Skip to Content

The Tilton Apricot Tree

The Tilton apricot tree has a lot of fans for its excellent taste and its nutrients. The trees are symmetrical and add to curb appeal when they are planted in the front yard.

Tilton Apricot Tree
Perfectly ripe Tilton apricots awaiting harvest on organic farm in Cawston British Columbia

The fruit is a lovely golden color with just a hint of red. This apricot type is considered one of the very best for canning, drying, and freezing as well as being eaten fresh. Find out what the Tilton apricot tree is like to own and what it’s like to take care of. 

History of the Tilton Apricot Tree

In California in the last decades of the 19th century, apricots were becoming big business. They were usually sold as dried fruit at the time. There were several varieties of apricot from around different parts of California.

However, bad weather and late frosts were terrible for apricots. Most of the areas that grew these trees were vulnerable to either terrible weather or a late frost.

J.E. Tilton started with a single seedling in 1885 that seemed well adapted to the climate. The flavor was good, it ripened well and the fruit was large. What was most exciting was that the seedlings of this tree were not vulnerable to stormy weather and late frosts.

He sent seedlings along to many California growers and got back good feedback about the varietal. It has continued on since that time because it is so adaptable and can withstand the cold of many areas around the country. 

Tilton Apricot Characteristics

The Tilton apricot tree grows as tall as 25 feet and as wide as 20 feet. The tree has a dense, green crown and grows pink, five-petaled, showy flowers before the fruit begins. The flowers have a sweet smell, and the fruit has a sweet taste.

The tree will self-fertilize, so it is not required that you have other Tilton apricot trees there in order to have fruit. However, if you do have another tree or two, you can expect to have more fruit on your trees. The tree has a pyramidal shape. As long as the climate is right for these trees, they need very little care. 

The Tilton apricot has a look that is a little different from all other apricot varieties. It is slightly heart-shaped and has an indented line that goes halfway across the apricot.

It is a little flatter in shape than other apricots, and it has a taste that is both sweet and tart. The fruit is also nice and juicy, and it is a freestone fruit. This means that the fruit doesn’t cling to the pit. These are easier to slice into and to remove the pit. The fruit of this tree is considered one of the very best-tasting apricots. 

Planting Zones

The cold-tolerant aspect of the Tilton apricot tree is what made it popular in the first place, and that’s still an important attribute. Zones 10 and 11 are too hot for this tree.

But, it can easily be grown in most areas of zones 6 through 8. There are some parts of zone 9 that are cool enough for the Tilton apricot. Areas that have a late frost in zone 9 can support them. 

Size and Spacing

Tilton apricot trees are medium-sized and generally grow to between 15′ and 25′ tall and obtain a width of 15′ to 20′. They should be planted well away from areas like water pipes, patios, sewer pipes and driveways. Plant them at least 8′ and 10′ away from them. Plant the trees at least 20′ apart. 


Bumble bee on apricot tree flower

Before there can be any pollination, the flowers have to bloom. It takes about 600 hours of cold weather, at least 45 degrees, during the winter for the flowers to bloom and open. Once this happens, the flowers are self-pollinating. For a larger crop, you can plant a tree partner for even more pollination to occur. 

Tilton Apricot Tree Care (bullets can be sub-headings).

Compared to many fruit trees, Tilton apricot trees need little care. As long as the owner knows the type of sunlight and amount of water that the trees need, they can be kept healthy. 


This apricot tree requires full sunlight. It should not be planted in the shade of buildings or other trees. 


These trees need 1″ of water every week. This is especially needed during the blooming of the flowers and the growing of the fruit. If your tree gets plenty of rain, it won’t need to be watered. If it doesn’t, water about 1″ once a week. It’s best to use a drip irrigation system so that the soil gets wet, but the foliage does not. This can make the tree less susceptible to fungal infections. If the temperature is unusually high for the area, water it more often. It may require two or three waterings a week under those conditions. 


Every year, your Tilton apricot tree can be pruned at the very beginning of spring or in the late fall. Pruning can help the tree to grow by giving it better sun exposure and ensuring good air circulation. 

Another type of pruning that these trees need is to thin out the fruit. These trees tend to grow dense crops of apricots, and this often keeps the fruits smaller than they could be. If you thin out the fruit, the resulting fruit will grow to be larger.

When thinning, try to keep the space between the apricots to 1.5″ to 3″. This will allow for the air to circulate better around the fruit, and each apricot will get more sunlight. And because they will have more room to grow, they will continue to do so. This practice is also good for the branches, as it takes some weight off them. 

Common Uses For The Fruit

Apricot Jam
Jam from apricots in a glass jar on a wooden surface

The Tilton apricot is a highly versatile fruit that is used for a wide variety of uses. This fruit is known for its sweet taste with just a touch of tartness. It is one of the best apricots for eating raw. It tastes great right off the tree. 

Fruit isn’t often cooked, but apricots can be used in small quantities in many cooked dishes such as stuffing. The Tilton apricot is considered the best apricot for canning, freezing and drying, this fruit will do all of these well. They can be dried in the sun to make a healthy and convenient dried-fruit snack. 

Health Benefits of the Tilton Apricot

These apricots are low in calories and high in nutritional value. They have fiber for a healthier colon and many antioxidant vitamins. They also contain potassium and just a trace of fat.

These apricots have beta carotene as well as vitamins A, C, and E. They also contain flavonoids, a specialized group of antioxidants that have found to protect against a number of serious illnesses, including heart disease. These flavonoids are also linked to having lower levels of inflammation. 

The antioxidants contained in apricots can also help to promote the health of your eyes and skin. The fiber in these fruits can also help to maintain healthy levels of cholesterol and blood sugar. That fiber is also helpful in maintaining healthy gut bacteria for a healthy microbiome.

This has been linked to lowering the rates of obesity. The potassium in apricots helps with healthy blood pressure as well as helping your body to have a better balance of fluids. This mineral is known to reduce the risk of having a stroke. 

Where To Buy a Tilton Apricot Tree 

Tilton Apricot Trees can be found online at Nature Hills Nursery. Nature HIlls is our choice for quality fruit trees. These Tilton apricots come in a #3 container and are 4-5′ tall upon arrival.

Where to Buy the Tilton Apricot Fruit

If you want to try this sweet fruit, check with local grocery stores near you. You can also order from online grocery companies that deliver this and other foods. You can also check out the dried fruit in the snack section of the supermarket and look for the Tilton variety. 

Excited for more apricot content? Then check out my apricot page for more info guides, growing tips, recipes, and more!


Tuesday 7th of March 2023

We bought 2 Tiltons at least 5 years ago and they have yet to bloom. We live in Oklahoma zone 7 which is one reason we purchased this variety. It is so frustrating and we are getting impatient. Any advice is appreciated.


Thursday 13th of April 2023

@janie, maybe try grafting onto part of each tilton another variety of apricot if you can get your hands on some scions from someone. i am in dallas zone 8b and have a blenheim apricot that flowers and fruits. i just bought a tilton this spring and it has yet to break dormancy. may be returning the tilton to the nursery if it does not break dormancy in the next few weeks. we have been having inconsistent weather that may be causing the tree to go into shock and either not flower, or drop flowers. you can also graft a nectarine, plum, or peach onto that apricot if you want to switch to growing a different fruit. at least that way you are keeping the adult root stock and will get fruit quicker than planting a new young tree. hope this helps.


Saturday 11th of March 2023

Are they flowering yet? Heavily or light flowering? How's the bee population? Might want a pollinator even though it's "self-fertile".

I had a "self-fertile" toka plum tree that would have 10,000 flowers every spring and then only set 20 fruit on the whole tree. I'm not a big believer in "self-fertile" and planted a superior plum close to it.