This post is meant to serve as an intro to the Myrobalan Plum.
When we think about plum trees, we’re most apt to think of the two mainstream varieties- Japanese and European. For me, Japanese plums conjure up images of my grandmother’s Santa Rosas in springtime, whereas Europeans bring pictures of glowing green Parfume de September.
But there are a few oddballs out there. Whereas the most popular trees are from Europe or Japan, one relatively common plum variety hails from regions from western China to the Caucuses- the Myrobalan plum, or as you may know it, the cherry plum.
Today, we’ll be answering all the questions you may have about this odd one out and looking at how they’re grown and maintained.
Myrobalans and their Flowers
While a juicy plum is always delightful, some gardeners are in the amateur orchard scene for the springtime shows. Plum tree flowers bring a floral vibrancy that just can’t be matched by other fruiting trees.
Myrobalans, especially, are known for their beautiful flowers, which bloom sometimes as early as mid-February and March.
And these aren’t just any blooms. Myrobalan plum trees are unique in that their canopies come alive with a purplish hue in the springtime.
While many plum tree varieties bloom white- nothing special- Myobalans are often cultivated for ornamental purposes due to their brilliant foliage, which resembles the coveted Japanese Sakura tree.
And these spectacular blooms will stay with gardeners for a remarkably long time. Flowers come and last from mid-February to March or April. Their blooms are real show-stoppers that attract the eyes of passers-by.
For all this reward, gardeners often pay in a serious time investment. Myrobalans are just like any flowering tree in that their blooms will eventually fall, and when they do, things can get quite messy.
When blossoms fall, they create a slick, messy layer of decaying petals that can be a pain to clean. Keep Myrobalan plum trees away from sidewalks and cars to prevent unwanted messes and even damage from the plum pits.
Plums are also a bit of an investment in that they take quite a bit of maintenance. Inadequate maintenance of a Myrobalan can lead to a lackluster blooming season.
If your blooms are dropping like flies, you might want to consider a few pre-emptive measures come next season.
For one, Myrobalans require well-fertilized soil. If soil lays unfertilized early in the season, blooms will be insecure and unhealthy, falling earlier. Fruit trees also require loving maintenance in regards to soil moisture. Proper irrigation can reduce blossom loss and give you a healthier, more vibrant plum tree.
The Myrobalan, or Cherry, Plum
Humans consumed Myorbalans more heavily in the days before more plentiful fruit trees were cultivated. Since then, Myrobalans have fallen out of fashion because of their low flesh-to-pit ratio. That doesn’t mean they’re not a delicious treat. It just means they’re not as common.
Some gardeners raise Myrobalans without other trees to pollinate them, meaning they’re unlikely to see fruits. However, when some accidental pollination does happen, they’re not sure if they can eat the fruits. They may, after all, be like crab apples.
Thus, some gardeners miss out on tart fruits that would make excellent additions to jams and jellies.
In fact, Myrobalans are so uncommon that some see their irregularly tiny fruits and question if they’re even edible. This is nonsense, and if someone’s told you otherwise, they’ve spun you a yarn. Just because Cherry plums aren’t as common in American kitchens as other breeds, it doesn’t mean they’ll hurt you.
Well, they might hurt your dogs, but we’ll get back to that.
Cherry plums are a tart breed that some gardeners find to balance out their sweetness very well. There’s a tart smack in these fruits for every sweet embrace, and some people aren’t fans of that.
Cherry plums are also less fleshy than other breeds, so if you’re looking for mountains of sweet plums, you’re best to look elsewhere.
So, you might be wondering- if I planted a myrobalan tomorrow morning, when would I start picking fruits?
Plum trees require four to six years to mature and bear fruit in late summer (from around May to September). If you want to pick delicious cherry plums, be on your toes in the warm months of the year- you don’t want them rotting on the ground.
Growing Myrobalan Plum Trees
With proper maintenance, a plum tree will produce stunning flowers and tart cherry-like fruits. However, it is a rather picky tree, so owners should be careful to keep it well irrigated and fertilized.
Fertilizing a plum tree in spring is crucial to keeping your blooms healthy and producing sweet fruits.
Myrobalan plum trees should be fertilized with a half-cup of 12-6-6 fertilizer in early spring if you’re getting insufficient growth. This time-release fertilizer contains sufficient amounts of nitrogen to keep your plum tree healthy. Think of it as a multivitamin for your plum tree.
Plum trees require deep water absorption in the soil to stay healthy. Plum trees should be watered thoroughly about the base every two to three weeks. Water should penetrate to a depth of 24 inches.
Also keep in mind that Myrobalans only fruit on new wood. Because of this, you must prune their outer branches.
If you want to keep your Myrobalan plums fruiting and blossoming, make sure to remove dead branches from around the base.
Dead branches house aphids and other harmful insects, damaging a tree’s flowering nodules and causing an unimpressive or even non-existent bloom.
Myrobalan plums should be pruned in the early months of spring, before bud break. Make sure to prune branches only if they have not produced fruit. The others can fend for themselves.
Finally, as a rule, you should keep your dogs far away from two things in this world- chocolate and plum trees.
Myrobalans, just like any other plum tree, contain Hydrogen Cyanide, which is poisonous to dogs. If your dog has gotten into a plum tree, you should take him to the vet immediately.
If you simply need a flowering plum tree for your house, make sure to plant it in a part of the yard the dog can’t get to and where the wind can’t blow the fruits or leaves his way.
All in All
All in all, Myrobalan plum trees have delightfully tart little fruits and a bursting purple canopy. If properly maintained and irrigated, they’re lovely fruit trees for both ornamental and practical purposes. And no, they aren’t toxic- unless you’re a dog.