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Plum tree problems

Hi there

Our plum tree is looking very sorry for itself - it started off with shrivelled, yellowing leaves, then shrivelled fruit.

I thought it might be dry, but repeated watering doesn't seem to have helped. I was also wondering if an ant nest found at the base of the tree had damaged the roots. 

It's a young tree, this is its second year and the first year it has fruited. 

Have included some pictures - would be interested to know what might be wrong and whether the tree can be saved.


  • yorkshireroseyorkshirerose North YorkshirePosts: 574
    Was the tree pot bound when you planted it? Plums object to being containerised too long.
    If the roots haven't managed to grow much it may be they are unable to take up the water you give them.
    I would recommend you remove the fruits and affected leaves so it isn't trying to do too much at once. 
    Give it a general slow release feed, eg blood, fish and bone or Gromore.
    Hopefully you will see some improvement.
    Good luck
    A gardener's work is never at an end  - (John Evelyn 1620-1706)
  • leese815leese815 Posts: 8
    I don't think the tree was particularly pot bound when we got it and we put it into the ground straight away but, to be honest, it was autumn 2017 so I may have forgotten!

    Thanks for the helpful advice, I'll try that this weekend and hope for some improvement!
  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,687
    As long as the tree is alive, and they are watered well, it should recover. Obvious things to look out for, branches that may be weeping, any broken/open areas on the branches. Weak branches/trunks are entry points for pests and diseases.

    Planting level is also important on young trees. Planted a little too deep, the tree will suffer and in some cases the tree may die. Soil preparation, particularly on heavy soils need to be carefully prepared. Back-fill with similar soil mixed with some loam-based compost. Avoid just using compost as that just creates a spongy texture where the roots of the plants fail to reach to the surrounding soil. 

    Don't be put off with watering if you have checked for all the above. Slow deep watering into the base in evening or early mornings at this time of year. Water at least two bucket full every 3 days or more often when it gets even hotter.
  • leese815leese815 Posts: 8
    Thanks for the advice, that's really helpful. We'll up the watering as well as check it for damage as well. We have very heavy clay soil so it's like rock in this weather so we probably need to be soaking the tree more than we have been.
  • yorkshireroseyorkshirerose North YorkshirePosts: 574
    Your heavy clay soil is the most likely problem to the demise of your plum tree. Free drainage is essential, but on heavy clay soils water doesn't drain easily.
    It's also a cold soil and takes a while to warm up when plants should be putting on new growth. As you mention the soil is now like rock and will be difficult to water.
    Can you work in some sharp sand or horticultural grit around the roots of the tree?
    I would recommend doing that with anything you plant to try and aid drainage. Also add soil improver such as home-made compost or well rotted manure, or similar to aerate the soil.

    A gardener's work is never at an end  - (John Evelyn 1620-1706)
  • leese815leese815 Posts: 8
    Thanks, I have some horticultural grit so will try working that in, along with soil improver. 

    I've also noticed today that one of the branches was damaged, albeit a while ago, so not sure if that will have also contributed to the problem.
  • mrtjformanmrtjforman Posts: 331
    Definetely is underwatered. I know very little about plum trees but generally with all other fruit I grow it is recommended to cut off the fruit in the first 2 years to let the plant focus on growing roots first. I think your plant is just overwhelmed producing 3+ plums. It might also be a dwarf variety in which case it can most certainly not handle producing plums in first few years. The plant has become dehydrated and sacrificed some leaves. Up to you what you do but I would cut the fruit off and water it more. Then maybe it will recover. Blood fish and bone also good advice
  • leese815leese815 Posts: 8
    Thank you, this is the first year that it has produced fruit and, like you say, must have been too early!

    Have taken all the fruit and leaves off now so will start watering and feeding more. Thanks again.
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