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Damson PlumPrunus institia

  • Damson Plum - Prunus institia
  • Damson Plum - Prunus institia
  • Damson Plum - Prunus institia
A small, vigorous, rugged, erect growing plum tree. White flowers are borne in umbrel-like clusters of 2-3 on short spurs, and solitary or 2-3 in axils on one year old wood. The later spring bloom time of the flowers makes them less frost prone. The foliage is dark green. Fruit production begins in 3-4 years.This tree bears heavy crops of purplish blue juicy, tart plums that ripens in August to October. Self-fertile. The tree adapts to wide range of soil types but requires moist soil. It is cold hardy and tolerates strong winds. Rainfall and high humidity during the growing season can cause the fruit to crack.Thinning is not necessary for Damson plums. Prune only to remove deadwood, crossing branches, or fast growing shoot that appear along the trunk or branches. (zones 5-7)

Hardiness Zones

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

Tree Type

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

Full sun is the ideal condition for this tree, meaning it should get at least six 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.