Best Plum Varieties For Backyard Gardeners

Growing fruit in our backyards is fun, especially when it tastes better than store-bought. Plums are a great example. Northern gardeners can grow tree-ripened plums that are sweet and juicy, and the small trees easily fit into homeyards.

Plums are small-scale trees, only growing to an average of 15 feet high and wide, smaller than most apple trees. They can be planted about 12 to 15 feet apart, and their low-headed nature creates screening for  backyard borders. Two different varieties of plums are needed to produce fruit: not two of the same type. They needn’t be in the same yard; if a neighbor has a different plum variety, that will work.

The exception is Mount Royal Plum, which is self-fruitful, producing fruit even if it is a lone individual. Mount Royal does not work as a second pollinator tree for the other types listed below.

Here is a list of the recommended plum varieties for the Upper Midwest. All are winter-hardy in zone 3, with the exception of Mount Royal, which is considered zone 4. All should be available by shopping around at local garden centers.

  • Superior – large size, red skin, outstanding quality.
  • Black Ice – Large fruit, dark blue skin, sweet, juicy. Natural dwarf only 10 feet high.
  • Underwood – Large size, red skin, sweet and juicy.
  • Pembina – Large fruit, oval shape with red skin, sweet and juicy.
  • Waneta – Large fruit, yellow/red skin, good quality, reliable fruiting.
  • LaCrescent – Medium size fruit, yellow skin, juicy, excellent quality.
  • Alderman – Large fruit, burgundy skin, sweet, good quality, vigorous tree, bears well.
  • Toka – Medium sized fruit, red skin, very good pollinator, good quality.
  • Pipestone – large fruit, red skin, spicy flavor, good quality
  • Mount Royal – the hardiest of the Italian-type blue plums (zone 4). Self fruitful. Excellent quality, sweet and juicy. Has received excellent reviews in regions south of I-94.

Now the most difficult part is deciding which of these great plums to plant. Happy Gardening!