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Learn about Beach Plum ( Prunus maritima)

Prunus maritima (Beach Plum): Potted Fruit Plant

How to Plant

Planting Potted Plants: 

  • Choose a location in full sun with well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Beach plums are native to the coastal Northeast and are very salt tolerant. Beach plums produce better with another beach plum nearby. 
  • Space plants 6 feet apart.
  • Dig the hole 2 to 3 times the size of the root ball. 
  • Set the plant in the hole at the same level as it was growing in the pot. 
  • Backfill the hole and press firmly around the base of the planting. 
  • Leave a shallow depression around plants to hold water. 
  • Water deeply. The water will seal off any air pockets around the root ball. 
  • Prune plants back any broken branches.
  • Apply a nitrogen fertilizer 3-4 weeks after planting 2-3 feet away from the tree trunk.

How to Grow

  • Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients. Control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating.
  • Mulch 3 inches deep 3-4 feet around the shrub.
  • Keep plants well-watered during the growing season, especially during dry spells.
  • In spring, before any leaves sprout, apply a granular fertilizer following the instructions on the label. Most new growth will come from the plant’s crown from under the soil. Plants use a lot of energy in spring when new growth begins, so do not let plants dry out.
  • Monitor for pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
  • Protect fruit crops with bird netting as they approach.
  • Fertilize lightly in the spring with an organic granular fertilizer.
  • Prune dead, diseased or crossing branches as needed.

Harvest and Preserving Tips

  • Plants are thorny and sucker and may be used as a hedge.
  • Plants produce white flowers in spring and purple black fruit in late summer.
  • Plants produce fruit every other year. First harvest should be in two years with full fruiting in 4-5 years.
  • Fruit is acidic, tart and juicy but ripen to a sweet flavor. They have pits like cherries and may be substituted for cherries or plums in recipes. Great for jams and jellies.

Common Disease Problems

Bacterial Canker: Gummy, water-soaked cankers appear on branches and the trunk. Fruit develops with dark, sunken areas. This causes them to be more susceptible to brown rot. Cool, wet weather promotes development of cankers after blooming. Burpee Recommends: Cut out diseased wood. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.

Bacterial Leaf Spot: First signs are small translucent spots with a broad yellowish edge that slowly enlarge and become angular or irregularly circular with a reddish center. It thrives in cooler temperatures. The disease may also affect and disfigure flower heads. Burpee Recommends: Avoid overhead watering. Do not work around plants when they are wet. 

Black Knot: Twigs and branches exhibit hard black knobby growths. This eventually girdles and kills branches. Burpee Recommends: Cut out diseased wood. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.

Crown Gall: This is caused by a bacteria and causes galls (masses of plant tissue) to form on roots, root crowns, stems and branches. The galls can interfere with the ability of water to move through the tissue, affecting plant vigor and causing stunted plants. Burpee Recommends: There is no cure for this disease; remove and destroy infected plants. Do not divide or propagate infected plants. 

Scab: Dark spots form on leaves and fruit. Water soaked lesions gradually turn brown in the center with a lighter colored margin. Cracking on the fruit can occur. Burpee Recommends: Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.

Common Pest and Cultural Problems

Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps which feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.

Japanese Beetles: Burpee Recommends: Hand pick early in the morning into a bucket of soapy water.

Mealybugs: Mealybugs are 1/8 to ¼ inch long flat wingless insects that secrete a white powder that forms a waxy shell that protects them. They form cottony looking masses on stems, branches and leaves. They suck the juices from leaves and stems and cause weak growth. They also attract ants with the honeydew they excrete, and the honeydew can grow a black sooty mold on it as well. Burpee Recommends: Wash infected plant parts and try to rub the bugs off. They may also be controlled by predator insects such as lacewings, ladybugs and parasitic wasps. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pesticide recommendations.

Scale: Small bugs look like brown, black, gray to white bumps on the stems of plants. Scale may not have any apparent legs and may not move. Scales have a sucking mouth part. Scale may produce honeydew so leaves and stems may be sticky. Scale can weaken the plant causing it to grow very slowly and may wilt at the middle of the day. Burpee Recommends: Completely spray the stems with Insecticidal soap. For a severe infestation contact your local County Extension Service for recommendations for your area. 

Spittlebugs: These hopping insects protect themselves from predators with a white foam while the young insects feed on the leaves and stems. When the insects emerge they are hoppers with large "froggy" eyes. There is only one generation each year but the larvae can hatch over a period of several weeks as the eggs were laid in the fall. Burpee Recommends: To control wash the foam off with a strong water spray. This will usually also kill the larvae. Do this once or twice a week for as long as needed. The damage is usually minimal. 

Tent Caterpillars: These caterpillars occasionally attack foliage and make tents in the branches. Burpee Recommends: Hand pick and remove them.

Prunus maritima FAQs

Does beach plum need a pollinator plant? They are self-fruiting but they produce better with another beach plum nearby. Wild beach plum will also help with cross pollination. 

When will my plants produce fruit? Beach plum produces every other year, but you should start getting fruit in two or three years. 

Can I grow beach plum in zone 9 or 10? No, beach plum is native to the Northeast and requires cold winters. 


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