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What to Plant In a Plum Tree Guild [Examples, Flowers, and Herbs!]

To make the most of a plum tree guild, it is always important to place it in the right spot and select the best companion plants to help your plum tree guild thrive. Understanding the type of soil plum trees prefer and their light requirements is vital to success.

But, you should also carefully consider what you plant alongside a plum in a plum tree guild. Choosing appropriate fruit tree guild plants and thinking holistically about your garden design can help you achieve higher yields and help you get more from your garden. 

What to Plant In a Plum Tree Guild?

When deciding what to plant in a plum tree guild? We always follow mother nature’s advice! Start by analyzing your local shrubs, flowers, fruit trees, and plants. What grows naturally in your area? Start there!

Fruit-bearing ground cover crops, native wildflowers, bulbs, and shrubs are excellent plum tree guild companions.

Local wildlife, beneficial pollinators, and indigenous garden creatures thrive with a diversified hedge and food forest. So does your plum tree guild.

But – always remember that when deciding what to grow in your plum tree guild? Your plum tree always comes first!

Here’s what I mean.

plump red plums on plum tree
What should you plant in a plum tree guild? Plant more plum tree varieties! While some European plum cultivars can be self-fertile, adding multiple plum tree varieties can increase the yield of your plum trees. Big time! You’ll also find that plum trees produce some of the most breathtaking blossoms of any fruit tree guild member – making your efforts worth the effort tenfold.

Choosing a Plum Tree

Selecting a plum tree guild begins with choosing the central tree. You have several different plum trees (Prunus) that you might consider growing in your garden.

You can choose Prunus domestica – European plums or its hybrids. You might also consider Asian plums. You also have the American plum! Or Prunus Americana. 

Once you know which type you would like to grow, of course, you will then have to think about which plum tree companions are best. It is always an excellent idea to speak to local growers and ask for advice to find a variety of plum cultivars well suited to local growing conditions.

Remember that when choosing grafted trees, you also need to consider the rootstock on which they are grown. Plum tree rootstocks will determine how big your tree will get. 

Read More – Download Our Free Apple Tree Guild Chart! Easy Apple Tree Companions!

Choosing a Location for a Plum Tree & Guild

When choosing a plum tree, it is, of course, vital to think about the growing conditions that you can provide. Analyzing plum tree requirements will help you choose a suitable location for them and their fruit tree guild

Plum Trees & Sunlight Levels

One important thing to consider is sunlight. Most plums require plenty of light to produce ample fruit. But if you live in a hotter climate zone? Then dappled growing conditions or light shade may be beneficial. 

What Kind of Soil Do Plum Trees Like the Most?

Most European plum trees have (relatively) high water needs. They flourish the best in moisture-retentive clay or loamy soils. However, they also need free-draining conditions and don’t like spots that become waterlogged. 

Adding plenty of organic matter helps improve plum tree drainage. Organic matter also aids moisture retention in lighter soils. And the organic matter will also give plum trees the nutrient-rich, fertile conditions they need. 

Slightly acidic soil is ideal, but plums are often tolerant of a wide range of soils, as long as they get reasonably well-drained. 

Asian plums are often more tolerant of heat – but less tolerant of frosts. Avoid planting them in a spot in the landscape that becomes a frost pocket. Choose a sheltered and sunny spot for the best results.

American plums can be a good choice where water levels are lower. They are reasonably drought tolerant and can cope with varying soil types and conditions within their native range. 

Read More – How to Easily Build an Apple Tree Guild! Examples, Companion Flowers, and More!

Selecting a Guild – What Grows Under Plum Trees?

Understanding what plum trees need and the environment they grow best in can also help you match them with guild plants that might enjoy similar conditions. 

So – what to plant in a plum tree guild around and under the trees?

The key to creating a guild for a plum tree lies in finding plants that like similar conditions, but more than this, it is about finding plants that work well with one another without overly increasing competition. And which aid the plum tree itself in a range of different ways. 

fresh delicious juicy plums in basket
Plum trees keep your homestead fed. Mature plum trees can produce around fifty to eighty pounds of plum trees per year. The only downside is that the baby plum trees take up to three years to bear fruit. That’s one reason we love planting plenty of groundcover crops like strawberries around our more impressive (yet slower to develop) fruit trees!

Which Flowers Work Well Around Plum Trees?

Plum tree guilds should always include a range of flowers. Flowers often bring pollinators and other beneficial wildlife that help keep pest numbers down.

Some flowering plants will also provide other benefits within a guild, such as nitrogen fixation, dynamic accumulation through deep roots, etc. Some flowers can also provide additional yields. And be edible or beneficial to us in other ways too.

  • Choose plenty of native plants well adapted to your area! They bring benefits to wildlife. 
  • Select options that flower throughout the year! Focus especially in early spring, so there are already pollinators around when the fruit trees are in blossom. 

Can You Plant Bulbs Around Plum Trees?

Numerous bulbs work tremendously well around plum trees. Spring flowering bulbs and edible bulbs like alliums can get placed around the edges of the guild to stop grass from growing into them. 

Spring ephemerals help catch and store water and nutrients before releasing them back into the system when the leaves die back. 

Alliums are particularly beneficial because they repel, confuse or distract myriad pest species. 

Which Herbs Work Well Around Plum Trees?

Many aromatic herbs are also flawless for plum tree guilds. They can attract beneficial insects and may help repel pests you do not want. (Pests that nobody wants!)

Yarrow, rue, tansy, borage, mints (in more shaded spots), dill, lovage, and, on the bright sunny fringes of a guild, thyme, lavender, and other Mediterranean herbs, can all be hugely beneficial in a plum tree guild. 

Should You Plant Strawberries Under Plum Trees?

Remember, a well-designed plum tree guild can not only aid the tree at its heart. It can also provide a range of additional yields from layered planting. 

Strawberries are just one edible plant that you might consider planting around the outer edges of a plum tree guild. But remember, wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana or Fragaria vesca) will do better in dappled shade than garden strawberries. Garden strawberries prefer a sunnier spot!

You can also grow a range of other edibles around a plum tree, including fruit bushes (Rubus, Ribes, Vaccinium, etc.), perennial leafy greens, and perennial alliums, to give just a few common examples. 

Should You Mulch a Plum Tree Guild?

You should make mulching a part of your annual gardening routine if you have a fruit tree guild or other shrubs and tree-based ecosystems in your garden.

While deciduous plants will drop their leaves and return their nutrients to the system, you might also give the plants a helping hand by chopping and dropping certain crops. You might also add composts, and other organic materials like wood chips, especially during the establishment of the system.

Read More – Okinawa Spinach Guide! How to Plant, Harvest, and Grow Okinawa Spinach!

Example Plum Tree Guild

Planning a plum tree guild with plenty of plum companions is an excellent way to turn your backyard into a lovely food forest!

Here’s a sample plum tree guild with bountiful crops for you to consider.

  • Plum tree – Finding a plum tree cultivar that thrives in your region is a good start.
  • Amorpha fruticosa (False indigo bush) – Nitrogen fixation, some insect repulsion, and other minor yields. 
  • Currant bush (Ribes ssp.) – Excellent and edible yields. Pollinator attractant. 
  • Yarrow – Dynamic accumulator (mulch). Medicinal. Wildlife attractant.
  • Alexanders – Alexanders are also called smyrnium olusatrum. They are Roman parsley! They are edible and are a stellar wildlife attractant.
  • Camassia quamash – Edible root. Wildlife attractant.
  • Claytonia virginica – Fairy spud! It’s a lovely perennial that’s edible. It also attracts friendly pollinators.
  • Violet wood sorrel – Edible and an excellent pollinator attractant. 
  • Wild strawberry – Edible berries. Good ground cover. 
  • Thyme – Aromatic edible and medicinal herb. Ground cover. Wildlife attraction. 
  • Chives – Pest repelling. Wildlife attractant. Edible yield. 
heavy plum tree branches filled with fruit
Plum trees add abundant fruit to your permaculture garden. They also attract native pollinators and enhance the canopy layer of nearly any food forest. Their lovely white (and pink) flowers also attract a legion of bees – and provide shelter for birds and other amiable garden creatures.

What Should You Avoid Planting Near Plum Trees?

While many commercial orchards resort to grass for ground cover, having grass around your plum trees is not ideal. A grass cover fosters a bacterial soil ecology, while trees, including plum trees, prefer a fungal-dominant soil environment. 

Other than this? You should avoid planting anything that casts too much shade onto your plum tree. And you should be careful about introducing large and vigorous trees or shrubs, which become overly competitive with the plum tree for water and nutrients. 

How Big Should a Plum Tree Guild Be?

A plum tree guild should typically reach out (at least) to the tree’s drip line. However, remember, it can be much larger and stretch out to incorporate much more considerable areas of your garden, melding in with the surrounding planting.

You might join up several tree guilds and attendant plantings and turn your whole backyard into a forest garden or food forest.

Can You Plant Peaches and Plums Together?

It is not the best idea to plant all plums together. Nor should you plant only related species that share diseases and pests in common. However, it is perfectly okay to plant both plum trees and peach trees close together.

Ensure you have plenty of other plants around and between them, too. In a mixed food forest, or when choosing multiple fruit trees for your space, intersperse your different varieties to create a vibrant and ecologically functioning community of plants. 

If you do this, your yields will be higher. And you are less likely to encounter other issues since the ecosystem, as a whole, will be healthy and in balance. There is a lot more to learn, of course! But the above should help you get started and plan your perfect plum tree guild. 

Best Plum Tree Guild Flowers

Plum tree guilds benefit from honeybees and pollinators!

We find that plum trees attract wild bees. But we recommend supplementing your plum trees with plenty of wildflower companions.

We put together a list of the most breathtaking plum tree companions that will summon a beneficial swarm of pollinators, bees, hummingbirds, wasps, and more.

Perfect for more plums. And more fruit!

  1. Blue Annual Lupine Flower Seeds | Eden Brothers
  2. Blue Annual Lupine Flower Seeds | Eden Brothers

    Want to complement your plum trees with a host of butterflies? Then blue lupine is one of our favorites! These flowers emit a powerful shade of blue in your garden - and they're famous for attracting butterflies. The flowers are also tall and can reach up to three feet. The only downside is that lupines prefer full sun - so they're not best for planting directly under your plum trees. Plant around the trees instead!

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  3. Johnny Jump Up Viola Flower Seeds | Eden Brothers
  4. Johnny Jump Up Viola Flower Seeds | Eden Brothers

    Wait until you see the beautiful color combinations of Johnny Jump Up viola. They love the cool weather and the shade - so they're perfect plum tree companions. They only grow to around four inches. They also reseed and can help populate areas that need more color. And more life!

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  5. Annual Blue Flax Flower Seeds | Eden Brothers
  6. Annual Blue Flax Flower Seeds | Eden Brothers

    These blue flax flowers are the perfect sidekick for your plum tree guild. Not only are they breathtaking - but they also thrive in the shade of the plum tree orchard. They also survive in the cold weather - and can withstand tremendous heat and drought. They're gorgeous, dreamy blue, and resilient.

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  7. Sulphur Bright Lights Cosmos Flower Seeds | Eden Brothers
  8. Sulphur Bright Lights Cosmos Flower Seeds | Eden Brothers

    These red and orange-colored flowers are going to add butterflies and hummingbirds to your plum tree guild. Perfect! The flowers are massive - at about two and a half inches across. So there's plenty of surface area for butterflies to land, perch, and snack. They bring bunches of life, color, and beauty to your fruit tree guild.

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  9. Common Oregano Seeds | Eden Brothers
  10. Common Oregano Seeds | Eden Brothers

    Wild oregano is one of our favorite fruit and plum tree companions. The leaves make excellent herbs for your pantry - and the honeybees love the flowers. The flowers of these wild oregano plants are purple - or violet! Not like white-flowered oregano varieties. They will match your plum tree garden perfectly.

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  11. Lance Leaf Sunburst Coreopsis Flower Seeds | Eden Brothers
  12. Lance Leaf Sunburst Coreopsis Flower Seeds | Eden Brothers

    Sunburst coreopsis perennial flowers are perfect for plum tree guilds. They begin flowering vigorously in the summer and produce exquisite yellow blooms. They also last into the winter - until the frost. They're another hardy plum tree companion - and can withstand dry soil and the hot weather. Bees also adore them!

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  13. Wild Bergamot Bee Balm Flower Seeds | Eden Brothers
  14. Wild Bergamot Bee Balm Flower Seeds | Eden Brothers

    Bergamot bee balm rocks for plum and fruit tree orchards! Your honeybees will buzz wildly. Humans love them, too! The plants have tasty and savory petals that you can add to sweet drinks, teas, or garden salads. The pretty violet (purplish) flowers crop together in groups of around two and a half inches. They're also perennial in some areas - if the winter doesn't get too cold.

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  15. Giant Columbine McKana Flower Seeds | Eden Brothers
  16. Giant Columbine McKana Flower Seeds | Eden Brothers

    Giant columbine seeds keep you and your pollinators guessing. The colors range from pink, white, and blue to yellow. One consistent thing is the size of the flower. They're large! Expect blossoms with flowers of around three inches. Since the flowers are colorful and large, you may expect visits from friendly hummingbirds.

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Read More- Fruit Tree Spacing and Planting Tips! – How Far Apart Should You Grow Them?

Conclusion

Even some of our green-thumb homesteading and gardening friends ask what to plant in a plum tree guild!

We advise sticking to your natural surroundings.

Which ground cover crops, native flowers, hedges, and fruit trees flourish in your area? These are excellent places to start.

Also – remember that sometimes, plum tree guilds benefit from pollinators. Big time!

Whichever wildflowers have a reputation for flourishing wildly in your area? Those are always some of the best plum tree companions!

What about your plum tree guild?

Which plum tree companions sound the most exciting – and prosperous for your growing zone?

We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Or – if you have tips for growing perfect plum tree guilds? Let us know in the comments!

Thanks again for reading.

Have a beautiful day!

Author

  • Elizabeth Waddington is a permaculture designer, consultant, and writer. She has been a keen gardener for many years and has a 1/3 acre garden with a food forest, rescue chickens, wildlife-friendly woodland garden and pond, polytunnel, and vegetable beds. As well as working to grow her own food at home, she also helps others around the world on their journey towards a more sustainable way of life through her design and consultancy work, and through writing articles about organic gardening and sustainability.