Apricot tree care might seem daunting at first, but you’re in for a pleasant surprise. These beautiful trees are easy to grow, and the rewards are well worth it.
Renowned for their sweet, edible fruit and vibrant pink or white flowers, apricot trees are an excellent choice for hobby gardeners and expert green-thumbs alike. In addition to being fruit-bearing, they are also ornamental, making them great additions to the home landscape.
Read on to learn all about how to grow apricot trees, their history, how to choose and care for them, and what to do with your apricot harvest.
History Of The Apricot Tree
Apricot trees are believed to have originated in China, close to the Russian border, as long ago as 2000 BC. From there, the fruit tree spread to Armenia, Persia, and Europe via merchants trading on the Great Silk Road. For an in-depth look at the history of the apricot, check out this post on the NPR website.
In about 1720, apricot trees were introduced to the North American colonies (and more specifically, to Virginia) by French explorers entering Gulf territories. However, it was only in the late 1700s that apricot trees became popular in the US after being cultivated by Spanish missionaries in California.
The apricot tree is a member of the rose family, Rosaceae, along with other stone fruit like cherries, peaches, and plums.
Choosing Your Apricot Tree
When selecting apricots trees for your garden, you should first consider the climate of the area you live in. Apricots are among the earliest bloomers of the fruiting season and can be significantly impacted by late frost and cold spells. Given their Mediterranean dispositions, they enjoy regions with plenty of warmth, sunshine, and water.
Some of the more cold-hardy varieties of apricot include the Harglow, the Tilton, the Moorpark, the Perfection, and the Royal Blenheim cultivars because they bloom later than many of their counterpart breeds, making them more resistant to late frost.
Where To Plant Your Apricot Tree
Choosing a suitable planting site is the first step of apricot tree care. Your tree’s location will be the deciding factor in how it fares when it comes to fruiting, its spring bloom, and overall growth. As a general rule of thumb, apricot tree care entails good sun, good soil, and good drainage.
Sun & Shade
Apricot trees thrive in full light, so select a spot in your garden that has sun for most of the day, or at least a minimum of six to eight hours. Partial shade can be beneficial in hotter areas to protect the tree from scorching midday sun in summer.
Well-draining, loamy soil full of decaying organic matter is best for growing apricot trees. The alkaline level of the ground should be in a pH range of 6.7 to 7.5.
Apricot trees have shallow root systems, so it’s best to plant them in wide holes with a minimum reach of 25 feet around them. Furthermore, it is good to plant them on higher ground that is less susceptible to damming water and frost.
Apricot trees are thirsty plants, and they like about an inch of water every ten days to two weeks, provided you plant them in good-quality, well-draining soil.
An overwatered apricot tree will start to show signs of yellowing leaves and general droopiness, in which case you should hold off on watering it for a while. Dry, crispy leaves may indicate underwatering, and this is your tree’s way of saying it needs supplemental water.
Temperature & Humidity
Most apricot trees will do well in hardiness zones five through nine, although some do better in colder environments than others. They love warm weather but also winters that are cold enough to tide them into dormancy.
To fruit, apricot trees need a few hundred chill hours during winter, at temperatures between 32F and 45F. They can be damaged by temperatures below freezing or by significant, consistent exposure to frost.
Apricot trees prefer dry climates with low humidity.
Fertilizing Your Apricot Tree
Apricot trees are self-sufficient and do not necessarily require much fertilization unless planted in less-than-ideal soil. In fact, young trees should not be fertilized at all in the first two years of their lives.
Once a tree is fruit-bearing, you can fertilize it with a balanced nitrogen-rich product twice per year. The first feed should occur in early spring, and a second feed in fall. If your tree shows good growth of ten to twenty inches per year, hold off on fertilizing it. If it lacks vigor, consider giving it a little extra boost.
You can test sandy or lower-quality soil for zinc or potassium deficiencies and feed your trees accordingly.
Re-Potting & Transplanting Apricot Trees
Apricot trees are lovely for growing in containers as well as in garden beds. This stunning fruit tree is easy to repot and transplant and adapts well to new environments provided care is taken in the process. These trees should only be moved as they enter dormancy in late fall.
To repot an apricot tree, start by making sure your workplace is clean and sterile. A few hours before repotting, thoroughly water your plant, as moist soil is far easier to work with.
Prepare your new container. If it is much bigger than the previous one, fill the pot’s base with a fair amount of well-draining soil mixed with compost. Gently place your tree in the new pot and add enough ground to hold it firmly without compacting its roots. After that, keep the soil moist and situate your plant in a sunny spot.
For transplanting, the process is similar. Liberally dose your apricot tree with water before attempting to move it. The general rule for digging up apricot trees is to equate one inch in diameter of the trunk with one foot of root ball diameter. Measure and dig out and around your apricot tree accordingly. Indeed, dig as deeply as you can to retain as much of the root system as possible.
Once your tree is free from the ground, lay it down gently in preparation for replanting and cover its roots to keep them moist. Dig a hole wide and deep enough to ensure it grows at a similar ground level to what it is accustomed to. While refilling the hole, make sure to keep adding water so that the soil has the opportunity to settle among the root of the tree.
Pruning Your Apricot Tree
Pruning is part and parcel of apricot tree care. It helps to maintain their overall health and ensures they have the best possible chance of fruiting. They should be pruned in late winter or early spring when they actively grow and heal quickly. Ornamental pruning can take place in summer once fruiting has occurred.
Juvenile apricot trees are more resilient than mature trees, so don’t be afraid to get into the habit of pruning them from a young age. This helps ensure your plant grows out in the shape you desire while also preparing it for fruiting by encouraging new growth and providing room for air circulation.
When pruning, cut back your tree by roughly 20% to shape and control its growth. Diseased or dying branches should be removed as soon as you spot them.
Fruit thinning, which is different from regular pruning, may be necessary in the summer months for over-productive fruit trees. If your apricot tree is sagging under the weight of its bounty, remove some fruiting branches to help the tree better distribute its energy and keep it fruiting consistently through the years.
Apricot Tree Pests and Diseases
The last thing any gardener wants is for their fruit trees to succumb to pests or diseases. Fortunately, if caught early on, most of the conditions that commonly affect apricot trees can be dealt with, and a full recovery can be made. Keeping an eye out for pests and diseases is a crucial part of apricot tree care.
The bacterial and fungal diseases that most commonly impact apricot trees include armillaria root rot, bacterial canker, brown rot, Eutypa dieback, powdery mildew, fruit rot, shot hole disease, and verticillium wilt. Any unusual growth, spotting, decay, damaged branches, or wilt present on your trees should be investigated and treated as quickly as possible.
Apricot Tree Care In Winter
Apricot trees are dormant during a typical winter season, losing all their leaves and creating spectacular silhouettes. This appearance can be frightening for beginner gardeners, but part of apricot tree care is knowing how to look after your trees in winter.
Mulch the base of your trees by putting down a layer of straw or wood chips. This will insulate the roots of the tree and help prevent frost. Ensure you clean up any fallen debris before mulching and keep an eye out for splitting or damaged areas on your tree, which may be entryways for pests and diseases.
The cool winter months are necessary for apricot trees, as they require chilling hours to set fruit. However, planting your trees away from areas where they are vulnerable to icy winds and storms is always a good idea.
Congratulations! Fall arrives and the reward for all your apricot tree care efforts is a beautiful, healthy crop of ripe, juicy apricots. You should harvest your apricots as soon as they are ripe on the tree. Fruiting usually spans a timeframe of roughly three weeks.
Uses For Your Apricots
Apart from being perfect for fresh eating, apricots are an exceptionally versatile fruit and can be used for jams, preserves, chutneys, drying, stuffing, and in any number of sweet and savory dishes.
These delightful little fruits are also rich in antioxidants, making them a popular ingredient in skincare regimes.
Storing Your Apricots
After they have been picked, apricot fruit should be stored at room temperature away from excessive warmth or direct sunlight as they will continue to ripen. In the fridge, they will keep for about five days.
As ripe fruit, they are quite delicate, so be sure to handle and store them gently.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How long do apricot trees live?
A: With proper care, apricots can live for many years, up to 150. More generally speaking; however, the average lifespan of an apricot tree is 20 to 30 years.
Q: Can apricot trees thrive in pots?
A: Absolutely. Many varieties of apricot trees are quite small in stature, making them great container plants. Just be sure they are repotted annually so that they do not become rootbound.
Apricot trees are fantastic in the garden and look just as good as their fruit taste, bringing a specific feel and aesthetic to every season. Leave a comment below if you have any questions or experiences to share.