Plums Cultivars in the Southeastern U.S.

Cultivar List

'Bruce'
'Damson'
'Explorer'
'Geneva Mirabelle'™
'Gutherie'
'Hanska'
'Imperial Epineuse'
'Methley'
'Morrisville'
Pearl
'Spring Satin'
'Stanley'
'Starking® Delicious'™

Plums are difficult to grow as a commercial crop in the Southeast. Many of the better-tasting sorts are subject to diseases and pests, they bloom early, thus ensuring that some years the crop will be entirely lost to late spring frosts and they don't keep long after picking. However, for dedicated homegrowers who don't mind some inconsistency in cropping, plums can be a rewarding choice. They are beautiful in bloom, and can produce excellent fruit for eating and desserts. A few are even low-maintenance.

Bruce
Breeder(s): A.L. Bruce, Donelly, Texas.
History: Introduced in 1921 by the famous plum breeder A.L. Bruce.
Type: Japanese X American Chickasaw hybrid
Rootstocks used: ***
Orchards grown in: Coal Mountain, Georgia.
Notes:
Fruit quality: Flavor is very tart with notable astringency in the skin and near the pit. Flavor similar to the native Chickasaw plums (P. angustifolia). Very good for sauces, pies, tarts and other cooked plum products. Only fair for fresh eating- it would score worse for those who don't like tart.
Fruit appearance: Light red with heavy bluish-white bloom on the skin and yellow flesh.
Harvest season: Early, sometimes early enough to escape Japanese beetles and curculios (partially) in Coal Mountain, Georgia.
Bloom season: Somewhat before 'Methley', but they overlap enough that it will get pollinated.
Pollination: Needs another Japanese or Chickasaw plum as a pollinizer.
Diseases: Resistant to bacterial canker, black knot and other diseases.
Precocity: Precocious; first fruit set in *** year on ***rootstock.
Productivity: Very productive.
Growth habit: Vigorous, but with a short, bushy habit, making harvest and pruning very easy.
Chilling requirement: Moderate. 500 hours.
Bottom line: Recommended as a low-maintenance cooking plum. If you are mostly interested in a fresh-eating plum, you can do better.
References other than my own experience:
Jacob J. Wright. 2017. Facts about 'Bruce' plum trees. Garden Guides.


Damson
Breeder(s): Unknown, probably a selection made during Biblical times in ancient Syria.
History: see entry in The Plums of New York.
Type: European damson
Rootstocks used: unknown standard
Orchards grown in: Coal Mountain, Georgia.
Notes:
Fruit quality: Flavor is supposedly spicy and tart with sufficient astringency in the skin that most folks don't like to eat them fresh. We didn't get fruit from our trees.
Fruit appearance: see references.
Harvest season: see references.
Bloom season: see references..
Pollination: Self-pollinizing, but with larger crops if a compatible pollinizer, like 'Stanley' prune-plum is around.
Diseases: I don't remember the trees getting sick, they just didn't produce.
Precocity: Precocious; first fruit set in *** year on ***rootstock.
Productivity: Very productive.
Growth habit: Vigorous, tall upright, narrow crotches, kind of a pain to control.
Chilling requirement: ???. x00 hours.
Bottom line: Not Recommended.
References other than my own experience:
Michigan Plum Growers.


Explorer
Breeder(s): Thompson and Prince, Griffin, Georgia.
History: Introduced in 1981 as an early attempt to provide high-quality purple plums to growers in the Southeast that could thrive in our challenging climate.
Type: Japanese X American Chickasaw
Rootstocks used: ***
Orchards grown in: Coal Mountain, Georgia.
Notes:
Fruit quality: I don't remember. Our tree started producing just as I left for college.
Fruit appearance: Purple, with yellow flesh.
Harvest season: July in Griffin, Georgia.
Bloom season: ***.
Pollination: ***.
Diseases: Resistant to bacterial canker, black knot and other diseases.
Precocity: Precocious; first fruit set in *** year on ***rootstock.
Productivity: Very productive.
Growth habit: Vigorous.
Chilling requirement: Low?. x00 hours.
Bottom line: Recommended for trial, but now there are quite a few plums from Griffin and Auburn that do pretty well. All are still quite risky for commercial production due to their early bloom, making them subject to late Spring frosts. On a very good site, with frost protection (maybe micro-sprinklers and wind machines), one could think about commercial production.
References other than my own experience:
Thompson, J. M. , and Prince, V. E. 1981. Explorer-A new full-season Japanese-type plum for the Southeastern United States. Fruit Var. J. 35:104-106.


Geneva Mirabelle™
Breeder(s): Cornell University.
History: Selected from 'American Mirabelle' X o.p. crosses made in the 1950's at the Geneva, NY experiment station grounds. Tested as Mirabelle 858.
Type: P. insititia; mirabelle
Rootstocks used: St. Julien?
Orchards grown in: Pittsboro, NC.
Notes:
Fruit quality: Flavor is sweet and subtle. They are at their best as a prepared product, either baked into fruit pastries such as roulades or dried. Freestone.
Fruit appearance: Beautiful bright yellow with an orange blush and speckled with purple dots. Golden flesh. Naturally small size, about like super-sized cherries.
Harvest season: ***.
Bloom season: ***.
Pollination: I'm not sure. I read that it needs another compatible European plum as a pollinizer. In my orchard, I had only 'Pearl' and 'Imperial Epineuse' as potential pollinizers and I got fruit. After I got rid of the Imperial Epineuse and the 'Pearl' died, I still got fruit! A big crop! So maybe it is self-pollinizing.
Diseases: Disease-resistant to bacterial leaf spot and canker. Also showed no black knot damage while I had the tree.
Precocity: Precocious; first fruit set in *** year on *** rootstock.
Productivity: Very productive.
Growth habit: Forms a naturally small tree, very well-shaped.
Chilling requirement: Moderate? *** hours.
Bottom line: Recommended for those who love mirabelle plums. I personally find the flavor pleasant, but not fantastic, except in German-style schnapps.
References other than my own experience:
Cummins Nursery.

Gutherie
Breeder(s): chance seedling found in north Florida and distributed by Mail-Order Natives nursery.
History: Wild Chickasaw plums used to be common along the dirt roads and fencerows of the South. Sometimes we would go pick a bucket of them for jam or pie and sometimes we would just pick a "bate" to enjoy as we walked or did some farm chores. These wild plums that were such a part of rural Southern life are now not so common, but even in their heyday, they varied widely in quality. Over time, one learned where the thicket of good plums was and which thickets you just left for the possums because they were too sour or too bitter. One thing almost all the local selections of this species had in common was that they were found as thickets because the original tree would sucker profusely. Some lucky fellow in Florida found one that didn't sucker nearly as much and tasted really good, as Chickasaw plums go. This is 'Gutherie'.
Type: P. angustifolia (Chickasaw plum)
Rootstocks used: own-rooted
Orchards grown in: Apex, NC & Pittsboro, NC.
Notes:
Fruit quality: Flavor is sweet and tart with sharply tart skins and some slight bitterness near the pit. Clingstone. Rather low Brix, but with distillation, might make an interesting schnapps/ eau de vie. Nice aromatics. 'Gutherie' plum jam is a family favorite.
Fruit appearance: Beautiful pink-red that turn brighter translucent red as they ripen Yellow flesh.
Harvest season: Early. Unfortunately, their ripening almost exactly coincides with peak Japanese beetle populations, so without control the fruit on the trees are sometimes just balls of beetles... disgusting. There are effective organic controls, so one need not spray ripening fruit with nasty chemicals to ripen this plum in the South.
Bloom season: Early, but it almost always has a crop, even if there is a late Spring frost, it manages to pull through with some plums.
Pollination: May be self-pollinizing, but in my orchard, there were quite a few Japanese plums that were potential pollinizers as well.
Diseases: Disease-resistant to bacterial leaf spot and canker and black knot. Just a very healthy tree.
Precocity: Precocious; first fruit set in *** year.
Productivity: Very productive, even if you don't thin.
Growth habit: Vigorous, forms a tall bush whose width is equal to its height. A beautiful tree for the landscape as well as a useful tree for the kitchen.
Chilling requirement: Low? *** hours.
Bottom line: Highly recommended, especially for those that don't want to work too hard for delicious plum pies and jams.
References other than my own experience:
Mail-Order Natives


Hanska
Breeder(s): N.E. Hansen, South Dakota Agricultural Research and USDA.
History: Introduced in 1908. When we bought our trees, they were labelled as "plumcots" and you can find several catalogs today that still sell them this way. However, they actually have no apricot background. This confusion comes from the fact that people used to call the Chinese P. simonii plums, "apricot-plums" for their taste and texture which they thought was reminiscent of apricots. Not grasping the subtlety of the difference, nurseries propagated hybrids of P. simonii, and sold them as plumcots. See entry in The Plums of New York for more information.
Type: P. americana X P. simonii
Rootstocks used: unknown standard
Orchards grown in: Coal Mountain, Georgia.
Notes:
Fruit quality: Flavor is richly sweet, seeming to confirm the fake news by the lying media that this plum is part apricot. Very juicy. When I ate these plums, I thought I had never tasted anything better.
Fruit appearance: Dark red and yellow flesh.
Harvest season: *** in Coal Mountain, Georgia.
Bloom season: ***.
Pollination: I'm not sure. Our trees were in an isolated orchard with the only other plums nearby being 'Stanley' and 'Damson'. It could be that poor pollination contributed to the poor fruit set of our 'Hanska' plums, because neither European plum would be expected to provide good pollen due to chromosome number differences. Wild Chickasaw plums may have provided the pollen for the few fruit we managed to produce.
Diseases: Our trees didn't have any major disease problems that I remember.
Precocity: I don't remember.
Productivity: Very shy bearers, but we might not have provided the right pollenizers.
Growth habit: Vigorous.
Chilling requirement: Moderate. x00 hours.
Bottom line: Recommended for trial as a fresh-eating plum. They were fantastic tasting.
References other than my own experience:
Pioneer Nursery Company catalog. New Ulm, Minnesota.
The Plums of New York

Imperial Epineuse
Breeder(s): chance seedling found in an abandoned monastery near Clairac, France about 1870.
History: see entry in The Plums of New York.
Type: European Gage
Rootstocks used: Krymsk™ 1 (a P. tomentosa x P. cerasifera hybrid also known as VVA1)
Orchards grown in: Pittsboro, NC.
Notes:
Fruit quality: Flavor is bland and tart. Prunes made from this tree were also sour and unpleasant. Clingstone.
Fruit appearance: Beautiful blue with a notable suture and golden flesh.
Harvest season: ***.
Bloom season: ***.
Pollination: Needs another compatible European plum as a pollinizer. In my orchard, I had only 'Pearl' and 'Geneva Mirabelle' as potential pollinizers and I got fruit.
Diseases: Disease-resistant to bacterial leaf spot and canker. Also showed no black knot damage while I had the tree. I removed the tree due to the poor fruit quality.
Precocity: Precocious; first fruit set in *** year on Krymsk™ 1 rootstock.
Productivity: Productive.
Growth habit: Vigorous, tall, although my tree on Krymsk™1 rootstock flopped over easily and required staking.
Chilling requirement: Moderate? *** hours.
Bottom line: Not recommended. Whenever only one tree is involved, it is impossible to say whether or not another location might have shown its true potential, but it didn't look promising to me.
References other than my own experience:
The Australian Nurserymen's Fruit Improvement Company (ANFIC)
The Plums of New York.

Methley
Breeder(s): South Africa.
History: Introduced to America in 1922.
Type: Japanese X American Chickasaw hybrid?
Rootstocks used: ***
Orchards grown in: Coal Mountain, Georgia.
Notes:
Fruit quality: Flavor is sweet and rich, but with notable tartness in the skin and near the pit. Good-very good for fresh eating.
Fruit appearance: Light purple-red with red flesh.
Harvest season: Early, sometimes early enough to escape Japanese beetles and curculios (partially) in Coal Mountain, Georgia.
Bloom season: Somewhat before 'Methley', but they overlap enough that it will get pollinated.
Pollination: Self-pollinizing and a good pollinizer for other Japanese plums.
Diseases: Resistant to bacterial canker, but very susceptible to black knot.
Precocity: Precocious; first fruit set in *** year on ***rootstock.
Productivity: Very productive.
Growth habit: Vigorous, upright with lots of branches. Crotch angles tend to be narrow, yet the tree is able to hold amazing amounts of fruit with minimal limb breakage.
Chilling requirement: Low, less than 250 hours.
Bottom line: Recommended good plum for beginners or those that have room for only one plum tree. 'Spring Satin' or 'Gutherie' would perhaps be better choices for some tastes, but this is a contender. You will have to manage the black knot and as with all plums, the curculios.
References other than my own experience:
Dave Wilson Nursery.
Stark Bros. Nursery

Morrisville
Breeder(s): Unknown.
History: This plum is probably known by some other name, but I haven't figured it out yet, so I named it 'Morrisville' after the town where I discovered the tree. I used to commute through Morrisville, North Carolina on my way to North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Across from the Morrisville fire station was an old white house with a plum tree in the small backyard. Every Spring it was covered with a beautiful cloud of white blossoms and every Summer it was loaded with red fruit. No one seemed to care for the tree, yet year after year it was loaded with fruit. Finally, I stopped one winter's day and asked the fellow that came out if I could cut a few branches. He said, "Sure" and confirmed that no one sprayed the tree or paid it much notice. I grafted these scions and the young trees soon fruited. My family, I and several folks at work were so pleased with the delicious flavor of these plums that I grafted more and gave them away, as well as planted some in my other orchard. This is a type of plum that should be preserved and propagated.
Type: Japanese or possibly a Japanese X Chickasaw hybrid
Rootstocks used: Pixie. (Not really recommended for plums, but it was what I had and it worked.) I grafted later trees onto Krymsk™ 1 and they did look a bit better.
Orchards grown in: Pittsboro, NC orchards A & B.
Notes:
Fruit quality: Flavor is richly sweet and heavenly perfumed. They are quite juicy and their tender skin has only the faintest hint of tartness.
Fruit appearance: Beautiful purple-red with golden flesh.
Harvest season: ***.
Bloom season: ***.
Pollination: I'm not sure about its pollination requirements. The original tree was near another Japanese-type plum and my trees had abundant pollination partners around. I had just planted some new trees in my other orchard where there were no pollination partners. They bloomed only twice and I got no fruit, but one of those years we had a late Spring frost that would have prevented fruiting. One of the recipients of the trees I gave away swore that he had no other plums in the neighborhood, yet got fruit.
Diseases: Disease-resistant to bacterial leaf spot and canker. Heat-tolerant. Also showed no black knot damage while I had the tree. One tree was likely killed by armillaria root rot, but the other was still producing well when we left North Carolina.
Precocity: Precocious; first fruit set in *** year on Pixie rootstock.
Productivity: Very productive. Care must be taken to prevent overbearing which will reduce the quality of the fruit and the size of the following year's crop.
Growth habit: Vigorous, tall upright-spreading habit.
Chilling requirement: Moderate? *** hours. It never showed any signs of insufficient chilling.
Bottom line: Recommended.
References other than my own experience:


Pearl
Breeder(s): The famous Luther Burbank, Sebastapol, California.
History: Introduced in 1898 as a seedling of 'Agen', but this is highly unlikely because it shares almost no characteristics with 'Agen', whereas it clearly is in the 'Reine Claude' group. see entry in The Plums of New York for more information.
Type: European Gage
Rootstocks used: Krymsk™ 1 (a P. tomentosa x P. cerasifera hybrid also known as VVA1)
Orchards grown in: Pittsboro, NC.
Notes:
Fruit quality: Flavor is richly sweet with abundant sugary juice and a tender skin. Clingstone.
Fruit appearance: Beautiful golden with golden flesh.
Harvest season: ***.
Bloom season: ***.
Pollination: Needs another compatible European plum as a pollinizer. In my orchard, I had only 'Imperial Epineuse' and 'Geneva Mirabelle' as potential pollinizers and I got fruit.
Diseases: Disease-resistant to bacterial leaf spot and canker. Surprisingly heat-tolerant. Also showed no black knot damage while I had the tree. My tree was likely killed by armillaria root rot.
Precocity: Precocious; first fruit set in *** year on ***rootstock.
Productivity: Productive.
Growth habit: Vigorous, tall spreading habit.
Chilling requirement: Moderate? *** hours.
Bottom line: Recommended for the connoisseur who is willing to put in the extra effort. Not really happy in the South, but so good that some may want to try growing it. Perhaps someday, someone will breed for Gage plums that are well-adapted to our climate.
References other than my own experience:
The Australian Nurserymen's Fruit Improvement Company (ANFIC)
The Plums of New York.

Spring Satin
Breeder(s): Dr. Dick Okie, USDA-ARS, Bryron, GA.
History: Introduced in 2002.
Type: Japanese plum X apricot
Rootstocks used: Unknown standard
Orchards grown in: Pittsboro, North Carolina.
Notes:
Fruit quality: Flavor is sweet and rich with only a slight tartness in the skin. They really combine the apricot sweetness well with the more tart Japanese plum.
Fruit appearance: Purple with yellow flesh.
Harvest season: Early, *** in Pittsboro.
Bloom season: Early, partially overlapping with the apricots.
Pollination: Needs another Japanese plum pollinizer.
Diseases: Resistant to bacterial canker, and bacterial spot. I've had to cut out a little black knot on one tree next to the woods, but very little.
Precocity: Precocious; first fruit set in *** year on ***rootstock.
Productivity: Very productive.
Growth habit: Vigorous, many upright watersprouts. Requires significant pruning. Dwarfing rootstock recommended. Spreading over time with the heavy crops. Beautiful springtime blossoms.
Chilling requirement: Low. x00 hours.
Bottom line: Highly Recommended. You will have to be vigilant in protecting them from curculios and prune them well, but you will be rewarded with a tree that does credit to your landscape and your palate.
References other than my own experience:
Adams County Nursery.
Stark Bros. Nursery

Stanley
Breeder(s): Cornell University.
History: Developed in Geneva, New York in 1926..
Type: European prune plum
Rootstocks used: unknown standard
Orchards grown in: Coal Mountain, Georgia.
Notes:
Fruit quality: Flavor is sweet and perfumed, juicier than any prune plum that I've purchased at the store, including commercially-grown 'Stanley' plums. Freestone.
Fruit appearance: Purple with waxy whitish bloom, making it look more blue; greenish-yellow flesh.
Harvest season: *** in Coal Mountain, Georgia.
Bloom season: ***.
Pollination: Self-pollinizing.
Diseases: I don't recall us having any major disease problems with these trees. Of course, curculios are always a threat to stone fruits with the partial exception of the earliest-ripening ones, which 'Stanley' is not. In years when the frosts didn't get the blossoms, the curculios took the entire crop. The few plums we got were when a favorable Spring combined with a dedicated spray program being followed by me.
Precocity: ***; first fruit set in *** year on ***rootstock.
Productivity: Very productive further north, but my Dad had almost 30 trees and we got maybe 7 plums out of the whole orchard over the orchard's lifespan. The trees were yanked out with the tractor.
Growth habit: Vigorous, upright, often with narrow crotch angles.
Chilling requirement: High for Piedmont region of NC and below. 800-900 hours. The trees on my Dad's farm never showed signs of insufficient chilling, but we had higher elevation and it was 40 years ago, when we got more cold weather at that latitude.
Bottom line: Not recommended. The site for my Dad's orchard was poorly chosen (South-facing, if I remember correctly). We were quite inexperienced then. They were among the first fruit trees my Dad had ever planted. Nevertheless, in the South, these plums tend to bloom too early and be too sensitive to the frosts during bloom when they come.
References other than my own experience:
Stark Bros Nursery.
Dave Wilson Nursery

Starking® Delicious™
Breeder(s): ***.
History: Discovered in 1931 and introduced by Stark Bro’s in 1951.
Type: Japanese
Rootstocks used: unknown standard
Orchards grown in: Pittsboro, NC.
Notes:
Fruit quality: Flavor is mildly sweet with a tough tart skin and some bitterness near the pit. Flavor lacking, despite the claims in catalogs. Only fair for fresh eating. We didn't try cooking with them, but it seems that their bland flavor would be a detriment in that department as well. Clingstone.
Fruit appearance: Dull red with red-purple flesh.
Harvest season: ***.
Bloom season: Needs a pollinizer. Produces good pollen for other Japanese and Chickasaw plums where the bloom times overlap.
Pollination: Needs another Japanese or Chickasaw plum as a pollinizer.
Diseases: Disease-resistant to bacterial leaf spot and canker. Heat-tolerant. Also showed no memorable black knot damage while I had the tree.
Precocity: Precocious; first fruit set in *** year on ***rootstock.
Productivity: Very productive.
Growth habit: Vigorous, tall spreading habit.
Chilling requirement: Low? *** hours.
Bottom line: Not recommended. It just lacks flavor.
References other than my own experience:
Stark Bros. Nursery