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Growing French Plums

Growing these stunning blue-purple sweet French Plums will make you the envy your gardening gang. They are easy to grow, produce copious amounts of fruits, and are packed with plummy goodness fresh from the tree. French Plums have a sweet and richly complex flavor that make them perfect for enjoying fresh from the tree. Additionally, they are great for baking yummy treats, stewed into sauces, or fermented into a sweet libation.

French Plums
Blue and violet plums in the garden on wooden table.

Your French Plum Trees Will Transport You

Growing French Plum Trees will transport you right to the heart of southern France. Plums are a staple in French cuisine, both fresh eaten, cooked, and dried. Every southern France home orchard sports several sprawling, craggy old plum trees either as ornamental centerpieces or functional hedgerows.

Plum Branch
Tiny french village in the sun during spring

In days gone by, these plums were the staple of winter, providing dried sweet treats to the locals. Expert gardeners dried the plums allowing the fruits to store over the winter — way before refrigeration was an everyday appliance, thereby giving them fruit options during the non-harvest months.

The climate and soil composition around the southwestern French town of Agen is perfect for growing French Plums. This region is famous for its exquisite plum production. Growing your own French Plum Trees makes you want to don a jaunty red beret while you harvest these little beauties and share them with your friends.

When Is A Plum A Prune

Language can be tricky and the difference between a plum and a prune has everything to do with whether you speak English or French. 

Merriam-Webster’s definition of a prune is: “a plum dried or capable of drying without fermentation.” However, in France plums are called prunes. They call what we consider prunes as pruneaux.

Confusing I know, but growing these lovely little purple jewels should definitely be on your orchard planting list. It doesn’t matter what you call them, they are still a nutritious and delicious bite.

Varieties of French Plum Trees

There are two popular varieties of French Plum Trees. Our best advice is to plant one of each. They will cross pollinate while providing a varied and extended plum harvest.

Both of these French Plum Trees will greet each spring with a showy froth of delicate white blossoms. They make beautiful ornamental trees in your home orchard while providing you with a yummy harvest. 

French Petite European Plum Tree

Photo: https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/beautiful-plump-juicy-organic-plums-hanging-1179381889

The French Petite European Plum Tree is a classic heritage fruit tree with a gorgeous bluish skin and amber flesh. 

It is a popular, late season variety, ideal for drying into prunes. The delectable dried fruit is sweet with a rich, complex flavor profile. They are so sweet and contain enough natural sugar to dry organically in the sun without applying a fermentation process. Plan to dehydrate a portion of your yield, so you have the best go-to snack available all winter long.

The French Petite European Plum is hardy in Zones 4 through 9 and requires 800 chill hours. They love to be planted in full sun and require at least six hours of sun or more per day. A nutrient rich, well drained soil will keep your plum tree healthy and provide a wonderful growing spot where your tree’s bounty will be enjoyed for years to come. 

At maturity, these plum trees can reach heights of 10 to 15 feet and similar spreads. The late harvesting fruit tree should begin to bear beautiful, medium size fruit within 2 to 5 years. 

French Improved European Prune Tree

The French Improved European Prune Tree is another late season plum that is sweet and richly flavorful, These dark purple gems are some of the best eating plums in home orchards today.

Grown in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9, with an 800 chill hour requirement, this variety can reach mature heights of 12 to 15 feet. Full sun is required, and the trees prefer well drained soil, however, based on the root stock, you may find some are more tolerant of wet soil than others.

Optimum fruit production will take 3 to 5 years, but is well worth the wait for these aromatic, sweet treats. The French Improved European Prune Trees harvest is later season, around mid to late August. 

Pollination

French Plum Trees are partially self-fruitful. They are not great self pollinators and will produce more prolifically if given the opportunity to cross pollinate. They require another European variety like the French Petite European Plum TreeFrench Improved European Prune Tree, or Green Gage Plum for best pollination.

Japanese plum trees are not pollination partners for the European varieties. 

History Of The French Plum

The French Petite European Plum is also known as the Petite D’Agen plum. This plum was brought from the French town of D’Agen to California in the mid-1800s as a scion from France from the Agen Plum French Variety. It was introduced to the US by Pierre and Louis Pellier when they traveled to San Jose, California in 1956. The brothers arrived during the height of the Gold Rush and started a nursery with the cuttings they brought with them from France. There began American’s love affair with European Plums which continues today.

What Is Plum Bloom

The frosty look on the plum skin is known as bloom. This silver white dusty coating acts as a barrier against pests and bacteria. The wax like bloom is critical in sealing in the fruit’s moisture. In general, plums are naturally resistant to pests and many diseases, making them a fairly low maintenance fruit tree option.

A sign of the plum’s freshness, the bloom fades over time. 

Eating

European Plums can be stored for a few weeks before they begin to lose their freshness. Of course, their firm golden flesh is best for fresh eating straight from the tree. These plums are very sweet, with a rich flavor and tender, fine textured flesh. They lend themselves to all types of preparations including drying and baking, preserving and for making sauces. Plums also make amazing liquors. 

Drying Your French Plums

Dried Plums
Dry plums in a wooden bowl.

The French love their pruneaux d’Agen and you will too. The stigma in the US with prunes is a sad fact of advertising pigeon-holing, Prunes are a delicious sweet treat and not just for seniors!

Drying imparts a deeper flavor with a slightly chewy texture but still so sweet and pleasant to eat. They offer a happy side benefit; they are healthy for you too.

Plum Recipes

Popular in a clafoutis or a plum sauce that has been cooked down, they are delightful served with meats. A sweet plum sauce over ice cream is a sensational fall dessert.

Not sure what to make with your plum harvest, try one of our 21 Plum Recipes That You Can Make At Home. It is a good place to start your plum research for a delicious and tasty recipe.

Vieille Prune

Plum Wine

Making Vieille Prune, plum liquor, is a traditional French process to use up all your excess plums. It is the perfect way to take advantage of a bumper crop of French plums while enjoying a little libation reward.

If you love experimenting with fermentation, working out a recipe for plum brandy should be high on your to-do list. This sweet, after dinner sipper is a home run on a chilly winter evening while you sit by the fire and dream of next year’s garden design. 

Start Growing Your French Plum Orchard Today

Plant your European French Plum Trees this year, and you will be rewarded with a bountiful harvest in no time. 

Always select a trusted vendor when purchasing your fruit trees. You want to be assured they are grafted onto strong root stock, have been carefully tended, and will thrive when you plant them in your home garden.

We recommend purchasing your fruit trees from Nature Hills Nursery because they are a trusted source of excellent trees. Choose two varieties to ensure you have the best crop you can grow. The French Petite European Plum Tree and the French Improved European Prune Tree will grow together and work as a team in your garden landscape. Additionally, you can add the Green Gage Plum for a third production partner.

Join The Conversation

We are always delighted to hear from our readers. Let us know what fruit trees you are interested in growing, and we might add them to our growing anthology of fruit posts. You can email us at [email protected].

Be sure to bookmark our page and visit often. We are continually updating our fruit tree listings, you might just find your next favorite, must have variety. 

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