You Can't Buy NectaPlums at the Store, But You Can Grow Them Almost Anywhere
As the name suggests, you can enjoy the flavors of two favorite fruits from one non-GMO plant.
What happens when you cross a nectarine with a plum? You get a NectaPlum! That might sound a bit Frankenstein-like, but rest assured, NectaPlums came about the old-fashioned way with plant breeders using pollen from one plant to fertilize the flowers on the other. The resulting fruit looks a lot like a nectarine with smooth skin, and has a similarly sweet flavor that is spiced with a plummy tanginess. Though these trees aren't grown on a wide enough scale to find NectaPlums at grocery stores, you can and totally should grow them at home. A NectaPlum tree is easy to care for, rewarding you with deep pink flowers and pretty red leaves in the spring before its delicious, rosy pink fruit ripen around July.
Why Grow a NectaPlum?
The only way you can enjoy a NectaPlum is to grow it yourself, so its uniqueness alone makes it worthwhile. In addition to providing beauty to your yard and sweet fruit for your table, the NectaPlum is also one of a small number of fruit trees that can pollinate itself (like sour cherries); they’re called “self-fertile.” That means you can plant just one of them in your yard and still get a good harvest. If you’ve shied away from growing your own fruit trees before because you thought you didn't have space to plant enough of them to cross-pollinate each other, your problem is solved.
Plus, if you have concerns about GMO (genetically engineered) crops, you don't have to worry about that with NectaPlums. No gene splicing was done to create this hybrid between white nectarine and purple-leaf plum. Instead, it was developed by the Zaiger family through hand-pollinating fruit trees in the Central Valley of California. Even though nectarines and plums are different species, they are closely related enough to cross with each other.
Where to Grow NectaPlums
If you live within USDA Hardiness Zones 6-10, you can successfully grow a NectaPlum unless you're in the Deep South, where the tree will suffer in the super high summer humidity (honestly, who doesn't?). The tree is a late bloomer, so if you live in a colder northern region, you don't have to worry about a freak cold snap in the spring freezing all the flowers, which would ruin your crop for that year.
The NectaPlum is exceptionally pretty, so plant it where you can enjoy the spring show of blossoms, red leaves slowly changing to green in summer, and then the fruit developing and turning pink when it’s ready to pick. Just make sure to choose a location where the tree will get at least eight hours of direct sunlight a day. It will also need enough space to spread at least eight feet wide and tall.
How to Plant NectaPlums
You may be able to find containerized NectaPlum trees through online vendors, but they are most commonly available as bare-root saplings, from December through February. This is when the trees are leafless and dormant, so they can be easily shipped in a box without any soil around its roots. Potted trees tend to be more expensive, but you can find bare-root Nectaplums for anywhere from $25 to $50. If the ground is still frozen hard when your sapling arrives, you can store it in a cool place that doesn't freeze like a garage or cellar until you're able to dig into the soil again.
When you're ready to plant your NectaPlum, dig a wide, but shallow hole that is only as deep as the root system, but two or three times as wide. The latest research shows that bare-root fruit trees do best planted in plain soil, without compost or fertilizer mixed in. Keep it well watered but not waterlogged. At first, it may look like not much is happening, but the tree will begin growing new roots. Then, as the weather warms, you should see new growth starting on the branches. It can take one or two years after planting before your new tree will produce any fruit, so remember to be patient.
How to Care for NectaPlum Trees
Once your tree is established in your yard, you won't have to do much to it other than prune it occasionally to keep it healthy. Using a sharp pair of garden pruners, like Corona Bypass Hand Pruners ($30.79, Target), trim away any dead or damaged branches you notice in summer to encourage your tree to grow new, stronger limbs. As the tree grows larger you can prune it back to about eight feet to make it easier to reach the fruit, or you can let it reach its full height of 15 feet.
NectaPlum trees often can have issues with peach leaf curl, caused by a fungus that ruins the foliage and can reduce the amount of fruit. Luckily, it can easily be treated with a copper-based solution like Bonide Liquid Copper Fungicide Concentrate ($16.99, The Home Depot) available at most garden centers. Spray the branches and trunk three times each winter when the trees are dormant, aiming for around Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day.
When to Harvest NectaPlums
NectaPlums turn from red to pink as they ripen in late July. You'll have about three to four weeks to pick the fruits before they start to rot. The longer they hang on the tree, the sweeter they get, so you can experiment and see if you prefer the fruit at the "hard ripe" stage when it will be tangier, or at a later stage when it will be super sweet.