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If you are planning to add some plum trees to your landscape, now is the time to order them. Texas A&M recommends that bare-rooted plum trees be planted during the period between January 1st and February 15th and that containerized plants be planted between January 1st and March 31st.
In this post, I have listed the varieties that Texas A&M and several other growers recommend as being well suited for growing in North Texas and which have good or acceptable taste. I have also listed several additional varieties that have been highly ranked for exceptional taste but that have not necessarily been tested or approved for our climate.
Plums Preferred By Local Growers
Richard Ashton, who owns Oak Creek Orchard, recommends Methley as probably the best plum for growing in North Texas. He also comments that there are several of the Auburn University plums that have fairly good taste and will grow in North Texas. Mr. Ashton does not care for Bruce's taste qualities, even though it is recommended by many extension agents and other growers.
Bob Wells of Bob Wells Nursery has three favorite plum varieties. He likes the Methley which he describes as dark purple and "the sweetest plum grown." He also likes Morris which he describes as an extra large freestone plum with purple color. Finally, he suggests Bruce which is an early ripening, large red plum.
Dale and Judy Ham operate Ham Orchard in Terrell, Texas. The Hams' favorite plum varieties for North and East Texas are Methley, Morris, Santa Rosa and Ozark Premier.
Glynn and Sandra Russell operate Newburn Farms in Center, Texas. They prefer Ozark Premier with its large, golden meat and very sweet taste. They are also in the process of adding Santa Rosa plums to their orchard.
Texas A&M has published several articles that recommend different varieties for Texas. In Recommended Fruit, Nut and Berry Cultivars for North Central Texas, they recommend: Morris, Methley, Ozark Premier, Bruce. In a separate publication, Texas A&M also recommends: Gulfruby, Gulfgold, and Allred.
The following is a brief description of these varieties:
Methley: A purple-red skinned, medium sized plum with red flesh. It ripens early. It has juicy and sweet flesh, but the skin is astringent. It is self-fertile and can be used as a pollinator. It is a medium sized tree with only 150 chilling hours required to set fruit. It can sometimes have problems with black knot in the north.
Morris: A reddish-black skinned, medium-large sized plum with red flesh. It ripens early, and its flesh is firm, somewhat dry, and crisp with good flavor. It is a large tree that requires 800 chilling hours and a pollinator.
Ozark Premier: A red skinned, very large sized plum with yellow flesh. It ripens mid-season, and its flesh is firm, juicy, and tart with good flavor. The skin can be tough. It is a cross of Methley and Burbank. This is a medium sized tree.
Santa Rosa: Reddish purple skinned, very large plum with reddish/pink flesh. It ripens mid-season, and its flesh is fine-textured and aromatic and has a very good flavor. It is partly self-fertile and only requires about 300 chilling hours. It is a large tree that was introduced by Luther Burbank.
Bruce: A red skinned, large sized plum with yellow flesh. It ripens very early, and has good taste. A medium sized tree that requires a pollinator. Introduced in Texas, and it is believed to be a cross between Abundance and Excelsior.
Allred: A red skinned, small plum with red flesh. It ripens early, and its flesh is sweet-tart that is better for processing. Its leaves are red making it an unusual and nice ornamental selection. A medium sized tree that was introduced by Wolf Nursery in Stephenville, Texas.
Gulfruby: A reddish purple skinned, medium-large plum with yellow flesh. It ripens early, and its flesh is sweet with a bitter skin surrounding it. This medium sized tree has a low chill requirement.
Gulfgold: Yellow skinned with a red blush, this medium sized plum has yellow flesh. It ripens mid-season, and it is the sweetest of the Gulf series which makes it well suited for dried fruit. This small tree is susceptible to plum leaf scald.
Varieties With Reputations As The BEST Tasting
If you are interested in growing plums, Texan Richard Ashton has authored a great resource that provides an extensive list of plum varietals and their characteristics entitled Plums of North America. What I do not know is how well suited these varieties will be for the hot, humid climate of Texas and the South. The P. domestica varieties may have difficulty in our climate. The japanese types, P. Salicina, typically perform better in the South.
Ashton rates the following varieties as having the very best taste of plum varieties:
Cambridge Gage: A green skinned, medium sized plum with greenish yellow flesh. It ripens in late mid-season with dense, firm flesh and that rich gage flavor. It is a medium/compact sized tree and partly self-fertile.
Campagne (P. salicina): A deep red skinned, large sized plum with yellow flesh. It ripens early, and its fruit are juicy and aromatic with a good texture. A medium sized tree with good resistance to disease.
Kahinta (P. salicina x P. americana): A blue skinned, medium-large sized plum with yellow flesh. It ripens early with a very good to excellent taste. Its intense flesh has a spicy flavor which is more spicy than sweet. It needs a pollinator, and is a small to medium sized tree. It can be susceptible to brown rot, and its wood splits easily.
Morganhill: Reddish purple skin with brown dots, this plum's flesh is greenish-yellow. It has small sized fruit. It ripens late with a sweet aromatic taste, and some say it has one of the best tastes. It was introduced by Luther Burbank and is a medium sized tree.
Pearl: A golden-yellow, medium large plum with deep yellow flesh. It ripens mid-season on a medium sized tree. Its flavor is very good to the best, with rich, sweet, luscious flavor and melting flesh. Developed by Luther Burbank, it is believed to be a seedling of a Reine Claude plum.
Red Beaut (P. salicina): Red over yellow skinned, this large fruited plum has yellow flesh. It ripens very early with crisp flavor that is melting sub-acid and delicate. It is a medium sized tree.
Reine Claude (Green Gage): A green to golden yellow skinned medium-large plum with greenish-yellow flesh. It ripens mid-season with a richness of texture and flavor and an abundance of juice and aroma. Considered unsurpassed. A small to medium sized tree that can be delicate and vulnerable to sunscald.
Reine Red: Similar to Reine Claude but with red skin.
Ruby Queen (P. salicina): A reddish black skinned, medium sized plum with dark red flesh. It ripens mid-season with excellent sweet, balanced taste and a firm texture. This medium sized tree requires a pollinator.
Superior (P. salicina): A dark red skinned, medium sized plum with yellow flesh. It ripens mid-season with very juicy, sweet, and firm flesh. It is a large tree that may sometimes have problems with brown rot and split fruit.
Supreme (P. nigra hybrid): A red over yellow skinned, large plum with yellow flesh. It ripens mid-season with an excellent quality taste. It is a medium sized tree.
Voyageur: A dark reddish-purple skinned, medium-large plum with yellow flesh. It ripens mid to late season and has juicy, firm, excellent taste with high sugar content. A medium-large tree than can serve as a good pollinator for P.domestica.
Of additional interest, in an article in Mother Earth News, the author polled several growers who rated the top flavored plums to be:
Au Rosa: A red skinned, large plum with yellow flesh. It ripens mid-season, and its flesh is firm and of good quality. A medium sized tree with a winter chilling requirement of 750 hours. It needs a pollinator and is generally well suited for the South.
Methley: (see above)
Purple Heart: Dark reddish-purple skinned, medium sized plum with dark red flesh. It ripens mid-season with firm, juicy, sweet and crisp flesh. It is a small tree that is hardy and popular.
Shiro: Bright yellow skinned, medium sized plum with light yellow flesh. It ripens very early and has a pleasant taste. Juicy, somewhat melting, sweet and mild flesh. Medium to large sized tree that can be susceptible to brown rot. Pollinate with a japanese type plum. Developed by Luther Burbank.
Toka: Blue-black skinned, large sized plum with amber flesh. It ripens late with a mild and medium sweet flavor. It is a medium to large sized tree that is slightly susceptible to brown rot.
Waneta: Yellow with red blush skinned, medium to large sized plum with orange flesh. It ripens mid-season with juicy and sweet flesh. The skin is astringent. This small sized tree requires a pollinator.
Other Varieties That Are Reputed To Have Very Good Flavor
Some of the other varieties reputed to have very good flavor in Richard Ashton's Plums of North America include:
Acme; Amador; Amazon; AU Amber; AU Homeside; AU Producer; Autumn Queen;.
Bavay; Black Jewel; Black Kelsey; Black Noble; Blue Bell.
Catalina; Champion; Crimson.
Duarte; Duarte Improved.
Early Transparent Gage; Eldorado; Elephant Heart; Emerald Beaut; Ersinger; Explorer.
Fiebing; Fourth of July.
Geewhiz; Geneva Mirabelle; Golden Nectar; Golden Transparent Gage; Grandoro; Green Sweet; Guthrie.
Hand; Howard Miracle.
La Crescent; Laroda; Longjohn.
Mammoth Cardinal; Mason Early Italian; McLaughlin; Meredith; Middleburg; Miller Superb; Mohawk; Monroe.
Pembina; Perfection; Peters; Ptitsin 5; Purple Gage; Purple Heart.
Redheart; Reine Claude Conducta; Richards Early Italian; Rivers Delight; Royal Tours; Roysum.
Santa Rosa; Sergeant; Spaulding; Stanton; Stark MacVerna Delicious; Sugar.
Valor; Vanier; Victor Large; Vision.
Washington; White Damson; Winona.
When selecting your trees, it is very important to look closely at the rootstock upon which the trees are grafted. The rootstock will dictate how large the tree will get. You do not want to plant a tree that will get too big for the space in which you are placing it. You will be very disappointed and, along with the additional work entailed, the additional pruning to keep its size in check may adversely impact fruit production.
While a few varieties are self-fertile, you are typically going to want to plant at least two varieties of plums trees to ensure proper cross-pollination and fruit set.
Considerations When Planting
Nevertheless, when you plant your trees, I encourage you to add compost, Mycorrhizal fungi, and Actinovate to the backfill when you are planting.
Finally, in caring for your plum trees, I have found that the occasional spraying of Garrett Juice or compost tea seems to ward off problems for me.
Ideas on Nurseries
If you are looking for an instant orchard, your choices are limited. Check now with your local nurseries to see what varieties they are or will be caring this Spring and in what sizes. I typically only see 5 gallon containers in my local nurseries.
Bob Wells Nursery will often carry 5, 10, and 15 gallon trees, so you can try that.
Willis Orchard Company sells large trees; however be forewarned that these are going to be bare-rooted plants which can sometimes demand more TLC. (I no longer recommend using this company as I have now discovered that they sent me several fruit trees that were completely different varieties. For example, they sent me standard pears instead of the asian pears I ordered!!)
Edible Landscaping also sometimes carries larger sized specimen.
If you are a more patient person and are willing to plant a smaller tree, there are a lot of options out there. Some of them include:
Nurseries Outside of Texas
If you have planted plum trees in Texas that are bearing fruit, please post a comment and share your experiences along with your favorite varieties for Texas.