Japanese plum trees (Prunus salicina) were first discovered in China but largely cultivated in Japan. In the United States, Luther Burbank was the pioneer of plum-tree propagation, breeding several delicious Japanese plums such as Santa Rosa and Burbank™ Elephant Heart. Japanese plum trees bud and bloom earlier than other varieties, making them better choices for US zones 5 and warmer. (Bubblegum Plum® and Superior plum are exceptions. These are Japanese varieties crossed with American plums, making them hardy to zone 4.)
Japanese plums are very sweet and juicy— perfect for fresh eating! In fact, most of the plums you see in grocery stores come from Japanese plum trees. When you grow your own, be sure to plant two different varieties for pollination.