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The Santa Rosa Plum Tree: Everything You Need To Know

Plums: they’re a tasty, sweet addition to your kitchen. They make healthy snacks, go well in baked goods, and if you’re adventurous, can be canned and enjoyed all year. If you’ve ever considered buying a plum tree, you’ve probably considered the famous Santa Rosa.

This article will explore whatever questions you may have about the Santa Rosa plum tree, how to take care of it, and what makes it such a pleasure to own. We’ll also look at the reasons why the Santa Rosa plum tree is better than other plum tree varieties.

Looking to buy a Santa Rosa Plum Tree? Check availability here.

Santa Rosa Plum Tree

How Big do Santa Rosa Plum Trees Grow?

Santa Rosa plum trees are a hardy variety with a hefty height potential. They can grow up to 25 feet with adequate nutrition, but orchards usually choose to prune them to keep the fruits in reach. 

With proper pruning, a pruning ladder can easily reach the fruits when the tree comes of age. Pruning your plum tree will keep its canopy contained, and it will remain a beautiful, productive addition to any gardener’s backyard.

Rows of Plums Trees

If a tall, noble tree is what you want, however, you can bet that this tree will reach for the sky. A tall tree provides cool shade for a picnic table or lounge chair, and there’s nothing better than the sound of ripe plums thumping against the ground.

How Fast do Santa Rosa Plum Trees Grow?

Santa Rosa Plum trees have a one-year advantage in maturation time over the average plum tree. Santa Rosas will mature in three to five years, whereas average plum trees take four to six years to bear fruit. 

With an advantage like this, it’s not hard to see why gardeners so often choose the Santa Rosa.

What Pollinates the Santa Rosa Plum Tree?

Many fruit trees are un-self-fruitful, meaning that they need other trees around them to cross-pollinate them before they start to fruit. With the Santa Rosa plum tree, you don’t have to worry about this. Santa Rosas pollinate all on their own. For this reason, they make a spectacular standalone fruit tree for a smaller yard.

But just because they can stand alone doesn’t mean they have to. These hardy trees work as excellent pollenizers for un-self-fruitful plum trees and can produce greater yields if planted next to other Japanese tree varieties. You can grow a beautiful amateur orchard with the help of these little trees or pick a couple of delicious fruits come fruiting season.

Santa Rosa Plum Tree Infographic.

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Santa Rosa Plum Tree Infographic.

Is the Santa Rosa Plum Sweet?

Yes! Santa Rosa plums are delightfully sweet and have a pleasing tartness to them, which balances out the sweetness. Gardeners can emphasize their sweetness by putting them in baked goods or into frozen smoothies by freezing them.

Do Plum Trees Bear Fruit Every Year? 

No, plum trees do not produce fruit every year, and Santa Rosas are no different. Luckily, failures to bear fruit are often the result of repairable factors like weather, insects, and disease. There are certain things you can do to keep your plum trees fruiting relatively reliably. 

Plum trees might not fruit because of temperature. On the one hand, your plum tree might not get enough dormancy. On the other, it might have undergone too many freezing temps, and the buds may have frozen off- this also kills the fruit. Aphids and other insects are also a common problem, chewing the trees’ terminal ends and destroying fruit potential.

To fix these issues, you might try trimming your tree’s base for weeds and tall grasses. These provide a home for harmful insects. You might also try proper irrigation and soil fertilization. Phosphorus helps trees to fruit, so buying a phosphorus-rich fertilizer like bone meal might help.

Do Santa Rosa Plums Fruit on New Wood?

Yes, Santa Rosa plums fruit on new wood, and it is crucial to keep your tree properly pruned for maximum fruit production. To do this, simply prune the upper sections of your branches each year. 

Do I Need Two Santa Rosa Plum Trees to Produce Fruit?

Nope! The Santa Rosa is self-fruitful, meaning it can pollenize itself without even having other plum trees nearby. A Santa Rosa makes for an excellent standalone addition to a garden or amateur orchard. 

However, Santa Rosas produce a more bountiful harvest if placed next to other Japanese varieties of trees. So, if you’re looking for a fruitful harvest, it might be better to have a few friends hanging around just to promote the health of your Santa Rosa.

How do you Care for Santa Rosa Plum Trees?

Santa Rosa plum trees, or Prunus Salicinas, are somewhat picky. They are full-sun trees that require good irrigation and fertile soil. Here we’ll talk about what your plum tree needs to survive and thrive and how you can give it what it needs.

Gardener in the dirt

Plum trees are full-sun trees, meaning that they need at least six hours of direct sunlight every day to thrive. Putting a plum tree in a shady area can prevent growth and even kill the tree. Keep plum trees away from the shady sides of houses and out of the shade of other trees. 

Santa Rosas also prefers a soil Ph of 4.5 to 7.5. To achieve this, gardeners can use nitrogen fertilizer, irrigating directly after fertilizing. Gardeners can seek out specific high-nitrogen varieties, but fertilizers meant for fruit trees are also widely available and come with fertilization directions on the bag. 

Remember also that Santa Rosas requires 500 chill hours. Other USDA estimates put the chill time at 300 hours below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. While we don’t often think of cold weather as a necessary part of growing, it is for plum trees.

Santa Rosas grow in USDA zones 5-9. This means they get the right mixture of chill hours and warmth in regions from the lower end of New York to the lower end of Florida. Growing outside of these regions can complicate the growth process irreparably. 

Lastly, plum trees need to be pruned to encourage fruiting. It is best to prune when your tree is dormant- when the canopy is bare. Pruning keeps plum trees a manageable size and helps to energize new buds for fruiting. 

Why is the Santa Rosa Plum Tree More Popular than Others?

Santas Rosa plum trees are the most popular plum tree for amateur gardeners, and for good reasons. Santa Rosas are hardy across a broad range of locations and work for a wide variety of gardeners. From New York to Florida, gardeners find that Santa Rosas produce reliable crops. 

One reason Santa Rosas are so popular is that they are self-fruitful. Un-self-fruitful trees require one or many other trees in their vicinity to cross-pollinate and produce fruit. Santa Rosas can fruit all by themselves, so gardeners don’t need an amateur orchard to grow sweet, fresh plums.

Additionally, Santa Rosas have a vast growing range. Gardeners in colder climates may think that the sweeter, softer fruits are out of their range, but Santa Rosa plums can grow anywhere from Michigan to Texas.         

If properly pruned, gardeners also find that Santa Rosas produce the most bang for their buck in terms of space. These trees take up very little space and can be kept to a manageable height while producing bushels of fruit. Well-kept tres can yield two bushels of fruit if pruned and fertilized correctly.

Where to Buy Santa Rosa Plum Trees 

Santa Rosa plum trees are a popular variety, and gardeners can find them at many different online nurseries. Some of our favorites include:

If you’re a dedicated plant caretaker, you might like to try raising a plum tree from a pit. To do this, you can either pit your own Santa Rosas with a pitter or buy plum pits on their own.

Tools for Pruning Santa Rosa Plum Trees 

Pruning Tools

The tools you use for pruning your Santa Rosa will depend on how large you let it get. If you allow it to grow to its full 25-foot monster height, you might need some heavy-duty equipment. If you keep it little, you won’t need anything more than a good hand trimmer.

Taller trees have higher branches and thus require bigger tools. For more towering plum trees, you can use a pruning saw. However, keeping your plum tree to a manageable height can make the job easier and open you up to smaller tools.

If you keep your plum tree dwarfish, a good pair of pruning shears will do the job. However, older gardeners often find that shears don’t have the leverage they need to chop off a particularly overgrown branch. For this, you might consider a pair of loppers.

In the modern era, any gardener can find a useful tool for accomplishing his pruning goals. Pruners also come in automated forms and on the ends of poles. A quick Amazon search for pruning tools will do the trick.

So, whether you’re working with little space or an orchard, old or young, a Santa Rosa will prove a manageable and fruitful tree with a rewarding and sweet harvest.

Excited for more plum content? Then check out our plum trees page for the latest growing tips, care guides, recipes, and more!

Pamela rivas

Wednesday 7th of June 2023

I’m in California central coast. My plum tree planted 2years ago has two olive sized fruits today. I don’t get much cold weather being 3 miles from the ocean. Will it do okay?


Monday 12th of June 2023

Santa Rosa needs 300-500 chill hours, so you'll need to check on that for your location.


Wednesday 25th of January 2023

I am hoping to move to NC within the next few years, and I am eager to plant a plum tree or two! I am unbelievably excited to use this information, thank you so much!

Donald Wawro

Saturday 11th of December 2021

What are good friends for the Santa Rosa? Live 8n Springdale Arkansas.


Saturday 12th of February 2022

Santa Rosa is a self-pollinator, so no need for a pollinator match. Burbank would probably help with pollination.

Or are you thinking more ornamental?


Tuesday 1st of June 2021

Do you know if Santa Rosa plums tend to bear fruit in alternating years. It seems like one year we will get a huge harvest from our tree, and the next year only about 6 to 8 plums. We get plenty of chill hours and fertilize every year. The tree seems healthy, so the lean years are puzzling to us.

If it isn’t that, then my next best guess is that sometimes winter breaks before the bees are out in full force to pollinate. (It has also been a lean year for our apricots).


Saturday 24th of July 2021

It's common for fruit trees to bear more fruit one year and then take a year to store up energy. To even out your harvest, try thinning the fruits when they are small and green - the tree can focus on ripening a smaller crop then and save more energy for the next year's harvest. Hope that helps!


Friday 12th of February 2021

I have a 4 year old semi dwarf weeping Santa Rosa plum. I am in zone 9B (Escondido CA). The tree is roughly 12 feet tall. I have only lightly pruned it since planting it 3 years ago. It has about 8 small limbs off of the main tree that weep towards the group (6 at the top of tee and 2 about mid way up) plus quite a bit of smaller growth where zillions of fruit buds are. The weeping limbs at the top are well separated and going in different directions away from the main tree. The 2 limbs mid way up the tree are on the same side of the tree and only divurge from each other slightly. For pruning, I am thinking that I don't want to touch the weeping limbs and want to trim back the growth with the fruit buds as far as I need to in order to prevent them from reaching the ground. Is that enough pruning?


Sunday 14th of March 2021

Hi Steve - I agree, yes, that sounds reasonable!