February 28th, 2009
Prunus mexicana

photo: Prunus Mexicana Mexican plum
Prunus Mexicana. The greenish small ones. Austin. 2009-02-26.

Recently a reader asked me how many years it takes Mexican plums to start blooming. Of course, as with all garden answers, it depends. Looking back on my records, I see that it took a good 5 to 7 years for the ones I planted to start blooming prolifically. My trees came in 1-gallon pots and were probably only about 5 or 6 feet tall when I got them.

My Mexican plums are understory plants. They receive plenty of sunshine from November until they bloom in February but are in the shade of large cedar elms the rest of the year. I do not provide them with supplemental water now. I did water them some the first two or three years in the worst of the summer heat. Typically their leaves look a bit ratty and forlorn by August.

Dateline: 2006-03-04

My two smaller Mexican plum trees are covered in a froth of white blossom this week. I planted them in 1995, but it’s been only in the last two or three years that they have created the effect I originally envisioned–a solid white foam of flowers. I was inspired by the trees in my neighbor’s yard and this year almost all our trees are blooming together which is just what I imagined.

I also have a larger Mexican plum which I bought from Gardens. I think they must be slightly different varieties. The larger tree is has formed a large oval shape while the two smaller trees spread and almost weep. The large tree doesn’t flower as heavily, even though it is an older, much bigger tree. The flowers have a tint of rose at their throats; the flowers on the two smaller trees are tinted green.

photo: Prunus Mexicana
Prunus Mexicana. The pinkish large one. Austin. 2006-03-01.

Mexican plums are intended to be ornamental. The large tree bears ume-sized plums which are mostly seed, fit only for birds. I’m tempted to try making the Japanese liquor umeshu.

Zanthan Gardens History

Planted the Mexican plum (from Gardens) in the center of the woods.

Planted a second Mexican plum (this one from BSN). Looks very sickly, the root system is infested with ants. I pile rocks around it to hold it up, as there are not enough roots for it to balance the top of the tree.
* 1999-02-18. Four years later this tree hangs on but does not thrive. It was almost split in half by the big storm that brought all the trees down. It is too much in the shade and has not even begun to leaf out or flower, now, even as the Gardens tree is almost finished blooming.
* 2006-03-05. This tree has finally recovered and both the small trees have more flowers than the large one does.

The flowering trees in the yard behind us are in all they’re glory. I can hardly wait until the year our grove of three Mexican plums joins them.

Bought third small Mexican plum from Barton Springs Nursery.

The Mexican plum tree from Gardens has quite a few flowers; the other two do not. The large tree in the yard to the west of ours is in the early stages of its glory.


The large Mexican plum from Gardens has a skirt of white flowers. They are as dense as the neighbor’s tree, but they only cover the lower branches. The sickly BSN plum has a lot of buds, as does the baby BSN one. This is the first year, I think, that all three will have a respectible showing of blossom. The show of the neighbor’s trees are spectacular.

For the first time the Mexican plums give a hint to my vision: all three trees are in full bloom, creating a screen of white flowers against the west fence.

First flower on the Mexican plum from Gardens. This is the only plum tree flowering, so far. Not even the neighbor’s tree that is usually covered in blossom has a hint of buds yet.

The large tree from Gardens finished blooming last week and the two small trees bloomed this week in concert.

photo: Prunus Mexicana
Prunus Mexicana. Austin. 2004-03-04.

Annie was as amazed as I was to see a branch of the large Mexican plum incorporated into the garden shed roof. And to think my contractor got upset when I said, I would not have done it that way.

As Austin reaches its 18th month of drought, the flowering behavior of the three Mexican plums echoes 2004 except that it is one week earlier. “The large tree from Gardens finished blooming last week and the two small trees bloomed this week in concert.” In addition to the drought, we had a very warm winter with ten days reaching the 80s between our average first and last frost dates. All three trees were covered with flowers this year, just not at the same time.

All three of my Mexican plum trees were damaged when a huge cedar elm limb fell covering that entire corner of the yard. The two smaller trees to the west, were crushed. The larger tree from Gardens had a large limb on one side snapped off. It’s too soon to see if anything can be salvaged from the two smaller trees.

by M Sinclair Stevens

5 Responses to post “Prunus mexicana”

  1. From Karen:

    Wow, those records are pretty amazingly complete! Some gardeners are just more patient than others – I think you would definitely fall into this category. Good job on nursing along the sickly tree and helping it become a beautiful part of your landscape. That’s funny (or not, if you are the tree) about the branch trapped by the contractor. Doh!

  2. From M2 in Bothell:

    This weekend I saw my first cherry tree in blossom. (I think it was cherry.) It’s interesting living in a place where spring has a meaning other than “let’s hope the bluebonnet crop is good.”

    I miss bluebonnets! *sniffle*

  3. From joey:

    A lovely taste of spring to soothe winter weary eyes 🙂

  4. From renee (renee\'s roots):

    MS, your Mexican plum bloom photos are lovely, and your record keeping impressive. My Mexican plum turned 5 in February and this is its first spring to be covered in blooms. Last February, it had exactly 3 blooms.

  5. From Dawn:

    What great photos & impressive records, MSS. I love the Mexican Plums this time of year. I’ve thought of planting one, but am not sure where to put it in my tiny garden. Maybe in a back corner somewhere. I’ve just about given up on my swimming pool idea, so might as well keep on planting the back.
    BTW, did you ever make the umeshu?