Jap/Amer plum hybrids

joeschmoe80(6 (Ohio))December 9, 2012

I'm considering a couple plum trees. They'd be mostly for fresh eating and some jam.

I'm looking at the Japanese/American hybrids like Superior, Alderman, etc. Are these really that much better than either European or Japanese plums?

I'm not as concerned for winter hardiness as I am two main factors:

-Bloom time - I am prone to late freezes
-disease/insect issues in my humid climate

I'm in Central Ohio, just north of Columbus, FYI. Zone 5b/6a depending which map you believe, but have been as cold as -12F as recently as 2009 and colder in the past.

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I am not sure the hybrids will help you with either of those factors. From my understanding they are mostly about coldhardiness.
Although I do believe many of the hybrids are supposed to be resistant to black knot...not sure about Japanese plums but europeans certainly get it.

But i would be curious to see responses from folks have have grown them all side by side.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 5:10PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

I had black knot on my Alderman about 5 years ago, never seen it since (pruned it out). I'd have to look at bloom time, but its late enough. Cold hardiness is what is key...I doubt you'll see winter kill with any of them, My guess is they can easily take -30F without blinking. I do have pluots and i have Satsuma and Redheart (?) that haven't flowered/fruited yet for me...maybe this summer I can compare a pluot next to a hybrid plum.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 7:13PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

The hybrids are sometimes better on diseases, but it varies by variety - many are black knot magnets in fact. In your zone just get plums known to work in your climate, it doesn't matter whether they are hybrids or not. Satsuma, Santa Rosa, Shiro, Methley, Purple Heart, Superior should all good for you.

The bloom time doesn't differ a lot on the Jap. and hybrid plums. Pluots are early bloomers so avoid them if you want later bloomers. Euro plums are late bloomers but all are highly prone to rot compared to the Japanese and hybrid plums, so overall they are harder to grow. Bugs are equally bad on all plums, without plum curculio control you will get no plums.


    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 8:55PM
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which of the hybrids have black knot been an issue with?
I have been working off the info from John Bunker at fedco claiming the hybrids are not susceptible...with the exception of purple heart.
We have a fair bit of it(black knot) in the forest's black cherry, so it's nice to steer clear of "black knot magnets"

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 9:28PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


I'm also in zone 6 and also have problems with late frosts. I pretty much gave up on Japanese hybrid plums because of that. For the most part, they bloom with apricots here, which makes them just early enough to freeze out.

Euro plums bloom later and I like the flavor better than the Jap. hybrids I've grown. And unlike many Jap. plums, Euros are freestone.

That said, I couldn't grow Euro plums (or apples) here without spray.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 9:58PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Rob, I was mainly thinking of Methley which harvestman has mentioned is a magnet for him; it is the most common hybrid plum by far. But I can't think of any others now that I think about it. So John could be right if you avoid Methley.


    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 9:59PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

I won't advise on disease of Japanese plums but with regard to cold-hardiness I have an Elephant Heart and Satsuma and my neighbor has Santa Rosa and they all have taken our zone 5 winters just fine. My Toka hybrid blooms about the same time as the Japanese.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 12:27AM
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Thanks scott,
I recall H-man mentioning methley issues. Somehow I always forget that it is a hybrid...most likely because it is less-cold hardy and never makes the lists I am researching.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 7:43AM
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Here in the Chicago area, last year's late frost did more damage to the Euro plum than the Japanese/hybrids. But in the end, with high pest pressure, I got no fruit from either.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 10:48AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

"Here in the Chicago area, last year's late frost did more damage to the Euro plum than the Japanese/hybrids."


Are you certain of that? The reason I ask is that it can be common for Euro plums to flower and subsequently abort their flowers. It can look like frost damage if there are some light frosts, but most of the time it's due to pollination issues. You may be aware Euro plums are generally more difficult to pollinate than Jap/hybrid plums.

I've also noticed on juvenile trees, Euro plums flowers will appear pollinated and even form small fruitlets but then abort the fruitlets very early without any frosts, which I believe is due to the youth of the tree.

The charts of frost susceptibility show an increase in damage as plum blooms advance in maturity. Since Euro plums bloom later, this tends to give them an advantage in areas with late frosts.

Of course some Jap/hybrids bloom later than others. Folks on this forum have indicated Emerald Beaut blooms after peaches, but unfortunately is a cracker and rot magnet in rainy climates.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 12:59PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Plums east of the Mississippi are hard overall, due to disease.

I will add, that as a former Ohioan (I lived in Akron until 2007), I wouldn't discount winter hardiness for Jap plums as being an issue. They're overall about as hardy as peaches, and in '94, when Akron dipped to -25F, I lost entirely (whole tree, not just flower buds) 4 out of my 5 peach trees, even a 'Reliance', so Jap plums would have likely been toast as well. Oddly, my survivor was a Redhaven, a hardy one itself, but not reputedly as hardy as Reliance. I got no fruit that summer, but it gave 2 more good fruit years before I had to tear it out in '97. It declined severely in the summer of '96, and never leafed out fully in '97. Possibly latent cold damage, but it was nearly 25 years old anyway (planted by my father).

IIRC Columbus was nearly as cold, -22F according to NOAA. For all we know, three degrees could have made the difference, but still...

Granted, that kind of cold probably won't happen again for many years, as that was an all-time record, but still, it can be a problem at times.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 5:15PM
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Quite sure, Olpea. This Stanley plum tree has been giving me abundant crops for ten years or more. It's true that it's usually the last of my trees to bloom, but the 2012 frost just wiped out all the blossoms and no fruit set.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 7:25PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

Interesting ltilton. Maybe some of your Jap/hybirds have a bit more bloom hardiness.

I've experienced that a little with peaches. In one year, there was a late frost and some varieties were thinned heavily while others set a full crop.

I ordered some more plums for next year and the Adams County rep convinced me to order a Stanley as a pollenizer. I wasn't that excited about it because I never hear anyone speak very positive about the fruit, and would prefer trees that can both pollenize and produce good fruit. But the rep indicated the fruit is actually pretty good. He claimed people don't get excited about Stanley any more because it's the industry standard for Euro plums (too widespread and common). He compared it to Redhaven peach (nobody gets excited about that peach either).

Redhaven is in the top 5 of my favorite peaches (consistently good here) so I thought I'd give Stanley a try.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 12:08PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

I had Stanley plums from two different farmers market vendors this year. It wasn't better than OK at either. The Empress and one other for which I never found out the name (it was also in late Sept, along with Empress) were both very good (19-22 brix with great flavor) and I went back several times for more. I don't see the brix in my records for Stanley, but I recall it was pretty low, somewhere in the 11-13 range. My kids liked the Methley, but I didn't think it had enough flavor to be interesting.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 1:00PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

About 5 years ago we had a REALLY late frost/snow that killed all the blooms on the apples but the apricots and cherries had already bloomed. It was very unusual that there were no apples that year, but an abundance of apricots everywhere. There was a lot of damage to the trees as they had all leafed out by then.

We had a terribly dry winter in 2011/2012 along with some really cold weather and none of my stone fruits even bloomed. I think the buds were freeze-dried. Thankfully this last summer they made up for it in spades.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 2:33PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


Thanks for the input on Stanley. Sounds like I'm going to be disappointed with it.

Plums can be so hit and miss (as far as flavor). I've read good reports on Obilinaya (Jap/hybrid) but it was barely edible for me. A lot of people like French Petite, but it wasn't very good here. It's petiteness was the only thing remarkable (very small). Early Italian was also no good for me.

I wish there were more tasty early season Euros. I've been starting a new plum planting with a more or less shotgun approach (trying lots of varieties I'm not familiar with).

Empress sounds like like a good late plum.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 4:25PM
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Stanley is a late plum. I think it depends on how you use it. I use it mostly as a cooking and canning plum, and for drying. It produces abundantly and is self-pollinating.

My tree gets too much shade, and I planted Imperial Epineuse this year, in a sunnier spot.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 4:55PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

That's two people that have reservations about Stantly. It sounds like it sucks as a dessert plum. I shouldn't have let the rep talk me into it (although I know it's a very good pollenizer which may be needed). Maybe it's mostly grown for its prune value.

Yeah Stanley is a late plum. I've already planted a couple others that ripen with it (Valor and Long John). Empress ripens around that time too. I was wishing there were more choices for tasty early Euros (that don't crack).

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 5:34PM
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It's a prune plum, definitely, not a dessert plum, fresh. Although good eating when cooked.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 9:56PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


Thanks for the first-hand experience on Stanley.

I knew it was a prune plum but there seem to be quite a few prune plums that dual for fresh eating. I've grown President prune and it was pretty decent eaten fresh.

Castleton, Valor, Long John are all prunes I've either planted, or ordered, which are also supposed to be good for fresh eating. I guess Empress prune also falls in that category.

I fruited some Gages (Green and Rosy Gage) for the first time this summer. They were what a plum is supposed to taste like. It was an extremely dry season, so I don't know how they'll do in a normal year. Supposedly they crack and rot if they get wet.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 9:17AM
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I'll be waiting to see how my Epineuse compares.

I sometimes think about Gages and Mirabelles, but then I remember the bit about rot and don't get any.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 7:29PM
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theaceofspades(7 Long Island)

Olpea, I have had good results with Oullins. It is an early European plum, a Gage seedling I believe. Sweet and tasty. The green color fools the birds. It is larger and not as delicate as Green Gage. This one has been the easiest VG euro plum to crop so far.

Alderman has been a poor cropper here so I cut it down. Purple heart tastes like a rich flavored pluot if you can keep the birds away.

This post was edited by theaceofspades on Mon, Dec 17, 12 at 1:36

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 7:16AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

Thanks Ace,

I had thought about Oullins. In fact I planted one once but it died. I've heard it cracks badly? Have you seen much cracking with it?

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 11:35AM
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alan haigh

Oullins is a cracker for me as I assume all gages are when rainstruck near ripe. What distinguishes it, IMO, is high quality on a reliably cropping early Euro plum with earliness being key. The color is also unattractive to birds and very interesting to people. It is highly susceptible to leaf hopper damage, as are many E. plums and my theory is that this may affect annual cropping if not adequately controlled.

Aphids and leafhoppers leave J. plums alone here so they continue to be vigorous throughout the growing season. This may help them store energy for crops in subsequent years. I intend to put more effort into controlling these pests on E. plums in subsequent seasons at some sites and will let people know if my theory seems to hold up.

As far as flowering and cold hardiness, I've found things can vary season to season and sometimes varieties that flower later are less susceptible to damage but some years they are more so with the trend favoring later flowering. Haven't sorted this out logically. I just warn against drawing conclusions from a single frost event or season.

Strange that I've never grown Stanley. Never saw the point as even 25 years ago Castleton was already available and noted for developing the high brix of most prune-plums. Most years you can leave them on the tree until they become sugar.

I consider high quality prune plums as enjoyable to eat fresh as gages but the only gage I eat regularly is Oullins.

Castleton and Empress have been extremely consistent croppers for me but I still believe Valor, which shares Empress's season and is almost as reliable, has better quality than either- it's definitely larger.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 12:09PM
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Leaving Stanleys on the tree here gets you brown rot. Even after spraying. I pick early and let them ripen off the tree.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 2:50PM
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alan haigh

Not if you spray with the right materials, I suspect. Other European prune plums won't rot if coated with a systemic fungicide unless rain is almost constant and fruit cracks, in my experience. On dry years they will dry on the trees and you can pick them as prunes.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 3:11PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

ltilton, I fruited Imperial Epineuse for the first time this summer (at least thats what I think it is, its what Botner had called "Imperial"). It was an excellent very sweet plum and it did not get much rot, especially considering it is a Euro. The main problem was the birds and bees loved them and got most of the fruits.


    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 4:54PM
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I'm hoping to keep it small enough to net. Dunno about the bees and wasps, tho. They're all over the fallen Stanleys every year.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 9:44PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


I asked the same question to the Apple-Crop but thought I'd check in with you as well. Do you know when Empress ripens in reference to Stanley? You mention Empress and Valor share the same season. Does that mean their harvests overlap, or do they start to ripen at the same time?

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 10:27PM
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