Apricot trees are small trees that grow well in warm climates, but most are also cold hardy, making them suitable for growing in most western regions. They yield fuzzy-skinned peachy-orange colored stone fruits, which are sweet and juicy.
The trees bloom early with brightly colored pink-white flowers, signaling the arrival of spring. Apricot trees are popular with home gardeners as they thrive without too much attention so long as their basic requirements are met, essentially plenty of light and water. They bloom easily and bear plentiful fruit that is best eaten straight from the tree or can be cooked to create jams and chutneys.
There is some debate over where apricot trees originated, with some evidence showing that they are native to Armenia, whereas others believe that the trees existed in ancient China many thousands of years ago. There is also some evidence that the trees originated in Japan.
Most apricot trees are self-pollinating, so you do not need to plant a partner tree to produce fruits; although if you are specifically buying an apricot tree for the fruit, you should check with the seller as some varieties can require cross-pollination.
Apricot Tree Overview
|Origin||Armenia, China, Japan|
|Scientific Name||Prunus armeniaca|
|Common Names||Apricot tree|
|Watering||Moist, well-draining soil|
|Height||Up to 35 feet|
|Pests||Aphids, scale, mealybugs, mites, caterpillars|
This variety of apricot tree produces yellow apricots that can be harvested in August. It is a particularly hardy variety that is well suited to regions that experience colder winters.
This is a dwarf variety that reaches heights of only 5 or 6 feet. It is very slow-growing, taking around a decade to reach mature size. Its small stature makes it ideal for growing on patios in containers or even on balconies as a solution to allow people with limited space to grow their own fruit. The tree fruits heavily with orange apricots that are very pleasing to eat.
‘Flavorcot’ / ‘Bayoto’
This variety heralds from Canada and is renowned for its frost tolerance. If late frosts prevent you from growing apricot trees, this variety is the one for you. It reliably yields red-orange fruits that can be harvested in August.
‘Pointu de roquevaire’
This variety of tree produces apricots that are instantly recognizable for their pointed shape. The fruits are yellow in color and give off a sweet fragrance. They can be harvested from around the middle of July.
This crisp variety of apricot is one of the earliest in the year to be harvested. The fruit is red in color.
This heirloom variety is known for having a particularly delicious flavor. It is yellow in color and is ready to be harvested in July.
Caring for Your Apricot Tree
The apricot tree requires plenty of water to thrive. As a fairly thirsty tree, soil preparation is key to growing a successful apricot tree. The soil needs to be well-draining but also good at retaining water to sustain the trees appetite for moisture. If possible, the soil should also be slightly alkaline and have plenty of organic compost worked into it to help provide the necessary nutrients.
Once you are satisfied with your soil, you can plant your apricot tree by digging a hole twice the size of the root ball. Lower the tree into the ground and cover it over with more well-draining soil. Water the root ball heavily at first and continue with consistent watering as the tree matures. Heavy watering is essential for immature trees as they work to become established. Other periods when heavy watering will help the tree is as the fruits begin to swell and before the arrival of a drought period.
Apricot trees require plenty of sun to produce the energy to grow fruit. They should be planted in a position that will allow several hours of sunshine each day, especially when the trees are young and small and might fall into the shade of walls, fences, or other trees.
Most varieties of apricot tree are cold hardy, but they are early bloomers, and so, the flowers can be adversely affected by late frosts. If you are in a region that is likely to experience late frosts, then you will need to take precautions.
You can erect canes around the tree and cover it with polyurethane or horticultural fleece, as this will insulate the flowers against frost while the canes will ensure that the fabric doesn’t come into contact with the tree. The fabric would need to be kept on overnight but be removed during the day to allow for pollination and for sunlight to reach the foliage. Alternatively, plant your apricot trees on higher ground where frost is less likely to affect them, or seek out the hardiest varieties of apricot tree, which are better suited to cold climates.
Apricot trees prefer to grow in climates with warm springs and summers, so they grow well in most western regions (Royal Horticultural Society).
Apricot trees can be pruned to create an attractive shape, as well as to keep the tree in good health. However, the fruit develops on small shoots on older wood or on shoots from the previous summer, so it’s important to take care when pruning so as not to inadvertently remove stalks that would bear fruit in the future.
Pruning is best performed in early spring or in August. As well as pruning the tree, thinning out of the fruits is a task that must also be done when caring for an apricot tree. Thinning of the fruit is essential because apricot trees produce more fruit than the tree can actually physically support, and branches will arch and eventually snap under the weight of too much heavy fruit. As well as easing the load for the branches, thinning the fruit also means that more light can reach the remaining apricots, and air circulation will be improved. The fruit that is left on the tree will have more space to grow and will become bigger, whereas apricot trees that are not thinned out will instead produce a large volume of small fruit.
Thinning the fruit has many health benefits for the apricots and will reduce the risk of insect infestations and disease.
Mealybugs, Aphids, and Scale
These pests feed on the sap of the tree, robbing it of vital nutrients and potentially stunting growth in severe cases. These pests can be quite hard to spot as they typically hide on the underside of leaves, but they commonly affect apricot trees so you should routinely check your tree for these pests as an infestation caught early will be much easier to deal with.
Typically, though, you will notice symptoms of sap-feeding pests before you spot the pests themselves. Signs of a potential pest problem include yellow patches on leaves, leaf loss, or sticky residue on foliage.
A good way to prevent these pests taking up residence on your plant is to spray it with a neem oil mixture every few weeks. Neem oil is a natural pesticide that works by preventing pests from being able to feed, thereby eventually killing them. If you find an infestation of sap-feeding pests, you can try to remove them by spraying them off with a powerful water hose. This can be repeated daily until the infestation is under control.
Mites are another type of sap-feeding pest, but they require a different approach as they present themselves differently. They are actually arachnids and leave tiny webs on the foliage while they suck the nutrients from it. The mites are almost invisible to the naked eye, so you are more likely to encounter the web before you notice the mites.
An apricot tree suffering from a mite problem will usually have spotted leaves and premature leaf loss. You can prevent and control mite infestations by spraying the tree with bursts of water throughout summer. Mites also prefer low humidity so maintaining high humidity can help to prevent them.
Caterpillars are a common pest on both the foliage and the fruit of an apricot tree. They mine their way through leaves, leaving them damaged and unattractive and ruin the fruit for human consumption.
The best way to treat a caterpillar problem is with Bacillus thuringiensis. This is a bacterium that works as a poison on caterpillars and is highly effective. However, in order to use it successfully, it must be applied every few days until a caterpillar problem has been controlled.
It is not unusual for apricot trees to suffer from fungal diseases. Among the most common are powdery mildew and European brown rot. Both of these diseases are caused by fungus, though they present with different symptoms.
Powdery mildew causes furry white spots to appear on young fruit, which is actually mold. European brown rot, however, causes the apricots to actually rot and turn brown while they are still attached to the tree.
Fungal diseases thrive in moist conditions, so the best way to prevent these problems is by ensuring good air circulation and limiting the opportunity for damp to prevail. Plant your trees far enough apart so that air can circulate between them and thin out the trees to create better air circulation between branches and fruits. Remove any infected parts of the tree as soon as you spot it and dispose of them carefully.
Are you excited to plant your apricot trees now? Leave a comment if you have any questions and be sure to share this page with other interested growers.