As children, I’m sure we’ve all had the fairytale instinct to preserve the thick pits of the sweet fruit our parents fed us as snacks to then plant them, and watch them grow into Jack-and-the-Beanstalk-like magical fruit trees. You must have wondered how to grow an apricot tree from seeds.
But then we grew older and learned about hybrid fruit, and our fairytales were crushed by the reality of human meddling in the production of fruit: just because you plant the pit of a fruit you bought at a supermarket, doesn’t mean you’ll get the plant of your original fruit. In fact, the pit might not even grow at all.
But I’m here today to rekindle your childhood whimsy because there actually are some hybrid fruits that have a track record of producing fruit trees with most of the parental preferred traits: and apricots are one of them! Keep reading to learn all about how to grow an apricot tree from seed.
A Few Considerations About Growing an Apricot Tree From Seed
Why Grow an Apricot Tree?
If you yourself haven’t been inspired by the childhood fancy of growing your own fruit trees, there are still many practical reasons for wanting to grow an apricot tree in your backyard!
First of all, apricot trees are beautiful trees, not just during the harvest season, but also when they’re in full bloom. They have lovely foliage that grows thickly into an egg-ish shape, with a wide bottom and a thinner top.
Of course, people love apricot trees for the sweet apricots they get to harvest every year. Their flavor is sweet and unique, and will likely remind you of nectarines and peaches. Plus, they can be turned into jams (we have an easy Apricot Jam recipe you’ll love), marmalades, spreads, preserves, candied apricots, dried apricots, and more. These delicacies usually pair well with cheeses on a charcuterie board. The great news is that their antioxidant content also makes apricots very healthy for you!
While apricots themselves are the main attraction of apricot trees, people usually forget that some apricot tree flowers are also edible and fun to incorporate into the kitchen.
Why Learn How to Grow An Apricot Tree From Apricot Seeds?
There’s no denying that learning how to grow an apricot tree from seed is infinitely more satisfying than growing one from grafting, or other modern methods of farming. There’s just something special about knowing that you’ve nurtured this plant from its very first form.
It connects you to the earth, to the oldest form of harvesting food, and strengthens your connection to all the other humans who for thousands and thousands of years, also knelt into the soil, buried a seed in the dirt, and waited for the magic to happen. It’s an ancient human endeavor that you are partaking in, once again, and I think there is something very special about it.
What Grows From Apricot Seeds?
Most fruits you buy at the supermarket these days are hybrid fruits. Hybrid fruits are fruits that have been crossbred from two other fruit varieties to produce a new fruit variety that might have the positive qualities of each parent fruit. If you think about it, hybrid fruit reproduces the same way humans do: two unrelated adults come together and have a baby that has traits from each parent. When that baby grows older and has a baby with another human, chances are the grandchild might have some traits from their grandparents, too, and it’s a bit of a gamble in terms of whose traits he or she will inherit, and from whom.
Planting a hybrid fruit seed is very similar in that you can never be sure exactly what traits the new tree will manifest. For this reason, commercial fruit trees are grown through more modern and precise methods of farming, like grafting. Grafting involves sticking cuttings or buds of one variety onto a rootstock of a different variety and guarantees the growth of a tree that is pretty much identical to the original tree it was taken from.
There are some fruits, however, (like apricots!) whose hybrid apricot seeds have consistently grown trees that are similar to the parent trees in their desirable traits. That means that if you plant an apricot seed, chances are you’ll get an apricot tree that grows the same kind of fruit. There is always a level of risk, of course, but less than you would have with other fruit varieties. Perhaps it even lends a bit more fun and surprise than growing a regular seed would: you’re not actually sure exactly what will germinate from that pit!
How to Grow an Apricot from Seed
1. Prepare the Seed
The first step to learning how to grow an apricot tree from seed is actually procuring an apricot seed—by eating an apricot! You should in fact get yourself a couple or more apricot seeds to heighten your chances of success. If you can, you should use apricots that themselves were produced by a tree grown from seed as well.
After finishing your snack, scrub the pits to remove any flesh that may have such behind, rinse them, and then let them air dry on paper towels for at least a couple of hours.
Once the pits are dry, crack the pit with any tools that feel comfortable to you (I suggest a hammer or a nutcracker), being careful not to crush the seed within. If you’re not sure how to do this safely, you can also grow an apricot tree from seed without removing it from the pit, but the process will take longer.
Then, let the apricot seeds air dry further before bagging them and sticking them in the refrigerator for about three months. You heard me! The purpose of doing this is to simulate the environment a seed in the wild would experience, which ultimately triggers its growth.
If your seed is from an apricot that you bought at the store, however, you might not need to do this, because chances are that the fruit has already been stored in a cold environment to help them keep longer.
2. Germinate the Seed
Next in your growing an apricot tree from seed adventure is germinating said seed. After the refrigeration period is over, “wake up” your seed by dunking it in a bowl of water overnight.
The next morning, wrap the apricot seeds in wet paper towels to keep them moist, put them back in a bag, and stick them once more into the refrigerator. This is the stage at which they will germinate, and it might take up to two months for this to happen.
3. Grow the Seedling
Once you start to see roots emerge from the seed, it means it’s time to plan them and start to grow seedlings. At this stage, they should be grown in containers and indoors to heighten their chances of survival.
Plant your apricot seeds root-end down in a one-gallon container with quality, ideally organic, potting soil (remember that gardening soil isn’t the same as potting soil).
Place the pots in a sunny location in your home, which will most likely be next to a window, or under grow lights. Remember to keep the soil damp: not too soggy, but not bone-dry, either.
4. Transplant the Seedling
Once the young plants seem strong and healthy enough to plant outside, the next step in growing an apricot tree from seed is transplanting them outdoors!
Wait until the last winter frost has completely passed. In the meantime, you can scout the perfect place to plant your apricot tree. The location should receive full sunlight, be distant from anything that might be compromised by tree roots, and the soil should drain well and have a neutral pH level.
Remember that apricot trees do well in locations whose winters are cold enough that the plant falls dormant, and hot in the winter without reaching extreme temperatures: mostly USDA hardiness zones between five and nine.
If you’re planting more than one apricot tree, make sure they are planted over 10 feet away from each other. This way they won’t get in each other’s way even when they’re full-grown trees.
Next, dig deep holes, using good compost and garden soil. Apricot trees need between four and nine feet of soil for its roots. With intentional care, you’ll hopefully have a juicy apricot harvest within three to five years!
Caring for the Apricot Tree
You’ll be happy to hear that once the transplant is securely replanted, your apricot tree will begin to mature rapidly. This is one of the best parts of growing an apricot tree from seed! If you live in an area with strong winds, help protect your young sapling and its roots by securing it to sturdy stakes with soft material.
I recommend using fruit tree fertilizer spikes (which slowly release fruit tree fertilizer into the soil) to give the apricot tree an extra hand in its growing process at the end of summer and winter with a low-nitrogen fertilizer. For more options, we have an article about the Best Fertilizers for Apricot Trees.
Another important aspect of growing an apricot from seed is pruning it. Pruning is important for any plant or tree, actually, because it supports better air circulation and sunlight reach, which in turn helps prevent pests and diseases, and encourages fruit production (as opposed to just growing lots of foliage). It is particularly significant for the lower branches of apricot trees, which might get overshadowed by the upper branches, and wilt.
You should prune your apricot tree in late winter or early spring, removing old, unhealthy, or overcrowding branches, along with parts of the tree that no longer produce fruit, using a lighter hand in the earlier years of the tree’s life. Read our post on pruning apricot trees for a more detailed guide.
Once the apricot tree starts producing fruit, you should practice thinning said fruit. While this might go against your instincts (why remove fruit that could mature into delicious apricots?), you’ll be doing yourself a favor, because overcrowded fruit rots faster and is more prone to diseases. By thinning, the fruit left on the tree will be able to take advantage of the tree’s resources and grow healthier and tastier.
Additionally, growing an apricot tree from seed won’t guarantee the same disease and pest resistance as its parental trees, so it’s important to come up with a spraying plan to prevent both insects and diseases. Ideally, you should use organic products to avoid harming wildlife, and apply them lightly, or else you might risk keeping away vital pollinators, too.
If you have any questions, you can consult employees at your local nursery for natural pesticide recommendations for your apricot tree, plus read our blog post about Common Apricot Pests.
Now You Know How to Grow an Apricot Tree from Seed!
I hope this post has inspired you to save the pit of the next apricot you snack on. Learning how to grow an apricot tree from seed is a rewarding and satisfying experience. If you’re patient enough, chances are that within three to four years, you’ll have a delicious apricot harvest!
To take things to the next level visit our Apricot Trees page where you’ll find all our apricot-related resources, including how to care for them in detail, different apricot varieties, recipes, and more!