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Damson PlumPrunus institia

  • Damson Plum - Prunus institia
  • Damson Plum - Prunus institia
  • Damson Plum - Prunus institia

The Damson plum tree has many traits that make it a fine choice for the homeowner, including a low and compact crown, tolerance to different soils, cold hardiness, resistance to diseases and the ability to thrive with little or no care. Not to mention the fact that the tart, juicy plums are excellent for home canning.

While the Damson plum is self-fertile and doesn't require another tree to produce fruit, planting two trees is recommended for a better crop.

Hardiness Zones

The damson plum can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 5–7. View Map

Tree Type

This is a fruit tree, grown primarily for the edible fruit it produces.

Mature Size

The standard Damson plum grows to a height of around 20' and a spread of around 20' at maturity. The dwarf variety grows to a height of around 10' with a spread of up to 10'.

Growth Speed Medium Growth Rate

This tree grows at a medium rate, with height increases of 13–24" per year.

Sun Preference

This tree needs a minimum of 6–8 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The Damson plum grows in a wide variety of soil types and has some tolerance for heavy and waterlogged soils. It prefers a moist, well-drained, loamy, mildly acidic to mildly alkaline soil.


This tree:
  • Produces small, dark blue or purple clingstone fruit with golden yellow flesh that is firm. The flavor can be either sweet or sour, and the plums are great for canning.
  • Yields ripe fruit typically from August to early September.
  • Bears a heavy crop each season.
  • Begins to bear crops in 3–4 growing seasons.
  • Blooms in April, with an abundance of clustered white flowers.
  • Is self-fertile but should be planted in multiples to ensure a better crop.
  • Thrives with little or no care.
  • Tolerates the cold and a variety of soils.
  • Is available in standard and dwarf sizes. Our standard Damson seedlings are budded to Nemaguard and Guardian peach rootstock, and our dwarf seedlings are grafted to Prunus besseyi (Sand Cherry).
  • Features ovate or elliptic green leaves that are finely toothed on the margins.
  • Has a chill hours (CU) requirement of 800. (Chill hours are the average hours of air temperature between 32° and 45° F in a typical winter season.)
  • Grows in an oval shape.
  • Does not require thinning.

Wildlife Value

Plum trees provide food and cover for butterfly larva, birds and mammals.


The damson plum has the distinction of existing virtually unaltered for thousands of years. Its seeds have been found in prehistoric dwellings. It appears in ancient Mesopotamian records and is the plum of the ancient Greek poets. It took its name from Damascus. From there, it was taken to Italy and then to the rest of Europe where it now grows wild and in home orchards.

The strong similarities between wild and domestic trees, and between the descriptions of ancient writers and observations today make this fruit tree noted for its remarkable consistency. The Damson is often grouped with the European plums, but botanists classify it as a separate species. It may be an ancestor of the European plum. Wild plum trees are symbolic of independence. Plum is the national flower of Taiwan, and its flowers are often depicted in Asian art.