Plum Tree Varieties: 22 Different Types of Plum Trees For Your Garden

If you are thinking of adding a plum tree to your garden, but can't decide which type to plant, you've come to the right place! There are many different types of plum trees to pick from. In this article, we take a look at our favorite plum tree varieties with names and pictures of each!

Japanese Plum Variety

When you think of plums, you probably picture an oval-shaped purple fruit with a pit and a little bigger than a golf ball. The truth is that plums have a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sweetness to them. Aside from bearing delicious fruit, plum trees are also beautiful additions to any landscape, with lovely foliage and brilliant flowers in the spring. 

Although they are thriving throughout many areas globally, plum tree types fall into three general variety groups. Japanese (Prunus salicina) and European (Prunus domestica) are the most commonly cultivated, representing the majority of plums you find in the marketplace.

A third plum tree type is the American Plum Tree (Prunus americana), also known as bush plums. Most American plum tree cultivars are a hybrid of native North American species and various Japanese species.

We will get into some of the differences between the three later. Suffice to say that all plum tree types are cultivated and enjoyed worldwide. Almost every planting zone on the globe can host a suitable plum tree for cultivation.

Japanese Varieties

Japanese plums made their appearance in the United States back in the late 1870s. These trees are ideal for growing in dry and mild climates. Gardeners enjoy their early spring blossoms and, on average, will thrive well in climate zones 5 through 9, making them versatile for many U.S. locations. They are great fruit trees for states like Tennessee and other southern states.

Japanese plum tree types tend to grow more fanned out than their European cousins. They generally produce a rounded fruit around 2 inches in diameter. The fruit’s skin color ranges from yellows and reds to blues, purples, and almost black.

Many Japanese varieties are not self-fruiting, meaning they will have to be planted in pairs of different cultivars to fruit successfully. Multiple trees should have 15 to 20 feet of space between them for ample growth. One important thing to know is that Japanese and European varieties will not cross-pollinate, as they have a different chromosomal makeup.

Here are some of the more popular Japanese plum varieties.

Black Amber

Black Amber
Expect pink flushed white blooms before you see fruit mid-season.
Scientific Name: Prunus salicina

The Black Amber is an upright dwarf tree, making it ideal for patio containers or within your garden space. If you have limited yard space or do not want a tree to overtake your landscape, this variety will fit well.

This compact plum will typically only reach between 1.5 and 2 meters tall and only half a meter of spread. However, if you choose to plant them outside containers, they can grow slightly more significantly.

First cultivated in California in the later 20th century, Black Amber plums do best in arid, moderate zones. Victoria and Santa Rosa plums are good cross-pollinators with this one.

These trees can yield prodigious crops after showcasing pink-flushed white blooms in early spring, bearing their fruit in mid-season.

Black Beauty

Black Beauty
These trees prefer cooler climates.
Scientific Name: ​​Prunus nigra

This compact tree will typically only reach between 1.5 and 2 meters tall and only half a meter of spread. However, if you choose to plant them outside containers, they can grow slightly more significantly.

These are some of the more popular cultivars in North America. Possible pollinators that work well with this variety are the Friar and Santa Rosa plum trees. Black Beauty plums grow well in temperate to cooler arid climates.

Early Golden

Early Golden
This heavy producer requires thinning every two years.
Scientific Name: Prunus domestica

Originating in Canada, this Japanese variety is suitable for climate zones 5, and they cross-pollinate well with most other Japanese varieties. Consequently, it is a vigorous grower and does require thinning to avoid going dormant every second year due to excessive fruit-bearing.

Early Golden plums will reach an impressive height of 15 feet and have a 12-foot spread at maturity. They thrive best in full sun and away from areas with excessive winds.

Elephant Heart

Elephant Heart
This is one of the few self-pollinating plums.
Scientific Name: Prunus salicina

Elephant Heart plums are a semi-dwarf variety despite their impressive name, making them an excellent choice for planting in smaller areas. They grow in a compact, vertical shape and do not grow beyond 10 to 12 feet tall.

Elephant Heart plums thrive well in climate zones 5 to 9. Cool to moderate climates with low humidity and loamy soil suit this variety best. Although they pair well with other Japanese plum trees for pollination, they are one of the few self-pollinating plums.

Friar

Friar
Expect fruit from this variety in early August.
Scientific Name: Prunus domestica

The Friar is one of the most commonly grown plum cultivars globally. Additionally, it pollinates well with many other varieties, particularly Black Amber and Santa Rosa. Originally cultivated in the U.S., this Japanese plum variety works well in a wide swath of moderate climates, preferring a more arid environment in a 4b climate zone.

The tree grows upright with a vertical shape, producing fruit in early August. The Friar will reach 15 feet tall and have an equally impressive spread of 15 feet at maturity. However, its canopy is relatively low and hangs around only four feet, making it a terrific choice for areas with power lines.

Methley

Methley
Gorgeous blooms will fill this tree early in the season before fruiting in the summer.
Scientific Name: Prunus salicina ‘Methley’

Methley plum trees are early bloomers and early fruiters, produced in early summer. It grows in a usual fanned manner and can produce hearty fruit yields. It is another self-fruiting tree, although it will do better with cross-pollination.

Methley plums are best suited to moderate to warmer climates with arid to semi-arid conditions. Colder temperatures can present a challenge because they can be susceptible to frost damage. However, this tree will grow between 15 and 20 inches per year and requires minimal pruning, making it a terrific low-maintenance option.

Ruby Queen

Ruby Queen
This variety makes a great addition to a large backyard, as it can grow upwards of 20 feet tall.
Scientific Name: Prunus salicina

The Ruby Queen plum tree is a majestic sight for larger backyards. This Japanese variety is suitable for climate zones 5 to 8, providing humid and slightly warmer temperatures. However, they will grow in moderate climates that do not have a lot of frost conditions.

The tree grows upright while slightly fanning out and is available in full-size and dwarf varieties. The larger Ruby Queen option can reach upwards of 20 feet tall and extend just as wide, whereas the dwarf tree will only be half the size at ten feet tall and wide.

You should plant your Ruby Queen where it will receive direct sunlight that extends six hours per day or more. The Ruby Queen sprouts delicate white flowers in spring and pollinates well with Santa Rosa plums and other Japanese varieties.

Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa
This large tree requires regular pruning to maintain abundant fruit yields.
Scientific Name: Prunus salicina

Another wildly popular variety is the Santa Rosa plum tree. It is an upright growing tree that boasts lovely pink flowers in spring and fruits in early-mid summer.

The tree is one of the larger varieties, growing in its traditional upright plum tree that can reach 25 feet. Like many largeer alternatives, Santa Rosas require regular pruning to maintain a healthy yield. You can prune this tree back to keep it more manageable, but if you want an impressive spreading tree canopy, this one will provide it.

Santa Rosas grow well in many climates and are pest, disease, and frost resistant. In addition, they are self-pollinating, and you can plant them solo, making Santa Rosa one of the most popular types of plum trees around.

Shiro

Shiro
This exotic variety prefers full sunlight.
Scientific Name: Prunus salicina

The Shiro, or “white” plum tree, is one of the more exotic varieties on the list, appearing in North America in the late 1890s. They grow in a fanned-out vertical pattern that reaches anywhere from 18 to 20 feet tall and wide.

Shiro plum trees blossom in early March with small white flowers and bear fruit during the mid-summer. This tree thrives in climate zones 5 to 9 and prefers full sunlight. They cross-pollinate well with Santa Rosa and Ozark Premier plums.

European Varieties

European plums are more upright, or v-shaped, in their growth. While it is more common for European varieties to be self-pollinating, you will find better yields and healthier trees by planting two or more cultivars. And as mentioned above, European and Japanese varieties will not cross-pollinate due to their varying pollination schedules.

The fruit tends to be smaller and more oval or almond-shaped than Japanese varieties.

Coe’s Golden Drop

Coes Golden
This hybrid is best suited for temperate climates in zones 5-9.
Scientific Name: Prunus domestica

Cultivated in England in 1800 by gardener Jarvais Coe, Coe’s Golden Drop plum trees are a hybrid of the popular Green Gage plums, which is also on this list. This tree has a spreading canopy that will grow between 7 and 13 feet tall.

Since it originated in England, the Coe’s Golden Drop tree is well suited for temperate climates in zones 5-9, thriving particularly well in slightly cooler environments.

It typically fruits in mid to late September, so it is a late-season treat. This tree is not self-fruiting and cross-pollinates well with the Green Gage, President, and Angelina plum tree types.

Damson

Damson
Hardiness and easy care make this a popular choice for gardens.
Scientific Name: Prunus domestica

One of the oldest cultivars on the list, Damsons have grown since Roman times. They are an upright v-shaped tree with a solid yield that comes about mid to later season.

The Damson plum is one of the more popular varieties due to its hardiness and easy care regimen. They require little pruning and thrive best in temperate areas of climate zones 5 to 7. These cold-resistant varieties can also withstand an arid climate.

Unlike most European varieties, the Damson is self-fruiting, so it can be grown alone if space is an issue or a focal point in your garden.

French Prune

French Prune
Increase growth and fruit production by planting with other varieties.
Scientific Name: Prunus

First cultivated in California in the 1850s, the French Prune plum is from a European stock variety. It is a smaller spread canopy tree, reaching a 10 to 12-foot height at maturity.

This self-pollinator flowers in early spring and fruits in early to mid-summer. However, growth and fruit production will be significantly better when planted with other varieties.

This variety requires minimal care and maintenance and is suitable for a wide range of climate zones from 4 to 9, although preferring less humid air.

Green Gage

Green Gage
Expect to wait 7 to 10 years before your first fruit yield.
Scientific Name: Prunus x domestica subsp. italica

If you are willing to put in some extra care and attention, Green Gage plums are worth the effort. However, they are not good self-pollinators and are best grown with another European variety like Damson.

Its origins trace back to 17th century Europe, where many believe it to have cultivation using Damson plums and a variety native to Iran. The Green Gage plum grows to about 12 feet in height. They have a short harvest window in mid to late summer.

The Green Gage plum tree only produces fruit biennially, and you can expect to wait for 7 to 10 years before seeing the first crop, as opposed to a typical 3 to 4-year span. This delay is because they need chalky soil, extensive sunshine, and shelter from wind and rain.

Italian

Italian
Prune this tree to any size you’d like without compromising health or fruit yields.
Scientific Name: Prunus x domestica

The Italian plum tree is a variety with a height of 10 to 15 feet and a spreading canopy that grows between 8 to 12 feet tall. Alternatively, if you prefer a dwarf plum tree, you can prune back this tree for a more compact but thriving option.

Italian plums can be grown in a large swath of regions from agricultural zones 4 to 9 and are self-fruiting if you want to plant just one. You should avoid planting this tree in areas where water can pool, such as the bottom of a slope. They should have ample drainage to prevent sitting in stagnant water.

Typically fruiting in mid to late summer, it is everbearing, where the plums will continue to ripen until the early fall. You can expect a good, steady yield from this tree.

Mirabelle

Mirabelle
This French cultivar grows well in climate zones 5 to 8.
Scientific Name: Prunus domestica subsp. syriaca

The Mirabelle is a product of French cultivation. In fact, the Mirabelle resides in the Lorraine region of France, and it is illegal to import them into the U.S. However, there are Mirabelle varieties available for the United States to enjoy in your backyard.

Mirabelle plums generally provide a hearty yield and grows well throughout many regions within European and North America in climate zones 5 to 8. This tree can reach upward of 12 feet tall with an impressive v-shaped canopy at maturity.

If you want something unique, beautiful, and delicious, the Mirabelle is worth considering as an option.

Moyer / Sugar

Moyer Sugar
This self-pollinating variety can be found in most marketplaces across the U.S. and Europe.
Scientific Name: Prunus domestica

The Moyer plum bears the fruit after which the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies is called. They are closely related to the French Prune and Italian Plums and grow 10 to 12 feet at maturity.

These trees grow well throughout the U.S. and Europe and are widely available in most marketplaces. Moyer trees are a semi-dwarf variety and respond well to proper pruning to keep them more compact for smaller spaces.

Like many European cultivars, Moyer plum trees are self-fruiting, although they are better when cross-pollinated with another European variety. Nevertheless, you can expect attractive white blossoms followed by fruit yields in mid-season.

Myrobalan / Cherry

Myrobalan
This variety is often grown as an ornamental rather than for a fruit yield.
Scientific Name: Prunus cerasifera

The Myrobalan plum tree is often grown as an ornamental due to its luscious purple foliage and lovely white flowers in the spring. One of the more giant trees on the list, the Myrobalan plum, can reach 25 feet with a spreading open canopy.

The Myrobalan earns its nickname as the Cherry Plum tree due to its small, sweet red fruit, which resembles the fruits found on a fruiting cherry tree. These trees blossom early in the spring and likewise fruit earlier in the season, from late June to early July in most regions. It is a self-pollinator and does well in most North American and European climates.

This tree is an excellent choice for decorative purposes and does require another variety for pollination to produce fruit. However, if you prefer the tree for ornamental purposes, it can be planted alone and will thrive beautifully without dropping fruit around your yard.

Stanley

Stanley
This variety matures quickly and can grow up to 30 feet tall.
Scientific Name: Prunus domestica

The Stanley plum tree might be the single most popular variety in North America. Found just about everywhere, it is a reliable fruiter that matures quickly in only 1 to 3 years and can grow up to 30 feet in height.

Stanley plum trees will produce an abundance of fragrant white blossoms throughout their upward sweeping shape every spring. This variety is an ideal ornamental tree for many large outdoor spaces.

Stanley plums will grow well in several regions, including climate zones 5 through 8, and it requires little maintenance. Although it will produce more fruit with different pollination varieties, it is self-fruiting. Its popularity comes from its robust growth and abundant yields.

American and Other Varieties

American plum varieties (Prunus americana), also known as “Bush Plums,” are a far less common type of plum. These trees are smaller than their European and Japanese counterparts and grow more often like shrubs than proper trees.

Along with a few American-hybrid varieties, we also include a couple of hybrids that do not fit neatly into either the Japanese or European categories.

American Native

American Native
This shrub variety makes a great boundary plant or windbreaker.
Scientific Name: Prunus americana

This plum tree type is a shrub variety native to North America. It is used more as a boundary plant or an ornamental. It grows in temperate to cool North American climates and produces small yellow to red-colored fruit in mid-season.

The American Native plum can reach about 8 feet tall by 8 feet wide, making it an ideal plant for a windbreak or boundary. Although, some trees will reach 15 feet tall if they do not receive regular pruning or care. These plums sucker prolifically, so regular pruning is necessary.

American plum trees are self-pollinating. However, they are also excellent pollinators for other plum varieties in your yard.

Alderman

Alderman
This American-Japanese hybrid yields fruit after just one year of growth.
Scientific Name: Prunus ‘Alderman’

The Alderman plum tree is an American-Japanese hybrid ideal for colder climates. The Alderman tree is a prolific grower and can get up to 15 feet or more, with an impressive ornamental canopy. Like other plum varieties, it blooms white flowers in early spring and will fruit mid-season.

The Alderman generally requires only one year of growth before it yields fruit, which is terrific for those who want to start harvesting as soon as possible.

It can grow in most North American climates but prefers cooler zones. The alderman variety is not self-pollinating, unfortunately. It thrives best when cross-pollinated with a Superior or other common Japanese variety.

Underwood

Underwood
This hybrid grows just 4 feet tall, making maintenance and fruit collection easy.
Scientific Name: Prunus ‘Underwood’

Another American-Japanese hybrid, coming from the 1920s, the Underwood is a hardy growing plum tree that can reach 15 feet tall. It is well-suited for moderate to cooler climates, even in zones 3.

It has an open canopy that will bloom in early spring and boasts a fairly long early to mid-summer fruiting period. In addition, its low canopy is a mere four feet from the ground, making it easy to collect fruit or plant in tight areas.

The Underwood plum tree makes a terrific ornamental tree in your landscape as a stand-alone piece or with other pollinators for ample fruit. However, like all American hybrids, it is not self-pollinating. It will need to cross-pollinate with Japanese varieties like Purple Heart trees.

Lemon / Inca

Lemon Inca
This maintenance-free variety changes to an orange or red hue when ripe.
Scientific Name: Prunus salicina

This one is on the list because of its unique cultivation history. Bred initially in Israel from regional varieties, it got its name for its fruit’s lemon-like appearance of a heart shape with a tapered end.

The Lemon plum is also known as the Inca plum or Chameleon plum, as its color changes from green to yellow to speckled and then into an orange or red hue when ripe.

This plum variety thrives in U.S. climate zones 6 to 10 and is relatively maintenance-free as a fruit-bearing tree. However, it is not self-pollinating, requiring other plum tree varieties that follow the same early-season pollination schedule.

Final Thoughts

Plum trees are not popular only because of their yearly fruit. Many types are impressive and provide a breathtaking display as an ornamental tree for your landscape. There are several colors to choose from, and when planning your yard, planting plum trees with various pollination times can ensure you have brilliant blossoms throughout the season.

No matter which plum tree variety you choose, whether Japanese, European, or American, with proper planting and care, you will have an attractive tree that can provide an abundance of delicious fruits to enjoy for a long time.

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