young or too cold... any chance it was mislabeled?

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 10:02PM
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I think there is always a chance of it being mislabeled...

Harvestman - I think ive read japanese plum blossoms are just a bit hardier then peaches, but I dont think by much. Hybrids are by far hardier since many are crossed with american plums (like the OPs "Toka".

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 7:54AM
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alan haigh

CP, I'm certain that they have been less reliable than peaches in bearing here, but I suppose that could just as well be because of their earlier flowering. Guess I'll look it up and see what I can find. Whether it's winter or spring vulnerability probably wouldn't make much difference as far as dealing with the problem.

I'm not saying the tree can't be a year too young either, but Methely is quite precocious. If that's the problem I'd certainly expect fruit next year.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 10:57AM
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nick_b79(4/5 Southeast MN)

Thanks for all the info, guys!

Since the Toka plum 10 ft from it flowered heavily this spring, I think I can rule out the soil being at issue, since it's simply unamended black dirt.

While our winters aren't nearly as cold as they used to be 10-20 years ago, we do still see a few nights of -15F to -20F every winter here. I had read conflicting reports on whether Methley was hardy to Z4 or Z5, so I took a bit of a chance when I bought it. However, I have not seen any vegetative dieback in spring, even tip dieback. I had assumed that the flower bud hardiness would match that of the leaf buds; possibly I was wrong?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 1:12PM
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HM - Point taken! It was just something I remembered reading, I think it may be close enough to say either or?

Nick - I do believe that some fruit trees (if not a good portion of them) can still be alive without die back and still loose flower buds. If i am not mistaken, apricot is known for this, not sure about japanese plums.

i also couldnt find if methley was a hybrid or a japanese?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 1:40PM
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alan haigh

Scott has mastered the origin of plum varieties better than I, but Methely is considered a J. plum and Toka a hardier hybrid. Methely is hardier than any other red-fleshed J. plum that I've grown from my observations of cold related cambium damage. The more commonly grown J. plum in Z 5 NY is Shiro. Most Euro plums are somewhat hardier- also flower later.

Peach buds have over a 5 degree differential of hardiness between flower and vegetative buds. One year my orchard got down to -22 and leaves were fine but not flowers. Same with areas not quite as cold as I believe -19 pretty much kills off flowers. Areas that got much below -25 lost their peach trees. As I recall the same thing held true for plums that year.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 2:40PM
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