Plum Overview

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The Plum industry in New Zealand is growing rapidly as plums are sought after in a number of high returning markets. Plums store well and can be shipped by sea freight, lowering costs. They can be challenging to grow.


Plums are generally divided into two types:

  • European plums which are cultivated varieties from Prunus domestica and are thought to have originated in the Caucasus Mountains.
  • Japanese plums which are cultivated varieties derived mostly from Prunus salicina. This species arose in China.

Many inter specific hybrids also exist and these mostly have salicina like characteristics. We refer to them as Japanese type for convenience. The parentage of both general types are complex.


Plums flower early in the season and consideration to damage by frosts must be given. In general, European plums are more frost tolerant than Japanese types. Disease susceptibility and vigour varies widely within plum varieties. Care needs to be taken with variety and site selection.

Japanese plums are susceptible to both bacterial spot (Xanthomonas prunii p.v. prunii) and bacterial canker (Pseudomonas syringae pv.).


European plums are regarded as self fertile with some notable exceptions, however, cross pollination is recommended to get full crops.

Japanese plums on the other hand are mostly self infertile, many varieties require specific pollination and some varieties only have value as highly fertile pollen donors, the fruit being of little commercial value. Many of this type of pollinator are planted at a ratio of 1:9.

Much of the breeding of Japanese plums has been undertaken in climates which have no selection pressure for bacterial disease resistance and these varieties can be difficult to grow in New Zealand’s relatively mild, wet conditions.


There is still room for varietal improvement and agronomics and McGrath Nurseries are actively involved in this search.

See variety sheets on this website for further information on specific varieties.

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