Flowering plum trees are small trees that are grown for their ornamental flowers and colorful autumn leaves rather than their plums. They produce masses of pink or white flowers in early spring. There are many different types of these decorative trees and some do bear edible fruit. Flowering plums look very similar to flowering peach and cherry trees.
The mature flowering plum tree produces thousands of flowers that can be either four petaled single blooms or doubled. The double flowers resemble small peonies, and both types usually have bright pink streaks in the center of each petal. Plum blossoms last just a few days until they drop off and create a blanket of flower petals on the ground. The colorful leaves add interest to the fall landscape, turning bright red, purple, or bronze after the first frost.
These showy fruit trees require several hours of direct sunlight each day, and need to be planted where they have plenty of room to spread their branches. Full-grown flowering plum trees may reach up to 25 feet (7.6 m) across, so they should not be planted close to houses or other structures. They are wider than they are tall, with most trees reaching just 15 to 20 feet (4.6 to 6 m) in height. There are, however, dwarf plum tree cultivars that are much smaller.
Caring for a plum tree is generally easy, as it is very low maintenance and resistant to most insect pests and diseases. A light pruning should be done in early spring, removing only dead branches or those that are nonproductive to encourage bushy new growth. Pruning should never be done in the fall, since immature flower buds may be removed and the tree may not bloom at all the following spring.
Flowering plum trees can survive very cold winters as well as hot summers. They benefit from a layer of thick mulch to keep the soil moist and also to protect the roots from snow and ice. Tree wraps are useful during winter to prevent the sap within from freezing, which can cause the trunks to split. The wraps should always be removed in spring as soon as all danger of frost has passed.
These trees are often planted along city streets or in commercial landscapes where they blend well with other spring flowering trees. They also look beautiful when planted alone in a large yard. Children often enjoy their shade while watching the butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds that the plum blossoms attract in droves.