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Bruce Plum Tree: A Red Varietal

Gorgeously plump, bright red fruit hanging heavily on the branch is at the heart of every gardener’s orchard dream. A Japanese plum tree varietal, the Bruce Plum Tree, (Prunus salicina x angustifolia ‘Bruce’), is an easy growing plum that produces beautiful fruit early in the season.

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Bruce Plum Tree

All About The Bruce Plum Tree

The Bruce Plum Tree is an early ripening, must have fruit tree for southern gardeners. Ready to harvest in early June in many locations, the Bruce Plum Tree rewards gardeners with a richly colored, red plum. Sweet and mellow, the flesh is a deep yellowy orange and the sweet-tart ruby red skin combine to make this a perfect taste sensation. You will be delighted with this plum and look forward to its early season ripening each year.

Hardy in zones 5 through 9, this heat loving beauty is perfect for fresh eating but cooks up well in preserves and cobblers. The Bruce Plum Tree has good disease resistance making it an easy tree for fruit growers who are new to orchard growing and a tried and true variety for the expert gardener.

Early each spring, your Bruce Plum will put on a flush of lovely, bright white spring blossoms decorating your landscape with their delicate appearance. 

The tree is a compact size, growing from 10 to 20 feet high at maturity and 12 to 15 feet wide, depending on your pruning regimen. These sun loving trees love well drained soil and a good pollination partner to produce an annual bumper crop. 

Where They Grow

Your Bruce Plum tree loves heat coupled with low frost conditions. This tree loves to sunbathe requiring a solid 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Conversely, it only needs about 500 chill hours to reset and break dormancy making it the perfect southern plum. 

Plant in a well drained and heavily composted soil. The Bruce Plum Tree is very drought tolerant once the tree is well established and has developed a good root system. Avoid planting your tree in low areas that are prone to chilly air pockets. Select a location in a sheltered area that can block freezing winds if necessary. A high, hilly slope in an area not prone to early frost is also a great option. 

Since this plum tree can be pruned to keep it small, it is an ideal space saver for the urban gardener. Adaptable to planting in containers, the Bruce Plum can be a great addition to a patio orchard too. How much fun would it be to select a beautiful, ripe plum from the tree while lounging on your favorite patio chair.

If you have hot dry summers and only an occasional early frost, the Bruce Plum deserves a spot in your home orchard. The Bruce Plum Tree is a standout in a hot summer region and easy for the home gardener to grow. Comfortable in the heat of the great southern states and just as at home with the high southern humidity, this should be on your orchard growing list.


Bee on a white plum flower
bee or honeybee on white plum tree flower.

The Bruce Plum Tree is not prolifically self fruitful. You may accomplish some fruiting without a cross pollinator, but for the best results, add another plum tree to your garden. Cross pollination with a Japanese type plum is the best method for fruiting and will increase your yield immensely.

The Methley Plum is a good pollination partner. Since it ripens slightly later than the Bruce, together they will give you an extended harvest making them a great pair.

Of course, we love bees, they make the best pollinators. If you have hives or a nearby friend that keeps bees, your fruit trees will be in pollination heaven. If you don’t want the added work of caring for a large hive, try erecting a Bee House. It will give your friendly pollination buddies a place to rest in between flights to and from their hive and your gorgeous plum trees. 

You can read our review of the Methley Plum Tree, Bruce’s perfect dance partner. The Methley Plum Tree is easy to grow and a perfect tree for plum tree orchard novices.

Fertilizing Your Plum Tree

The Bruce Plum Tree likes well drained loamy soil with a slightly acidic pH. Using a balanced fertilizer will aid in growth maintenance and fruit production.The Bruce also is fond of a ring of organic mulch to assist the soil in retaining moisture and controlling weeds.

Do not use a harsh commercial fertilizer on your tree when you first plant it. A more gentle approach for a young tree is something more organic like grass clippings. They work well at controlling most weeds as well as add nutrients back into the soil. Bark mulch is also a good option.

Bruce Plum Tree History

The Bruce Plum is a cross with the Abundance Plum, a Japanese cultivar, and the common American Chickasaw Plum variety. The Bruce Plum Tree was introduced to North America by A. L. Bruce of Donley, Texas in 1929. The American hybrid has been a favorite of souther gardeners ever since. 

Pruning And Thinning

Pruning a Plum Tree


The Bruce Plum Tree prunes easily into a beautiful vase shape. Framework pruning during the first three years of growth will help form the shape of your tree and establish its form. This common vase shape is ideal for fruit trees allowing maximum branching at the top and leaving a good headspace under the tree. This allows the home gardener to plant companion plants below, thereby increasing your garden square footage. 

To form a vase shape, begin with 3-5 main scaffolding branches that have various levels of sub branching. The three-year process of formative, or framework, pruning is best accomplished with late winter pruning. By pruning the outward facing new growth, you can influence the vase-like shape of your plum tree. 


Thin immature fruit out in a heavy crop year by 50 percent to increase the size of the mature plums, and improving the quality of your harvest.

Plum Tree Diseases

Plum trees tend to be very disease resistant and with early detection and thoughtful care your plum tree will lovingly bear fruit for many years. 

There are only a few common plum tree diseases. We have covered the typical and atypical ones to look out for in our post on Plum Tree Diseases — What to Watch for and How to Protect Your Plum Tree. This informative primer on general plum tree disease care is a quick read filled with great insight into caring for your plum tree. 

How To Prepare Your Bruce Plums

Plum tiramisu dessert
Plum tiramisu dessert

Wine red with a richly balanced flavor, Bruce Plums are delicious eaten fresh from the tree. When you harvest bushels of these stunning freestone fruits, you will have plenty to share with friends and family and transform into yummy recipes.

Plum trifle is a simple and quick method to use these delectable fruits. Of course, you can make you own jam and cake if you are handy in the kitchen, but you can also make a super simple trifle that is easy, flavorful, and delicious. Layer diced and macerated (allowed to soak in sugar at room temperature) plums with cubes of pound cake or lady fingers and then whipped cream. Voilà, a colorful, fresh and fruity dessert made from your very own, homegrown plums.

Bruce Plums are perfect prepared as jams and preserves. Their wonderful color and sweet flesh make them an excellent fruit for jarring. Also used in fresh baked goods, these beauties are stunning in cobblers and tarts.

Where To Purchase Your Plum Trees

The Bruce Plum Tree can be found at various online nurseries:

 and it’s very best pollination partner, the Methley Plum Tree are available from Nature Hills.

Once you receive your tree, be sure to select a sunny spot in your yard to offer optimum growth opportunity. Your Bruce Plum Tree will reward you with a beautiful bounty of stunning wine red fruit year after year.

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