COMMON NAMES: MEXICAN PLUM, BIG TREE PLUM, INCH PLUM
BOTANICAL NAME: Prunus Mexicana
PRONUNCIATION: PROO-nus mex-ee-KAHN ah
FAMILY: Rosaceae (Rose Family)
TYPE: Small to medium deciduous flowering and fruiting tree.
HEIGHT: 20 to 30 feet
SPREAD: 15 to 20 feet
FINAL SPACING: 15 to 20 feet
Photo by J. Johnson
HABIT: Showy white flowers in spring and orange fall color. Exfoliating bark and graceful branching structure. Small edible plums. Has thorns.
CULTURE: Easy, any soil, drought tolerant.
USES: Specimen garden tree, understory tree, spring and fall color.
NATURAL HABITAT AND PREFERRED SITE: Most of the eastern half of Texas in a wide range of soils, in full sun or as an understory tree, in fencerows and free standing in open areas.
IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION: Mexican plum is a good-looking ornamental tree with white spring flowers, orange fall color, beautiful exfoliating bark and an irregular branching structure.
FLOWERS AND FRUIT: Flowers are white, ¾ to 1 inch in diameter in early spring before the leaves. Fruit matures mid-summer through fall. Fruits are round one-inch edible, thick plums that are used for jellies and jams more than for eating fresh. Mature fruits are a dark-purplish red with a whitish surface bloom.
Photo by J. Johnson
BARK: Tight and metallic gray when young becoming scaly and rough with age. Older trees have lovely brown papery exfoliating or scaly bark. Mature bark becomes very rough and deeply furrowed.
FOLIAGE: Leaves are alternate, simple and deciduous. Fall color ranging from yellow to a beautiful orange color. Leaves are 2 to 4 inches in length, smooth, dark green above, lighter beneath, sometimes folded over and sometimes look like they are drooping from lack of water. Flowers are fragrant. Fruit ripens in the fall sometimes becoming completely mature in September.
CULTURE: Mexican plum is an easy to grow ornamental tree that is drought tolerant, requires little fertilizer and does well in sun or shade.
PROBLEMS: A few insects chew on the leaves occasionally but the tree doesn’t have major pest problems when planted in fairly healthy, well-drained soil. It is rather difficult to transplant from the wild except for very small trees.
PROPAGATION: Primarily from seed planted fresh immediately after harvest in the fall, seed can be cleaned and stratified at 41 degrees for 60 to 90 days before planting in the spring. Mexican plum can also be grown from dormant hardwood, softwood, semi-hardwood and root cuttings. Semi-hardwood and softwood cuttings made in the summer root the easiest. For landscaping it’s best to plant container grown trees.
INSIGHT: Common edible plum Prunus salicinia, is a fairly easy fruit tree to grow in well-drained soils that have been made healthy with the Basic Organic Program. These trees grow from 15 to 20 feet and are one of the easiest of the fruit trees to grow. Check the appendix for the Basic Organic Fruit Tree Program. Plums, like other fruit trees grown in Texas as food crops, have a variety of insect and disease problems when the soil is not healthy, Healthy soil is the key. Some of the best varieties for Texas are ‘Methley’, ‘Morris’, ‘Bruce’, and ‘Santa Rosa’. Purple plum – Prunus cerasifera is a purple foliage ornamental tree that has pink blooms in the spring. I no longer recommend this plant anymore because it just simply doesn’t live long enough to be a good investment.
NOTES: Wonderful tree, being used more and more. Smaller-growing hog plum is less desirable. Native from Oklahoma to Mexico.