The Apricot Tree Ultimate Guide: From Roots to Fruit

Ripe apricots on a tree in orchard

An apricot tree is easy to grow when you have a complete guide to follow. You can discover the basic requirements of sun, water, hardiness zones, maintenance, apricot tree varieties, and general care instructions.

Apricot Tree for Your Home Garden

You have several options of apricot tree varieties. Aside from the tangy sweet fruit, the apricot tree has an upright canopy spread, making it a beautiful landscaping option.

Apricot Tree Leaves and Blossoms

The apricot tree leaves are ovate shaped. The apricot leaves are 2"-3.5" long and around 1.5"-3" wide. The base of the leaf is round with serrated margins. The end of the leaf comes to a pointed tip. You should choose an area in your yard or garden that will show off the spring white blossoms with some varieties having pink tinged blossoms.

Best Hardiness Zones for Apricot Tree Varieties

The apricot tree must be planted in a zone with cold winters and warm summers. The cold weather is necessary for the tree to become dormant and the warm weather to produce fruit. The best USDA hardiness zones for apricot tree varieties are Zone 5 through Zone 9.

How to Grow an Apricot Tree

Once you've determined that you live in an apricot hardiness zone, you need to select the best location for your tree. You should consider the sun, terrain (well-draining), and soil type.

Man planting tree outdoors in spring

You Don't Need Two Apricot Trees to Get Fruit

Many fruit trees require more than one variety to pollinate. However, the apricot tree is self-fruitful and doesn't require another tree for pollination. Some fruit growers prefer to increase the pollination by having two different varieties of apricot trees.

Sun and Soil Requirements for Apricot Tree

An apricot tree needs full sun. Your apricot tree requires well-drained soil. A loamy soil will allow the roots to grow and provide the energy needed to produce healthy and abundant fruit. The soil should have between a 6.5 - 8.0 pH level.

Water Requirement for an Apricot Tree

Your apricot tree will need 1" of water per week. However, during the summer months, your tree may need frequent watering. If the soil around the tree is dry 2" deep, it's time to give your apricot tree a generous drink.

Mulch and Fertilizer Guide for Apricot Trees

You need around a 2" layer of mulch for your apricot tree. In the spring, when the first leaves begin to appear, you may need to feed your apricot tree. To avoid over-fertilizing, you need to test the soil before applying a fertilizer. The ideal is NPK fertilizer - Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), and Potassium (K). You may prefer a fertilizer designed specifically for an apricot tree.

Conduct Soil Test Prior to Fertilizing

You'll first need to conduct a soil test to ascertain if you need any fertilizer and how much. When the soil is rich in nutrients, apricot trees might not require fertilizing.

Types of Apricot Tree Varieties

There are several types of apricot trees that produce medium to large sized fruit. The fruit colors range from light gold to orange. The fruit is a tangy sweet that can be canned or frozen.

  • Goldkist - An early ripening, low-chill variety, Goldkist is best grown where winters are mild and has an excellent flavor.
  • Blenheim - This standard grocery store apricot has excellent flavor and aroma, but its early bloom makes it susceptible to late frosts.
  • Harcot - This apricot blooms late and is very frost hardy and disease resistant.
  • Pixie Cot - This dwarf apricot only grows about 6' tall, making it suitable for containers.

Apricot Tree for Every Season

Between the fruit and beautiful shape, apricot trees offer something for every season. And in every season, the apricot tree needs just a bit of care to ensure it thrives and produces abundantly.

Winter Planting and Care

Apricot trees take on a beautiful, gnarled form as they age, which makes for a striking silhouette when the trees are bare in winter. It's also important to note that apricots need a certain degree of winter chill - defined as hours below 45 degrees - to set fruit. If you live in a place with mild winters, be sure to look for one of the low-chill varieties.

Apricot Tree in Winter

Planting

Late winter is the preferred planting season for apricots when they are available as bare root trees without a pot of soil. This allows the roots to splay out in a natural pattern, rather than being coiled up in a pot, making for an easier establishment and a stronger tree in the long term. Plant them as soon as the ground thaws in a location with at least eight hours of direct sun during the summer growing season.

Pruning

Apricots should be pruned once each year while they are dormant. The goal of pruning is to create a scaffold of three to five main branches evenly spaced around the trunk of the tree, pruning out sprouts that grow toward the center to create a vase-like shape. It's also good to thin out the many tiny side branches leaving one about every 8"; this is where the fruit will form.

Pest Prevention

The main pests that homeowners have to worry about on apricot trees are fungal pathogens. There are many that can appear, especially in cool damp climates. Symptoms may include discolored leaves and fruit, and sap that oozes from the branches.

Other Preventative Ways to Discourage Pests

Preventative measures like planting the trees in well-drained soil and disinfecting equipment before pruning is a good idea. It is also wise to rake up fallen leaves and rotten fruit at the end of the growing season, as many pests overwinter in them.

Use of Natural Pesticides

Spraying a combination of copper- and sulfur-based pesticides in late winter is also recommended as a sanitary practice to prevent disease outbreaks in the following growing season. These are natural products, but they can still be harmful to people and the environment if not used correctly, so be sure to follow all instructions on the bottle.

Spring Maintenance

Apricots are one of the first trees to flower in spring. The trees are covered in white flowers tinged with pink, and a favorite of honeybees.

Woman posing in apricot tree orchard at spring

Avoiding Frost Damage

Apricots bloom so early that winter is not always quite over and the flowers are easily damaged by late frosts and stormy weather, meaning they will not be pollinated and there will be no fruit for the season. For this reason, some people plant apricots near a north-facing wall, where they stay dormant until the sun is high enough in the sky (later in spring) to awaken them and provoke the flower buds to open.

Fertilizing

Spring is also the season of growth for apricots. They have relatively low fertility requirements but a dose of all-purpose fertilizer, like 10-10-10 or 16-16-16, scattered over the root zone once per month will help them to produce more abundantly and have the strength to resist attack by pests and disease.

Summer Harvest

Depending on the variety, apricots ripen in June, July, August, or September when the orange orbs begin to look like ornaments on the tree. Harvest them when they become soft to the touch, but ideally before they drop to the ground to prevent bruising.

Thinning the Fruit

For the biggest, tastiest apricots, it's a good idea to remove some of the fruit, to allow the tree energy to concentrate on the remaining fruits. Some fruit will drop on its own, as a form of self-thinning, but a general rule of thumb is to remove enough of the immature fruit so that there is about three inches between each one that is left to mature.

Freshly picked apricots in crate

Irrigation

Apricots are surprisingly drought-tolerant once established, and it is important to not over water the trees, as this can contribute to fungal problems and fruit that tastes 'watered down'. However, newly planted trees will need water once per week in the first growing season. You can reduce this to every other week the second year, every three weeks the third year and so on, until you're giving them a deep soaking once every six weeks in the sixth and subsequent years.

Fall Mulching

Apricots are resplendent in autumn when the petite heart-shaped leaves turn golden yellow before dropping to carpet the ground. There isn't a lot to do for apricot trees in the fall, other than spreading a layer of mulch around the base of the tree to protect the soil from torrential winter rains. This also serves as a source of organic matter to feed the beneficial microorganisms in the soil for the coming year as it breaks down.

Apricot tree with yellow fall foliage

Where to Buy an Apricot Tree

You may be able to find apricot trees for sale at a local nursery. You can order from one of the well-known online sources.

Dave Wilson Nursery

Dave Wilson Nursery (DWN) was established in 1938 and is one of the largest growers of deciduous fruit, shade, and nuts trees in the United States. DWN is known for its top-quality trees, including a collection of over 30 apricot varieties. The company doesn't sell to the public, but you can ask your local garden center to order apricot trees for you.

Arbor Day Foundation

The Arbor Day Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports planting trees as a way to take care of the environment and improve conditions for people. They offer bareroot apricot tree varieties of Moorpark and Early Gold. The bareroot tress sell for around $27, although the price is only $20 if you are a member. Orders over $75 are shipped free. You must order prior to the winter season, or you'll find the trees unavailable until the following fall season.

Stark Bro's

Stark Bro's Nursery was founded in 1816 by James Hart Stark and grew to be an international business. You can find around 10 apricot tree varieties, but should shop early to avoid your favorite apricot being out-of-stock.

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply has been selling organic gardening supplies for almost four decades and offers 20 different apricot varieties that sell for around $30 each plus shipping up to 10 bareroot trees for around $30.

Apricot Tree for Every Season

There is nothing like the flavor of homegrown fruit from an apricot tree. You'll enjoy having fresh apricots with one of the easiest fruit trees to grow in your yard or garden.

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The Apricot Tree Ultimate Guide: From Roots to Fruit