Cut back on Japanese plums in the fall

It’s time to prune my Japanese plums (Prunus salicina) when the leaves turn color and fall off. The goal is to remove branches that have reached the desired thickness as well as wire branches that are bendable.

Here’s an example.

Plum 1 before pruning

Tree #1 before pruning

Plum 1 after pruning

Tree #1 after pruning and wiring

These plums are about eight years old and in the middle of their development. I want the trunks to grow, but I’m not sure how big I want them to get.

I’ve had time to consider the style or shape these trees may take as I’ve watched the trunks take shape over the years. My current approach is to focus on creating a movement where the branches would otherwise grow straight, rather than making the trunks fit into a basic style.

Plums growing in the landscape can have both straight and curvy growth, but I prefer the curvy movement. It has a cultivated appearance, but it reminds me of some of the first plum bonsai I saw many years ago.

Here’s another example.

Plum 2 before pruning

Tree #2 before

Plum 2 after pruning

Tree #2 after pruning

Tree #2 after wiring

Tree #2 after wiring

These trees were grown entirely in containers and are now in three-gallon pots. I’d get faster results if they were growing in the ground, but working on them in containers is easier.

Plum 3 before pruning

Tree #3 before

Plum 3 after pruning

Tree #3 after

The current plan is to let the trunks develop for at least another few years before focusing on branch development. Meanwhile, I’ll let the trees grow naturally until summer when I’ll check to see if they need pruning or wiring again.

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