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Plums for the Prairie

Cherry plums were developed for the Northern Great Plains. They are hardy and tolerate drought.

Cherry plumsCherry plums might be the easiest to grow tree fruit in North Dakota.

Hybrids between sandcherries and plums, they were developed to survive the extreme weather of the Northern Great Plains. Cherry plums are extremely hardy (Zone 3), resist drought and will bear fruit after only two years. Perfect for us!

The trees grow only 6 to 8 feet tall and can be spaced 4 to 8 feet apart. Give them a sunny spot with well-drained soil. 

The fruits are just over one inch in diameter (larger than a cherry and smaller than a plum). They are used in making jams and jellies.

Cherry plums are self-unfruitful and more than one cultivar is needed. Many cultivars have been released over the past 100 years, but cherry plums are difficult to propagate. Only a few cultivars are readily available. Popular choices include:

Compass. Reddish fruit with juicy, yellow flesh. Good for jams and sauces. Good pollinator. From Minnesota.

Red Diamond. Red-purple skin with deep red flesh. Sweet, thick flesh. Developed in Minnesota.

Sapalta. Dull purple skin and flesh. Nearly freestone. Very productive. Canadian introduction.


Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Published in the NDSU Yard & Garden Report, September 1, 2014. The photo was made available under a Creative Commons license specified by the photographer: donkeycart.

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