Plum branches pointing down

BeamoBeamo Posts: 5
This thread stems (pardon the pun) from not knowing what a healthy Victoria Plum SHOULD look like. I only know what mine looks like, and it looks a bit sad! It's around 10 years old now (about 8 of which have been in my garden) with a main stem about 2.5m long. The label that's finaly fallen off tells me its a Victoria Plum bush on Pixie rootstock. It's free standing, about a metre from a south facing fence and my garden is in southern England The main stem is vertical up to about neck height, then starts to bend over a foot or so, so the last metre is about 20 degrees above horizontal. I've toyed with the idea of putting a large stake in beside it to hold the stem straight, but I've no idea if this is neccessary/beneficial/detrimental. Probably more of concern are the high proportion of branches which come from the main stem and hang almost vertically downwards. Are these too heavy or is this perfectly normal? There are only one or two which defy this rule and actually point upwards. Conversely, most new looking growth (mostly as secondary branches to the hanging ones) looks more perky and tends to curl upwards to about 45 degrees from vertical. These secondary branches themselves are up to 1m long. The tree has been very fruitful, though a lot of fruit is usually low hanging and is lost before harvesting (and when the wasps haven't invaded!). In some years, I've found branches snapped in half from their own weight but have rarely cut anything back. I'd love to restore this back to something like a healthy specimen, but almost all my gardening books reference trained shapes which mine doesn't seem to fit. In the ideal world, what sort of shape should this bush be in and might it benefit from propping up or cutting back? Also, should the lower branches go?


  • if i was you i would remove any broken,crossing or damaged branches and perhaps any that are in your way.Plums do not like to be pruned too heavily so i would plan a short pruning regime over the next few autumns until you have it in a shape you are happy with not every body wants text book plants

  • Alina WAlina W Posts: 1,445

    Your plum is behaving normally on a Pixie rootstock, trying to be a large tree.

    As already said, plums don't like being pruned overmuch; they should be pruned in summer (not winter) if you need to do so. Heavily laden branches should be propped up to prevent them snapping.

  • BeamoBeamo Posts: 5
    That seems to be fair advice. I'm not aiming for textbook perfection, but as the only thing in the garden where, over the years, more branches point downwards than up, was worried it might be missing out on some simple maintenance. I think I'll still cut back those branches that physically trail on the ground. In wet weather, they end up half submerged in soil, which surely can't be a good thing. I'll also look to prop up those branches which droop under their weight, but suspect I'll end up with more props than tree. My instinct would have been to prune more harshly than suggested, especially branches nearer ground level, but guess from your comments that's a no-no. Thanks for the tips.
  • Alina WAlina W Posts: 1,445

    It's one of those trees that respond to pruning by putting out lots of whippy shoots. It's better to try and thicken up what you have - shorten the dragging ones by all means, though.

  • I have 2 Victoria plum trees in the garden, they were already mature when we moved in 10 years ago.

    One is on a dwarfing rootstock and the other is a 'proper' tree.

    My conclusion from this experience is that growing Victoria on a dwarfing rootstock isn't ideal.  Ours also has branches trailing to the ground.

    On the other hand, picking the fruit on the full size tree needs a stepladder.  It's a good-looking tree in it's own right though, even if you don't want the fruit.

  • GaffelbiterGaffelbiter Posts: 31

    Your Victoria Plum is behaving as it should, it has a weeping habit, bears heavily and is brittle. They don't really like to be pruned, if you must, then do it when it is in full growth in early summer. What is more important is thinning the fruit, I remove about half when they are thumb nail size. This reduces the risk of branches breaking and more importantly stops the tree from becoming bi-annual - loads of plums one year a handful at most the next.

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