Here's How to Grow Prunus Mume (Plum Blossom Trees) for the Most Showy Blossoms

<p>Dinkun Chen / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0</p>

Dinkun Chen / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Plum blossom (Prunus mume), also commonly known as Chinese plum or Japanese plum, is an ornamental tree that produces attractive blossoms and small stone fruits. Its beauty rivals the cherry blossom tree and it blooms earlier in the year, making it a welcome sight during winter.

Plum blossom trees grow best in full to partial sunlight, and require moist but well-draining soil with an acidic pH level. The leaves, stems, and seeds of the plum blossom are toxic to dogs and cats.

Common Name

Plum blossom, Chinese plum, Japanese plum

Botanical Name

Prunus mume

Family

Rosaceae

Plant Type

Tree, Fruit

Mature Size

12-20 ft. tall, 15-20 ft. wide

Sun Exposure

Full, Partial

Soil Type

Moist but Well-drained.

Soil pH

Acidic

Bloom Time

Winter, Spring

Flower Color

White, Pink, Red

Hardiness Zones

Zones 6-8 (USDA)

Native Area

Asia

Toxicity

Toxic to pets

Plum Blossom Care

Here are the main care requirements for growing plum blossom.

  • Plant in well-draining soil.

  • Choose a spot that receives at least four to six hours of sunlight daily.

  • Water regularly but ensure adequate drainage to avoid oversaturation.

  • Feed with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer during late summer or early fall.

Light

Like most flowering and fruiting trees, plum blossom trees will do best in a location that receives full sun. However, the tree can grow in partial shade conditions but it should receive at least four hours of sunlight a day.

Soil

Well-draining soil is the main requirement for the planting site. And while the tree can tolerate a range of soil conditions, loamy, rich soil is ideal. It prefers acidic soil pH levels.

Water

The plum blossom will need to be watered regularly to ensure the soil remains moist but mature trees exhibit moderate drought tolerance. When deciding how often to water this tree, keep in mind that the soil should not become oversaturated. Good drainage assists in preventing soggy soil conditions.

Temperature and Humidity

The ideal climate for plum blossom trees is USDA hardiness zones 6 to 8, which can see temperatures dip below 0°F. Trees planted in the coldest regions should be located in a sheltered area to protect against the effects of harsh winter winds.

On the other hand, if you grow plum blossom trees in a warmer climate, choose a planting location that provides partial shade during the hottest part of the day to avoid foliage damage from intense sun.

Fertilizer

To support the production of foliage and fruit, plum blossom trees do best when grown in nutrient-rich soil. If you have subpar soil quality, you should consider supplementing with an organic fertilizer. For conventional fertilizer, a high nitrogen formula can help to support growth, especially during the first few years. Apply fertilizer during the late summer or early fall to support the following season’s growth.

As a general rule of thumb, trees in the Prunus genus should produce about 24 inches of new shoot growth every year. If your tree is producing more than that, cut back on feeding nitrogen-rich fertilizer. If it's growing more slowly, increase the amount of nitrogen fertilizer you administer.

Pruning

If you decide to prune the plum blossom tree to maintain a desired shape and eliminate any dead wood, when you prune the tree is critically important if you are hoping to maximize flower production.

Plum blossom trees should be pruned immediately after flowering. Since the tree blooms on the previous year’s wood, pruning ahead of flowering will result in the loss of buds and reduced flower production. In most instances, you’ll want to cut back the limbs by two nodes.

Alternatively, if fungal disease is a concern, you can prune the plum blossom tree in the summer. While the tree is less susceptible to infection in the pruning cuts, you’ll likely reduce some of the tree’s flowering potential for the following year.

Propagating Plum Blossom Trees

Cuttings of prunus mume can be notoriously hard to root and to grow a plant that is true to the parent cultivar, you’ll have to graft a softwood cutting onto a rootstock. Because of the challenge of propagation and slow rate of flowering activity (usually at least two years for grafted specimens), it’s usually best to purchase a young tree from a nursery.

How to Grow Plum Blossom From Seed

Plum blossom trees are known to be challenging to propagate using cuttings but have better results when grown from seed, although it may take at least three years to see flower production. If you’d like to grow plum blossom from seeds—acquired from ripened fruit or a nursery, here’s how to do it:

  1. Fill a plastic bag with moistened sphagnum moss and sand (1:1 ratio). Bury the seeds inside the filler material.

  2. Stratify the seeds by placing the bag inside a refrigerator for about three months. If the seeds begin to sprout sooner, it’s time to plant them.

  3. In the spring, sow the seeds in your desired outdoor garden location. Alternatively, you can start the seeds in greenhouse conditions and then transplant in the spring.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Some of the most common pests that are attracted to plum blossom trees are aphids, spider mites, tent caterpillars, and borers. Scale can also be a problem, especially on the fruit produced by the tree.

Diseases that sometimes afflict plum blossom trees are usually fungal. Some of the most common infections are honey fungus, verticillium wilt, silver leaf, and brown rot. In addition, Prunus species are also subject to bacterial canker, which causes sunken, oozing sections of bark and impedes shoot development.

How to Get Plum Blossom to Bloom

Plum blossom trees typically bloom in February and March, but as early as January in more temperate climates. This early blooming activity distinguishes it from the similar (and more well-known) cherry blossom tree.

What Do Plum Blossom Flowers Look and Smell Like?

Plum blossom flowers have a showy appearance with pink petals, although some cultivars display white or even reddish blossoms. The single or double flowers on a plum blossom tree have a short stem that emerges from the bare branches of the tree, prior to the appearance of foliage.

The tree will stay in bloom for several weeks, up to a month. Aside from a splashy show of color, the plum blossom tree is also noted for its sweet, slightly spicy fragrance emanating from the opened flower blossoms.

Common Problems With Plum Blossom

Plum blossom trees are generally considered to be low-maintenance but they can be impacted by various pests or environmental conditions. The most common issue relates to imbalances in watering or infection from bacteria and fungi. 

Leaves Turning Yellow or Brown

If the leaves of the plum blossom tree begin to turn yellow, it could be a sign that the tree is experiencing stress from being under-watered. Check the soil and ensure that it’s moist. Water regularly to improve soil moisture but don’t overwater the tree, remembering that the soil shouldn’t become overly saturated and that it can take time for a tree to recover from drought stress.

Leaves that turn yellow or develop brown spots can also be a sign of fungal or bacterial infection. A closer inspection of the tree's limbs and roots can reveal other symptoms that might point to verticillium wilt, bacterial canker, brown rot, or silver leaf disease. If you suspect any of these diseases, it would be best to do more research on the specific condition and how to minimize the impact of the disease on your tree and surrounding landscape plants.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some common names for Prunus Mume?

Prunus mume is often known by its common names—the plum blossom tree or the Japanese plum tree. It’s also sometimes referred to as a Chinese plum tree, which is fitting since the tree’s origins are often traced back to China.

Is prunus mume self-pollinating?

Yes, prunus mume is self-pollinating and it also has hermaphroditic flowers. That being said, it’s been noted that fruit production may be significantly increased through cross-pollination with another prunus mume cultivar.

Is plum blossom the same as cherry blossom?

Plum blossom and cherry blossom trees are both part of the Prunus genus and bear many similarities but they are distinct species. Prunus mume, or plum blossom trees, have rounded buds that open to reveal flowers with rounded petals. Prunus serrulata, also known as a cherry blossom tree or sakura, has an oval bud shape and the petals are similarly oval in shape and have a small notch at the end. In addition, plum blossoms generally emerge as a single flower from each bud with very short stems but cherry blossoms emerge in a cluster from each bud with significantly longer stems.

Read the original article on The Spruce.