What Is a Santa Rosa Plum?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Known for its silky pulp and vibrant flavor, the Santa Rosa plum is a popular fruit, often found in the late summer. Bred by the famed horticulturist Luther Burbank, the plum is named for the town of its origin. Excellent as a cooking and eating plum, the Santa Rosa plum is rarely planted commercially, but often available through farmer's markets and artisan growers.

Slightly over-ripe Santa Rosa plums are ideal for making a sweet plum jam.
Slightly over-ripe Santa Rosa plums are ideal for making a sweet plum jam.

Unlike commercially-grown dark purple plums, the Santa Rosa plum tends to have a deep reddish color with a white or grey bloom on the skin when ripe. The flesh is typically pale yellow with a reddish tinge around the bottom of the fruit. When purchasing, the buyer should look for firm, bright red plums that are not too dark or squishy. To ripen an unready plum, simply place it in a paper bag, tie the bag shut, and leave at room temperature for a day or two.

Luther Burbank, best known for developing the russet potato which remains the standard for baking and french fry production, introduced the Santa Rosa plum in 1906. Though it spent several decades at the top of the commercial market, the variety began to lose popularity in the mid-20th century. The tree is now a favorite of small growers, and as a self-pollinating tree, can easily be grown by novice gardeners in temperate climates.

Santa Rosa plum trees can often be purchased from nurseries or garden centers, and are generally planted after the final frost of the year. Mature trees can reach over to 20 ft (6 m) in height, and require yearly pruning. The plum tree loves full sunlight, and can tolerate many types of soil. Fruit typically appears when the tree is three years old, though trees in cooler climates may take a few years longer to begin fruiting. Plums begin to form in early summer, and are usually ripe by late July or early August.

Suitable for a variety of cooking purposes, the Santa Rosa plum can also be eaten directly off the tree. An exquisite plum jam can be made with the fruit, particularly with slightly over-ripe plums that will add intense flavor to preserves. Plum crumbles, crisps, and cobblers frequently use this variety of plum, and firm specimens can even be glazed with honey and grilled over a barbeque for a delicious, low calorie dessert. The plum goes well with other summer stone fruit, such as peaches, nectarines, and apricots.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


@feruze-- Yes, he used already existing Japanese plum strains to make the Santa Rosa plum. He actually founded more than one hundred new types of plums and lots of other fruits and berries!

I've made frozen ice from Santa Rose plums before. It was really good. When Santa Rose plums are ripe, they are very soft and mash really easily. That's why they are perfect for making ice cream, frozen ice and smoothies. It's also great for cobbler. All of these come out sweet and a little tangy and I really like it.


I've tried many different plum varieties and this is definitely one of my favorites. I like having it fresh, by itself or in a fruit salad. I think it would be great as frozen ice too but I haven't tried it yet.

I learned that Santa Rosa plums originated in China and were then taken to Japan. It is categorized as a Japanese plum now.

Why is the credit given to Luther Burbank if this plum already existed before? Or did Burbank use Japanese plums to bred a slightly different one, being the Santa Rosa plum?


It's a shame that Santa Rosa plum is no longer popular and available commercially, because it is a lovely fruit. The scent and flavor of ripe Santa Rosas are gorgeous. My mom makes a pie with the fruit from our Santa Rosa trees every year. It's sort of become a family tradition for us.

Even though I wish I could find the fruit in grocery stores, maybe it is a good thing that it is only found in specialty farms and markets. I'm sure that if it was commercially grown, the flavor would not be the same and we need to shop from and support farmers markets too.

I'm lucky because my mom and dad love growing and caring for fruit trees. I'm not usually around but my parents pick the Santa Rosa plums, peaches and berries that we grow and my mom makes great desserts, jams and jellies from them.

Post your comments
Forgot password?