Japanese Flowering Plum Basics

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

Flowering Plum Basics

The wait is over! Last year, I’ve gotten many request to write a post about Japanese Flowering Plum and here it is!  What better time to talk about them then when they are blooming here in Japan.  For this post, I’m going to keep things simple and talk general care and growth habits.  I’ve also gone around the yard and took photos of the different styles of flower they produce and will share them with you as well.  Since I plan on being in Japan for many more years to come, I will continue to post more about Flowering Plum as I work with them more and more.

Why Do We Like Flowering Plum So Much?

The first answer people would normally give is because of the flowers.  I would have to agree that the flowers can be very pretty and plum is one of the few trees that bloom in the Winter.  Though we all do like the flowers, they do have other characteristics that we can enjoy as well.  Old plum trees tend to have deadwood or hollowed trunks.  The bark on the trunks also can get thick and crackly.  Seeing the old ones bloom in Winter gives a sense of conflict and harmony at the same time.  At first glance, it’s somewhat strange that a old partially dead rugged tree is producing such delicate looking flowers.  As you look deeper into the tree, you start to realize how even a rough looking tree can be so beautiful as well.  At least, that’s how I feel about them…

Basic Growth Patterns

Before we start developing Flowering Plum, we have to understand their growth characteristics.  Once we understand it, we can then come up with a stradegy to work with them and create great Bonsai.

During the Spring, leaf buds start to push and produce leaves while the terminal leaf bud will start to elongate and extend the branch.  Some of the leaf buds down the branch will start to elongate and produce branches as well but usually not as aggressive as the terminal end.  At the beginning of Summer, the leaves will have hardened off and the tree stops growing.  In the Fall, the tree starts growing again but at a much slower rate than the Spring.  During the Fall, the leaves will play a big part in producing flower buds, leaf buds or both on each node of the branch.  Once Winter arrives, the leaves will start to drop off leaving behind leaf and flower buds.  During Winter, the flower buds will start to grow and bloom whereas the leaf buds will sit till the following Spring to grow new leaves and branches.

*Note: Flower buds will only grow on that year’s new growth.  The tree normally doesn’t back bud on old wood.*

Lets Talk Flowers

Before I get into the flower portion of the tree, there are some terminology that are important to know.  This way, I can refer to specific parts of the flower and you’ll know what I’m talking about.  Plus, it probably doesn’t hurt to know a bit of plant biology while we’re at it.  Check out the picture below:

As you may already know, there are many different types of flowers that a Flowering Plum can produce. There are two basic categories when it comes to the flowers.  There are ones that have only five pedals and those that have more then five pedals creating more of a ruffled look.  Some flowers are natural and some are hybrids.  Here are some photos of the different flowers we have at Aichi-en.

*Tip: When cutting branches off, if the inside of the branch is red, then the flower will be red.  If the inside of the branch is green, then the flowers can be any color.*