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Prune this tree: Red Plum

Posted by whiteRhino 8b (My Page) on
Wed, Mar 13, 13 at 14:03

Let me start by saying this is my first time ever pruning a tree, so I'd like some help. My idea is that eventually I will plant 6-8 fruit trees (including a pollinator for this plum, of course) in raised beds above hard clay on a strong slope in my backyard. Until I'm ready to do that (hopefully sometime this spring) I plan on leaving this in the nursery pot (or root pruning and repotting if that would help growth at this stage). I bought this on sale for $6 a couple of days ago. It's labeled a "Red Lee Plum," although I can't find any reference to that cultivar online.

This tree has a caliper of approx. 1/2inch, its main growth reaches about 40" above the soil and the very highest of the outgrowth reaches 6'. It's just starting to bloom now.

Ultimately I would like to keep the fruit trees that I plant on the slope in the 6-8' range for ease of access. I plan for this to be a "mini-orchard" as a selling point when I put the house on the market in a few years.

1) How old is this tree?

2) Should I leave it in the pot (or a larger one) for now, or would it be better to go in the ground ASAP?

3) Considering the above, should I prune it now, or later?

4) I've seen a lot of videos of planting trees like this and then topping them back to knee high to balance out top vs. root growth. How long does it take to recover from that? Should I do that? The trees in those videos seem somewhat smaller or younger than this one. What does a fruit tree that receives that treatment look like after say, one growing season?

Thanks for any and all advice!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Prune this tree: Red Plum

A closer up of the main growth.

RE: Prune this tree: Red Plum

I would put a post or sturdy stick in the ground and straighten the trunk and train it as a central leader for now- turning it into an open center once I've selected my permanent scaffolds and they have been spread at about 65 degrees.

I would remove the larger branches that are more than a third diameter of the trunk at the point they're attached to trunk and leave everything else.

Either of the co-dominants could lead the trunk- I'd pick the one easiest to straighten and remove the other. I'd do it all tomorrow.

RE: Prune this tree: Red Plum

I'd put it in the ground or a larger container for awhile. Brady

RE: Prune this tree: Red Plum

I'd take off the two crooked co-leaders and start it as an open center now.

RE: Prune this tree: Red Plum

At the top of tree, the co-leaders are actually an artifact of the camera angle; one of the branches comes directly towards the lens and appears significantly larger than it really is. The one on the right side (the straighter of the two) is definitely much thicker. Other than that one, none of the branches are any more than 1/3 the thickness of the trunk.

Considering I would like a short tree (6-8ft), does the above change anything? What about the new, small growth at the bottom that starts about 30" off the ground?

If now is not the right time to start an open center, when would be? Can I not just choose four of the largest branches, spreading in different directions and spaced properly along the trunk, as scaffolds now and prune everything else off?

RE: Prune this tree: Red Plum

You can start your open center now. The main advantage to holding the central leader is that it gives you something to push the branches out from when spreading and its very presence helps encourage more horizontal scaffold branching.

If you top it to make the open center now, I'd reduce the tree to 5 branches pointing in different directions with the intention of eventually reducing it to 3 once branches fill in. You will need to tie them to more horizontal position, most likely, if you want a low spreading tree.

RE: Prune this tree: Red Plum

If you do want an open center, that's the way I'd go. Maybe even one step down to the leader where the yellow tag is. That would give you 4 scaffolds, although I can't quite judge the spacing from the photo.

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