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All About The Beach Plum Tree

The Beach Plum Tree is a native American plant that is most often associated with growing wild on the sandy easy coast dunes. Fragrantly sweet spring blooms give way to tiny purple fruits in August proliferating the seashore with yummy goodies to forage.  Exceptional for making jams, jellies, and wine, the Beach Plum, or Prunus maritima, was a staple food source for early American settlers. The tradition of growing and eating these delightful little purple jewels continues today.

Beach Plum Shrub
Beach plum blossom in spring

The Beach Plum

This charming compact shrub is found growing wild on the east coast of the US. Most coastal residents are familiar with the Beach Plum’s springtime blossoms and its small and tart, edible fruit. Also known as the Seaside Plum or Sand Plum, the Beach Plum is a welcome addition to the home orchard. If you don’t leave near the shore and miss out on the opportunity to harvest these wild fruits, you can easily grow them in your own backyard.

Beach Plum Shrubs
The beach plum is a common maritime shrub of the Northeastern United States which grows in sandy, coastal soil

In early May, the Beach Plum bursts forth with beautiful white blossoms that perfume the air with a sweet aroma. Once pollinated, the white flower petals morph into a delicate pinkish hue. As a landscape plant, the spring blossoms are a beautiful signal that Mother Nature is ready to reward you with her gifts.

In August, the tiny purple jewels ripen into sweet and tart treats. Best know as a preserve plum, many gardeners enjoy them fresh eaten off the branch.

Beach Plum Habitat

Beach Plum Fruit
Beach plum, prunus maritima, fruit ripening on leafy green branch. The deciduous shrub is native to sandy souls of the east coast of the United States. The tart fruit is used to make jam.

A Native American shrub, the Beach Plum is a low growing, dense, multi-stemmed shrub with a mature height and spread of 5 to 6 feet. They make a wonderful plant and can be used in a multiple of garden landscaping settings. Forming a dense thicket, this shrub is perfect to use as a border plant to define property lines or garden areas. A hedgerow of Beach Plums are a showstopper when they early spring blooms appear heralding the arrival of Spring. The Beach Plum makes a fun specimen plant when grown as an ornamental and mixed with other non-edible plant options. 

The Beach Plum habitat extends from hardiness zones 3 through 6 making it wildly popular in the northern United States. The shrub is salt tolerant which is a unique characteristic for a fruiting plant increasing its location options. These super low maintenance, drought tolerant shrubs are super easy to grow throughout many parts of the north and central US.

Plant the Beach Plum in a bright, sunny location with good drainage. They thrive in full sun with a sandy or loamy soil. Their preference is for a slightly acid soil with a pH between 6 and 7. This amazing little plant produces an abundant crop even in nutrient deprived soil. Regular irrigation is not required, so planting these rugged shrubs away from a trusted water source is perfectly okay. 

The Beach Plum is a suckering shrub that will quickly fill in and become a dense thicket. It requires little maintenance, yet still puts forth an abundant crop with very little attention.

In the late summer, the shrubs produce their trademark bluish to dark purple fruits that can carry a sun catching red tint. The small fruits measure less than an inch in diameter making them a mouth popping quick snack. The flavor can range from sweet to tart and sometimes slightly cross the border to a tiny bit bitter. 

In autumn after the flush of fruit, the Beach Plum colors the landscape with a riot of red, yellow, and orange leaves. 

This three season stunner is a win-win combination of beautiful, fragrant blooms; makes a delightfully dense border; rewards you with yummy fruits for very little work; and puts on a colorful fall extravaganza. What more could you ask for in a garden plant.

Pruning Your Beach Plum Shrub

For quality fruit production, a light, annal pruning for your Beach Plum is recommended. Prune in late winter or early spring while the shrub is still dormant. A good rule of thumb is to prune for a central leader or open center shrub formation. This allows for easier harvest, elevates the fruit by keeping off the ground, and provides the plant with balanced sunlight throughout the shrub. Additionally, in winter remove dead or damaged branches. This will help keep a clean habitat and open up the bush for good air circulation

If you are planting for harvest, biennial fruiting can be a concern. To mitigate the on again/off again production, proper pruning and fruit thinning can be a major help in creating a consistent yield. 

Pollination For The Beach Plum

The Beach Plum attracts pollinators like bees and other flying insects. The plants are self sterile and depend on bees and other pollinators to induce fruit production. Additionally, other native fruiting plants can provide a good cross pollination partner.

Avoid selecting a site that has frost pockets or low spring temperatures, as this can inhibit pollination and reduce fruiting.

Beach Plums And Random Munching

Beach Plum foliate contains hydrocyanic acid which can be poisonous to animals that munch on the leaves. This can be a consideration if you have livestock or very curious pets in your garden yard.

Additionally, like all Prunus specie plants, the seeds are poisonous and should not be eaten. Toxin sensitivity is relative to each individual and their body composition. Care should be taken with these small little gems to insure young children do not ingest the seeds. 

How To Prepare Your Beach Plums

Beach plums for sale.
Fresh picked Long Island beach plums at a summer farmers market to make jam or jelly

If you grew up on the east coast, you would often find Wild Beach Plum Jam at local farmers markets, or even you grandmothers kitchen. The sweet plummy goodness on your morning toast brings back wonderful memories of beach combing and sun loving, toes-in-the-sand days at the shore. 

A glaucous fruit, the Beach Plum produces a pale waxy or powdering coating on the fruit when ripe. It is also referred to as plum bloom. It helps protect the fruit from rot and is easily rubbed off before eating.

The Beach Plum is also know to provide some well needed health benefits. It offers high levels of Proanthocyanidinsm compounds which are known to have antibacterials qualities. These compounds can aid in maintaining urinary tract health. 

If you are looking for something a little different, try Growing A Greener World’s Simple Plum Syrup. With a few every day ingredients, you can turn your bumper crop of Beach Plums into a unique sweet pancake or ice cream topper. Wouldn’t plum syrup make an exceptional gift for your family and friends!

Want to reach back into the early American cooking roots, try a batch of Beach Plum Jam. Loaded with natural pectin, the plums do not require the addition of a commercial pectin product. Simply place your Beach Plums, sugar to taste, and a little red wine or fruit juice like pomegranate to add flavor and some liquid. Boil until the plum skins split. Process through a food mill or cheese cloth to remove the skins and seeds. Cook the strained mixture until thickened — about 30 minutes. Chill. Pour into Mason Jars and process in boiling water until the lids pop — about 5 minutes. For more plummy jam recipes, check out 21 Plum Recipes That You Can Make At Home.

Preserving your own dishes is the best way to control what goes into your food. Homegrown, organic fruits and vegetables are the best nutritional products you can eat, not to mention, they taste way better than store bought.

Purchasing A Quality Beach Plum

Small Beach Plum Tree on the Beach
Beach Plum tree growing slanted on sand dune

Growing a Beach Plum from seed is not a guarantee of producing a prolific fruiting specimen. Not to mention it will take several years to discover if your home-grown shrub can produce fruit.

This tough and rugged beach plant can thrive under the harsh conditions of its native coastal habitat, so it is safe to say it will thrive in your home orchard. Look to Nature Hill Nursery for your very own Beach Plum. Whether you are purchasing one as a landscape ornamental or several to create a living border fence, you will be delighted you have Beach Plums growing in your home orchard.

You will be surprised at the versatility of this landscape stunner that provides fun miniature plums for your fresh eating. As a happy bonus, the Beach Plum allows you to showcase your preserving talents for friends and neighbors.

Keep in Touch

Minnetonka Orchards is your go-to source for your orchard plant selection and tree and shrub care recommendations. We offer planting tips and recipe ideas to ensure you have the ultimate fruit grower experience. We hope you enjoyed this Beach Plum review and imagined yourself sitting on an east coast beach surrounded by the delightful Beach Plum Shrub. 

Wishing you happy garden planing, bountiful harvests, and amazing homegrown eats!

Sean

Monday 30th of August 2021

Can Long Island beach plums grow in Florida?

Steve

Wednesday 21st of July 2021

I live in Central Maine, planted a Beach Plum 10 years ago that is healthy but has never produced any Plums. It receives plenty of sunlight, I wonder if it takes two in order to cross pollinate? Any suggestions would be appreciated

Grace

Saturday 24th of July 2021

Hi Steve, Beach plums do require cross-pollination. They are self-sterile and you need two for cross-pollination. I'd suggest planting another Beach plum nearby (maybe buy a sapling rather than a small whip so that it flowers sooner) and hopefully you'll see fruit within a few years! Also consider evaluating whether your orchard/backyard is a pollinator-friendly environment - maybe adding a few wildflowers would encourage pollinators to come around more throughout the blooming season.