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To Prune or Not to Prune Prunes...
78 Posts
April 12, 2021 - 12:34 pm

... that is the bare bodkin.

Sort of.

I bought six different Zaiger interspecific plums on Citation from Dave Wilson via Peaceful Valley this season. PV ships at New Year and I'm in Connecticut so these sat in the box in an unheated garage until I put them in the ground two weeks ago. They are just beginning to bud swell which is timely and about two or three weeks behind the other stone fruit I have.

I want to keep these at about head height and want to try to induce them to branch a couple feet off the ground. They are currently about 42 inches tall and mostly branchless.

Would it be a mistake to whack more than a foot off of them and is now the correct time to do so?

Zone 6a in the moraines of eastern Connecticut.

623 Posts
April 12, 2021 - 2:28 pm

I wouldn't have any qualms with cutting it at whatever height you'd like your branches to begin below.

Lewis Co., WA
375 Posts
April 12, 2021 - 6:10 pm

Hi Crankyankee,

Whenever I hear about someone enquiring about a Zaiger hybrid, I have to admit that I cringe a bit.  Zaiger has come up with some really fascinating intergeneric fruit trees, but I have yet to see an objective assessment of how well they do in areas across the U.S outside of California's central valley.  i'll rule myself out of the assessment given my own hardships here in SW Washington, but I get the impression that some of the Zaiger hybrids can be quite "persnickity".  (Geez -- Did I just type that?  That would be a really weird word!). Confused

As for the height of the mature plant, did the source of your purchase indicate anything about what kind of rootstock the cultivar had been grafted to (dwarf, semidwarf, standard)?  That'll make a big difference as to how you prune it and manage it.  

Regardless (--in part--) of rootstock, if you want to keep the mature plants at about head level then I'd suggest "topping it" at about two to three feet.  That way the tree can be pruned -- year-by-year-- to form a rounded "bush".  Of course that will require judicious pruning each spring in order to form a strong, robust, framework that will support the fruits once the plant reaches maturity.


78 Posts
April 14, 2021 - 7:30 am

Thank you both for your advice. I took them down to about 28 inches except for the few that were already branched below that.

Citation is a medium dwarfing rootstock but a lot depends on the scion from what I have read online. Supposedly the trees can be kept short with contant attention but get somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 to 12 feet left alone.

It is a shame that super dwarfing prunus rootstocks are not readily available. I have been inquiring at various propagator companies about buying directly from them which is possible except that they deal in minimum quantities of 500.

My daughter belongs to an online coop that imports bulk spices like vanilla beans and whole nutmegs and they make it work. I wonder if there would be any interest in doing something similar for Gisela or similar rootstocks.

Zone 6a in the moraines of eastern Connecticut.

623 Posts
April 14, 2021 - 1:17 pm


I have a 4 in 1 pluot from Raintree.  Last year Splash fruited on it and they were excellent.  all 4 varieties are in bloom now, I'm hoping to get fruit from the others.

The tree seems to be doing well a few years in, although Flavor Grenade has runted out.

Vancouver SW Washington
686 Posts
April 14, 2021 - 3:40 pm

The local large nursery from Morton WA tried tapping into 'gisela-12' a couple years ago. John S and myself split a package of them of I think ten. So Crankyankee, when you talk about 500, to put out that much you must try contacting Sam who used to run his nursery before he switched it over. Since I have to run up to Morton I might have a chance to meet him and if so I'll try and remember to ask him where he went and the steps he had to take to procure any. 

'Gisela-5' is an amazingly dwarf and productive tree here in the heights. I would consider writing a proposal to the patent holders office's private practice of law. After you locate who ever it is then write a proposal that you are going to locate 'gisela-5' by digging up a mature tree, dividing roots, grafting the upper portions back down to roots, and of course offer a royalty to get around the legal infringements. 

I'm not doing it because it's readily available as retail but if any these eventually pan out for you I would pick up some more. It's even possible to graft freely available 'adara' plums on gisela. The 'adara' overgrowth of the graft union is expected. 'Adara' won't be the only plum that works on cherry either if that's of any interest to you still.

@jafar: Nice to hear ! Look forward to hearing any fruit-worthy progress !! The Columbia river 100% apricot I planted as a seedling of 'moorpark' so many years ago is doing the same this season as last spring having the slight to medium production every year with no interventions as far as having on my part to hand pollinate. 

78 Posts
April 14, 2021 - 5:15 pm

 I did inquire with that Morton nursery, both Joey in Customer Service and Kate the Horticulturist Gisela rootstocks and they were in the same boat. They were able to get Gisela 6 at one point but their condition was not good. They mentioned the same issue with quantity. For them the path of least resistance is to order grafted trees from Dave Wilson and grow them out.

I asked about Sam. He no longer stops in very often at the nursery.

I will write to the new owner and see if we can work out a coordinated order.

I have some Adara grafted onto Gisela 3 that was under a failed scion, waiting to see if they took.

Zone 6a in the moraines of eastern Connecticut.

Vancouver SW Washington
686 Posts
April 14, 2021 - 8:49 pm

>> I have some Adara grafted onto Gisela 3 that was under a failed scion, waiting to see if they took.

I double checked mine and the one on mazzard cherry 'F12-1' is expanded at the graft and the one on 'gisela-5' is so smooth you can't hardly tell it's there. 

I also checked my notes and I took a twig of the plum of the one grafted to the gisela and hand pollinated 10-12 plum flowers, which was 22 days before today. Ten takes! 

There's more from a patent on bulging at the graft when it comes to cherry on plum though;
(ie. opposite polarity) "amount of over growth varies within cherry varieties"

Edited 4-17-2021 :
I updated a mistake of mine thinking the union was smooth between plum and gisela.

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