When most of us think of plums, we think of small, dark blue or purple fruits with a deep sweetness. But those are far from the only plum varieties! There are hundreds of plums grown around the world, many of which are available to grow in your own backyard.
In this article, we will outline some of the most interesting types of plum trees you can find so that you can make the best choice for your personal fruit orchard, whether you are growing to sell or just for your own enjoyment.
1. Kelsey Plum
The Kelsey plum is a unique plum variety mainly because of its unusual green skin. It got its earliest start in China before moving to Japan and finally to the United States.
The Kelsey plum was further developed on American soil to become the small green fruit that we know today. They are extremely quick-fruiting trees. In the right conditions and in the presence of a pollinator, they can produce fruit in their second year.
The fruit is mild and sweet, with a firm consistency and a freestone, making the Kelsey plum delicious for raw eating or cooking.
2. June Plum
The June plum is a delicious, fast-growing variety that produces extremely large green fruit. Farmers and gardeners love this plum tree because, despite its demanding nature and exacting needs, its large crop yield makes it worth it.
June plums began in the South Pacific before spreading to the Americas. While they were originally large in their native habitat (and still are to this day!) modern June plums grown in the United States are much smaller.
Because they have evolved to live in tropical climates, June plum trees don’t do well in cooler regions. These plums definitely need heat and sun as much as possible.
The Purple Leaf plum tree is popular among landscapers because it is a beautiful sight to behold. With vibrant purple flowers, this plum tree variety is just as lovely an ornamental tree as a fruit tree.
The Purple Leaf plum tree is smaller than most plum tree varieties, almost qualifying as a shrub. The flowers, when they bloom in the spring, are extremely fragrant and will draw plenty of pollinators to your garden.
Although the Purple Leaf plum is edible, it is not very palatable to humans. This variety works much better as a beautiful ornamental in your garden.
The Victoria plum has its roots in Victorian England. Named for the queen and raised on British soil, this sweet purple fruit is linked intrinsically with the cuisine of the United Kingdom.
Of course, you don’t have to live there to grow a Victoria plum tree of your own! This beautiful tree is extremely cold hardy and thrives in USDA growing zones one through three. It produces deep purple fruit with bright yellow flesh and is excellent for cooking and baking.
With a mild flavor right in between sweet and acidic, the Victoria plum is perfect for preserves as well.
5. Wild Plum
The Wild plum is a squat, almost shrublike tree that grows throughout Asia and the Americas. It is a striking sight with its spreading branches, white flowers, and bright purple fruit.
Though it spread without a lot of human cultivation, Wild Plum trees are excellent for growing in your yard or garden. In fact, depending on where you live in the US, your state government might want you to plant it!
Wild plums are edible and delicious. These vibrant purple fruits are extremely tart, which might make them unpleasant to eat raw. But it means they’re perfect for baking and jam!
6. French Plum
French plums are beautiful blue-purple fruits that originated in — you guessed it — the south of France. They are hardy and bear good crops year after year.
People who have tried French plums might find it difficult to describe their rich, unique taste. Suffice it to say that they have a soft flesh and are extremely sweet and juicy, perfect for cooking, preserving, or just eating raw.
These lovely trees bloom with white flowers in the spring before producing a bumper crop of small fruit. While they grow slowly, the delicious plums are well worth the wait.
7. Sour Plum
Sour plums aren’t widely known in the west. But these crunchy green fruits are indispensable in the cuisines of many Asian countries, including China, Vietnam, Japan, and Korea. In fact, if you have visited one of those countries, you may have seen sour plums incorporated into savory dishes or even drinks.
These beautiful plums play an important role in Chinese culture and tradition and are considered a mandatory part of any Japanese garden. This early-blooming variety has striking red, pink, or white flowers that bloom in the late winter. They grow best in warmer climates and are recommended for USDA growing zones six through eight.
The beautiful and delicious Thundercloud plum tree comes from western Asia. It is prized both as an ornamental and for eating, thanks to its bright pink flowers and sweet reddish-purple fruit.
Thundercloud plum trees are quite tall, reaching as high as 30 feet. It has a beautiful round shape that is striking in any yard or garden. This plum variety is an excellent cultivar for growing in regions with mild climates that are neither too hot nor too cold.
Thundercloud plums are sweet with a tart bite. They have soft flesh that is perfect for eating raw or making into jam.
9. Java Plum
The Java plum is known by many names, including the black plum, Malabar plum, or jambolan. This fascinating evergreen in native to India, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka, where it is used both as food and medicine.
This unusual plum tree loves tropical climates. In its native habitat, it grows enormously tall, reaching as high as 100 feet — in just a few decades. When cultivated in other parts of the world, it is about half that size.
Java plums are unlike any plum variety you’ve tried before — deep purple with white flesh and ranging from sweet to extremely sour.
10. Flatwood Plum
The Flatwood plum, also called a Hog or Sloe plum, isn’t well known among home gardeners. That’s because it usually grows in the wild. But this one-of-a-kind fruit tree is a pleasure to grow, so there is no reason why you can’t plant it in your yard.
Flatwood plum trees reach a maximum height of about 15 feet. They have beautiful flowers in the spring, followed by a good crop of fruit.
You’ll love growing these plums, since the trees are hardy and thrive even in cold climates. Though Flatwood plums are very acidic, they are perfect for cooking and preserving.
11. Brooks Plum
The Brooks plum is a lovely tree that is excellent for both fruit and aesthetic value. Bursting into bloom with vibrant white flowers, it produces small fruits that are almost blue in color.
The inner flesh is a warm yellow color. The Brooks plum is extremely sweet and juicy, and many people eat them straight off the tree. Their small size means that you might find yourself eating one after the other.
The Brooks plum is fairly cold hardy and is significantly smaller than many other plum varieties, making it ideal for smaller yards or gardens where there is less space.
12. Toka Plum
The Toka plum is a wonderful variety that might just be the sweetest plum you have ever tasted. In fact, it is sometimes called the Bubblegum plum because it really does taste like bubblegum!
These medium-sized plums have warm red skin and bright yellow flesh. When you eat them, you will understand why fruit is called nature’s candy — they are a perfect treat!
Toka plums are also extraordinarily cold-hardy and can thrive in temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. If you want to grow plums in a cooler region, this delicious variety might be the perfect choice for you.
13. Satsuma Plum
The Satsuma plum is a variety that began in mainland China before spreading to Japan. From there, it spread to the rest of the world and is classified as a Japanese plum to this day.
Satsuma plums are deliciously sweet and perfect for fresh eating or preserving. This white-flowered, fragrant tree is a great choice for smaller gardens or yards, as it usually only reaches about 12 feet tall.
This plum variety needs a good cross-pollinator, so this is the perfect opportunity to plant another Japanese sweet plum tree, such as the Toka, Shiro, or Santa Rosa.
14. Golden Plum
The Golden plum tree is a delightful late-blooming plum variety. It produces bright golden fruit that is exceptionally sweet and juicy, making it perfect for a late summer snack.
This plum variety is ready to harvest in mid-July and into August, long after most other plums have been picked. One benefit to Golden plums is that they are self-fertile, so you can expect a crop of fruit even with a single tree. However, you can significantly increase your harvest with two trees!
These delicious fruits are perfect for eating raw or preserving, thanks to their deep flavor and high juice content.
15. Damson Plum
A Damson plum is a late-blooming fruit variety that is ready to harvest in the late summer and into the fall. These striking bright blue-purple fruits not only provide a delicious snack, but also beautify your garden with their white flowers and vibrant color.
Because they bloom so late in the season, Damson plums usually manage to avoid damage from late frosts.
When newly ripe, Damson plums are intensely sour, though they mellow later in the season. However, you may still find them too acidic to eat raw. Instead, try using them for baked goods and preserves.
What Are The Sweetest Plums?
The Mirabelle plum is one of the sweetest plum varieties you can find. This small, golden fruit is deliciously sweet, with some people even comparing the taste to honey. Though they are not for sale in the United States, you can grow Mirabelle plums in your own garden and experience their sweetness for yourself.
How Should You Cook With Plums?
You can cook with plums in many ways. Cultures around the world incorporate them into both sweet and savory dishes. They are a favorite for making jam, baked goods, stewed fruit dishes, and even pickling and drying.
Some people prefer sour plums for cooking since the fruit sugars break down under heat, resulting in a nice balance of sweetness and tartness. But you can feel free to cook sweet plum varieties, too!
Plums are a delicious fruit eaten all around the world. Growing them in your garden is the perfect way always to have these delicious fruits at hand, no matter how you want to eat them (and speaking of eating them, visit this link for our plum recipes).
Do you have a favorite type of plum? Share it in the comments below!