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Propagating Wild Plum from runners

 
Posts: 184
Location: Zone 4 MN USA
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I have two american wild plum bushes in my orchard area, now 4 years old. For the first few years they did very little, and seemed to be destined as a nice little 3'-4' bush, then last year they did the year 3 "leap", and now they are 10' tall and putting out a massive amount of runners everywhere, plus fruit, which is nice.
I will be needing to thin some of the runners out. Nothing against them, I just don't need 30 wild plums in the orchard.
My question is has anyone had experience propagating wild plum from these suckers?
Are they worth digging up and transplanting?
Can I graft other plums onto them?
Wait til fall or spring dormancy or can i give it a try now?
Anything else I should know?
Thanks!
 
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Certainly you can dig them and transplant them. They will take a graft just fine. Personally I would bud them instead of grafting, as it seems to have a much higher success rate with stone fruit, but grafting works too. It would probably be best not to graft/bud at the same time as transplanting as it would give them a double shock.

My grandfather use to bud the suckers/runners before transplanting, but my preference is to transplant and then bud the next summer/spring. You can bud now but the bud won't grow till spring, or you can bud in the late winter. Off the top of my head, I can't remember when it is best to graft, but I think it corresponds with when the sap starts to flow in the spring.

Transplanting is usually done in the fall or early spring. Fall is great for places with mild winters like where I live, but spring works best in many other parts of the world, especially if you have a way to water them through the first summer or two.
 
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Hi Russell

I guess you talk about Prunus americana, that I've never seen, but I can share what I know firsthand about the propagation of another semi-wild plum: Prunus domestica ssp. Insititia. My family has grown them in backyard gardens in the last 60 years at least.

We have a success rate of propagation from suckers that is ridicoulosly close to 100%. We transplant suckers during dormancy (late fall or beginning of spring). With late spring transplants you have at least a year of stunted growth. I would never try to transplant them during growing season, but I guess they would somewhat survive.

Trees propagated from suckers can be productive in 4 years, while trees from seed can take 7 years or more to bear a good yield.

Prunus insititia, as well as many others “wild” plums like Prunus spinosa, Prunus cerasifera, Prunus americana etc etc, are widely used in commercial fruit tree nurseries as rootstock for any cultivar of plums. Prunus insititia plums are used as rootstock for apricots as well.
 
Russell Olson
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Thanks for the tips.
I think I will wait until fall dormancy, I can take my time with finding places for them that way.
I will definitely attempt the bud graft method also. I'm in propagation mode right now but I will want to graft up lots of things in the coming years.
 
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You could bud them in the summer, after the fruit is finished - so long as they are big enough. I like to wait till they are two years old, but every arborist seems to have their own style and timing. Best thing to do is to try lots of different things and find out what works best for you and your conditions.

Let us know how it goes.
 
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There is a notion out there that Prunus americana (I don't know about Prunus nigra) is only graft-compatible with Japanese and hybrid plums which is just not true. They make a fine hardy rootstock for Euro plums too and a few northern nurseries use them as rootstock for Euros (Saint Lawrence for example). Anyhow, P. americana is the only rootstock I use here in Iowa. It does sucker some but is easy to propagate whether by seed, sucker or cuttings (I prefer seed for genetic diversity...but I'm an opportunist). In the past I have grafted suckers in spring, then transplanted the following spring. And though I haven't tried it in that case, I do like fall planting and find it gives things a real head start in spring as roots continue to grow long after the leaves have dropped and trees are "dormant". I would advise earlier fall planting since you're further north, maybe late September? Perhaps when leaves are starting to turn rather than after they've dropped.

Cheers!
 
Russell Olson
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an update on this:
I got many, many runners this past season, I left a few larger ones in places among my orchard they fit, dug up maybe 20 and distributed them among the property. Hopefully some take as well as the parents did.
I definitely think this is good example of a potentially multi-use plant that is hardy, adaptable, and delicious.
 
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I have 4 Prunus subcordata that I hope to naturalize my property with.
 
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My Asian plums and European plums (Italian prunes) both make suckers. They are great for permaculturalists because you can give a tree away to someone else.  I got mine for $1 this way.  I also made a damson plum tree from a cutting that was leaning out into the street (public property), planted it in the fall and it grew into a very productive tree, that can even produce in part shade.  Like R Ranson, I live in the PNW, across a border line, though.  Certain Asian plums do exceptionally well here, and they are considered highly medicinal in traditional Chinese medicine.  They are much easier to grow here than peaches, nectarines, or apricots.  Here on the wet side of the mts., they are considered fruit trees of heartache, if you actually want healthy productive trees.   Grafting is great to get the best varieties. I agree that budding has a higher take rate than whip and tongue grafting, although since they occur at different times of the year, I do both. One of my friends swears by bark grafting, but one typically needs a few scions for that.  He gets almost 100% take, but then again he is a very precise engineer with a Stanford degree, so we're not all exactly in that category.  I don't need 100% take for it to be worth my while.  The European plums are my wife's favorite fruit, as you can dry them, can them, freeze them, and when you cook them the flavor changes.  The Asian ones are great for fruit salads or even to put in a smoothie or a green salad.  I feel extremely blessed when I look out at a yard of many different colors of delicious plums.  That means lot of different polyphenols and antioxidants too.  Flavor and health in the same beautiful package!
John S
PDX OR
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