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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Saturday - May 04, 2013

From: Simonton, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Transplants, Edible Plants, Trees
Title: Wild plum tree failing to bloom from Simonton TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a wild plum tree that has been in the ground for 3 or 4 years and it has not ever flowered. Why? I don't know what kind it is. I dug it up from a friends yard. Her wild plum trees have flowered. She lives in Jasper,TX and I live in Simonton, TX.

ANSWER:

Our Native Plant Database has Prunus americana (American plum) (also known as Wild Plum) in it, but this USDA Plant Profiles Map does not show it growing natively in Texas at all. However, it apparently does grow in both Louisiana and Arkansas, blooming in April and May and preferring moist, rich, well-drained soils. Since you and your friend both live in East Texas, it is possible this is the same tree.

The first thing to determine is what the Growing Conditions for Prunus americana (American plum) are and whether they match both planting spots.

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Moist, rich, well-drained loams."

Common names (like "Wild Plum") are tricky, so we thought we would look at this another way. True plums belong to the Prunus genus, of which there are 14 native to Texas. However, of this 14, only 4 are native in or near both Jasper and Ft. Bend Counties. We will list these, with the USDA Plant Profile for each. What we are looking for is a soil or climate difference that might be causing the failure to bloom of your plant.

Prunus angustifolia (Chickasaw plum) Map blooms Feb. to May. Likes dry, loose, sandy soils

Prunus gracilis (Oklahoma plum) Map blooms March to May, dry, well-drained woodland soils

Prunus mexicana (Mexican plum) Map blooms Feb. to March, dry to moist well-drained sandy soil

Prunus umbellata (Hog plum) Map booms March and April, dry, acid-based soil.

If you have very different soils from those your friend has, and the plum tree you have does not tolerate those soils, that could be the problem.

We could not find out at what age members of the Prunus genus commonly begins to bloom. Your plant may not be old enough yet.

Finally, your tree may be suffering from transplant shock, which can occur years after the actual transplant. If it was transplanted in hot weather, kept dry and out of the ground too long, or had too many broken rootlets, any of those could be stressing the tree. And don't fertilize it. Native plants, in the right soils, ordinarily do not need fertilizer. A high nitrogen fertilizer, like grass fertilizer, will encourage green leaves and discourage flowering.

 

From the Image Gallery


American plum
Prunus americana

Chickasaw plum
Prunus angustifolia

Oklahoma plum
Prunus gracilis

Mexican plum
Prunus mexicana

American plum
Prunus americana

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