Why not just harvest mirabelle plums from your own garden? Tips on planting and pruning the Mirabelle tree so you can get a bountiful harvest soon.
If you have a Mirabelle tree ( Prunus domestica subsp. Syriaca ) in your own garden, you are guaranteed sweet hours, because the small, plum-like fruits are real delicacies. And some hikes can also be wonderfully sweetened with a mirabelle plum here and there along the way. We have summarized what you should know about this easy-care plant. Mirabelle tree
Mirabelle plum tree: origin and characteristics
Mirabelle plums are actually a subspecies of the plums ( Prunus domestica ). But that doesn’t make them any less special, because their little yellow fruits are a real treat. The mirabelle plum probably originated from a cross between the plum and the cherry plum ( Prunus cerasifera ) or sloe ( Prunus spinosa ), but no one can say that today.
In any case, its scientific name syriaca indicates its origin: the region around Syria in Asia Minor. However, the world’s largest cultivation area for mirabelle plums is not so far away from here, but in the middle of Lorraine. Mirabelle trees don’t get very big, around six meters. Their growth is mostly bushy and sparse, but they can be raised to be pretty trees.
They are particularly beautiful in April and May when the white flowers cast a spell over the beholder and provide a valuable source of food for numerous insects. Due to the countless crossings and close relatives, mirabelle plums are not always easy to recognize. Important distinguishing features are the late flowering, the hairy flower stalks, and the oval, slightly serrated leaves. The tasty yellow fruits are about 2-3 centimeters tall and can be easily detached from the stone.
Note on red mirabelle plums: Wait a minute, can’t mirabelle plums also bear red fruits? This opinion is widespread, but in fact, mirabelle plums are always yellow. They do white from time to time with red speckles or cheeks, but there are no deep red mirabelle plums. Mirabelle-like fruits with a red color usually belong to the cherry plum ( Prunus cerasifera ), which is very similar to the mirabelle plums. Cherry plum fruits can be either red, yellow, or purple, and are similar in size and shape to mirabelle plums.
However, during flowering, you can easily tell the difference between the two species. Cherry plums bloom about two weeks earlier and, unlike mirabelle plums, have a bare flower stalk. The ripening of the cherry plum is also somewhat earlier than that of the mirabelle plum and begins at the end of June. If you are still not entirely sure, then the stone solubility of the pulp is an essential distinguishing feature, because cherry plums are far less easy to detach from the stone than mirabelle plums.
Mirabelle plums have been around for a long time, even if the sweet fruits did not reach Europe until the 16th century. The most diverse varieties emerged from centuries of culture. Important selection criteria are vigor and size, the time at which the fruit ripens, and susceptibility to diseases such as Scharka’s disease (plum pox virus, PPV).
Recommended types of mirabelle plums:
- ‘Mirabelle von Nancy’: This old variety is very common. Their fruits are large, extremely sweet, and only moderately juicy. The pulp is quite firm but easily detachable from the stone. The fruits ripen from August. The ‘Mirabelle von Nancy’ is vigorous and is characterized by its high resistance to the Scharka virus.
- ‘Mirabelle von Pillnitz’: This Mirabelle variety was only bred in Pillnitz near Dresden in the 1980s. It is robust and has very compact growth. With its average size of around 3 meters, it is also suitable for small gardens. The fruits leave nothing to be desired in terms of taste and are aromatic and juicy-sweet. They ripen between August and September. The variety is also resistant to the Sharka virus.
- ‘Early Mirabelle von Bergthold’: An extremely early harvest can be expected for the ‘Early Mirabelle von Bergthold’ because the sweet fruits begin to ripen from the end of July. The variety is quite undemanding in terms of location and soil.
- ‘Metzer’: The ‘Mirabelle von Metz’ is an old Mirabelle variety that probably originated in the region around the Lorraine city of Metz. It is slow and small but still delivers a high yield. The fruits are extremely aromatic and very juicy and ripen from mid-August.
- ‘Herrnhäuser Mirabelle’: This type of Mirabelle bears large fruits, even larger than that of the ‘Mirabelle von Nancy’, but which it is quite similar in terms of fruit. Particularly sunny fruits often have red speckles on their otherwise yellow skin. The mirabelle plums ripen from mid-August and are juicy and tender. The tree is rather small.
Plant the Mirabelle tree
Like most plants, Mirabelle trees should be planted either in autumn or in spring, i.e. in the off-season, as it were, when the plants are growing. After planting, you should water the young tree regularly until it is well-rooted in the soil.
Sandy to sometimes even loamy soil is possible as a location, even if mirabelle plums have no objection to nutrient-rich and humus-rich soils. Mirabelle plums are less demanding when it comes to the soil. This should only be permeable and not tend to waterlog. A pH value in the neutral to the slightly alkaline range is ideal. On the other hand, the sun is more important, because mirabelle plums love it warm and sunny.
Penumbra is well tolerated, however. So that it always stays nice and warm, a protected location is ideal, especially in rough locations. In the landscape, mirabelle plums therefore often grow on the edges of forests and in hedges, where they get enough sun but are somewhat protected from the wind.
Maintain the Mirabelle tree
Mirabelle trees are pretty undemanding. The maintenance effort is accordingly extremely low. Once the tree is well-rooted, you don’t need to worry about the plant any further. However, if you value a rich harvest, regular pruning is advisable.
Cut the Mirabelle tree
Mirabelle plums do not necessarily have to be cut, but a regular cut thins the crown and brings the tree into shape. Through transparency, larger fruits can develop and you get a richer harvest. Your mirabelle plum tree should be pruned in spring or autumn after the harvest. In winter, on the other hand, it is better to let your tree rest, because at this time of year the cut wounds of the Mirabelle tree are susceptible to fungus. The goal of a cut should be to envision an oval crown that spreads out in all directions.
Propagate the Mirabelle tree
Mirabelle plums are usually not varietal, which means that the seedlings do not belong to the same variety as the mother plant. Indeed, Mirabelle trees would also result from the propagation by seeds, but it is difficult to predict what properties these have. But who knows, maybe the result will be a very tasty mirabelle plum? It can be worth trying, but it takes about seven to eight years before the first harvest can be expected. Propagation is faster and safer using refinement. For this purpose, noble rice is cut from the mother Mirabelle and grafted onto a base, for example, a plum. This approach takes some practice, but it is worth it. You can read here how the finishing works.
Last but not least, there is the variant with the cuttings, which are cut in spring and then potted. The success rate with fruit trees, however, is moderate.
Pests and diseases on the Mirabelle tree
Like most plum trees, mirabelle plums can be plagued by some pests and diseases. Still, the small plums are far less susceptible than their larger relatives.
The most important harmful organisms on the Mirabelle tree:
- The Sharka disease (English plum pox virus, PPV) can be traced back to the Scharka virus. This is transmitted by aphids and has been widespread in Germany since the middle of the last century. In early summer, yellow rings appear on the leaves of infested trees. Later, many fruits have pox-like dents and are no longer tasty. In addition, infected fruits tend to fall from the tree prematurely. A fight against the virus is currently not known. The most important precaution is the choice of the variety.
- The plum moth (Grapholita fun brand ) is a moth that lays its eggs on the ripening fruits. The caterpillars drill their way into the mirabelle plums and enjoy the pulp. They are easy to recognize by their red color and the dark head capsule. The fruits usually fall off before they are ripe and should then be collected to reduce the infestation in the next year.
- The fungi Monilia laxa and Monilia fructigena occasionally attack the fruits of the mirabelle plums. These then show brownish spots and fall to the ground or dry up on the tree. It is best to remove infested fruits immediately and thin out the crown with the next cut. This way the tree is better ventilated and fungal pathogens have worse cards.
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Harvesting mirabelle plums: harvest time and procedure
Depending on the variety, mirabelle plums ripen between August and September, but individual varieties such as the ‘Früh Mirabelle von Bergthold’ ripen as early as the end of July. For harvesting, you can pick the small fruits directly from the tree. However, if you want to harvest larger quantities at the same time, you can shake the tree and catch the falling fruits with nets or cloths.
Use mirabelle plums and preserve them
Unfortunately, sweet fruits cannot be stored. They can survive well in the refrigerator for two to three days, but beyond that, they start to rot quickly. Mirabelle plums are easy to freeze and can be enjoyed even in winter or the coming year. You don’t need much preparation to freeze mirabelle plums. Cut the fruit in half and remove the stones. Now all you have to do is pack the halves in freezer bags and pull the air out of the bags and put it in the freezer. You can also boil mirabelle plums down wonderfully and thus preserve them, for example as compote, jam, or jelly. Mirabelle plums are also an excellent ingredient for schnapps and fruit mustard.
The so-called red mirabelle plums are actually the fruits of the cherry plum. You can find out everything you need to know about this in our special article on cherry plum.