How to Grow an Apricot Tree

Apricot tree with tan apricot fruit on branches with bright green leaves

The Spruce / Randi Rhoades

As a fruit tree the Apricot tree (Prunus armeniaca) gives us delicious fruit to eat, and, as a flowering ornamental, it gives us a sensual feast for the eyes and the nose.

People who grow Apricot Trees, however, are often dismayed to find out that most climates in North America do not support fruiting on the trees. Unless you live in an area where your temperatures are stable all year round, this will likely be the case. Apricot blooms are very susceptible to spring frosts. The good news is that the trees are stunning in their own right—you might just have to make peace with the fact that your apricots will have to continue to be store-bought.

Introducing this delicate Asian native into your landscape design is an excellent way to extend the bloom time of a garden and add some visual interest by playing with shape and negative space.

In early April, the apricot tree blooms when other plants are still emerging and have yet to sprout new leaves. The early blooms on bare branches against a naked landscape showcase the dainty flowers and allow them to have the spotlight until other plants bloom or a later frost comes along and causes the sensitive blooms to drop from their branches.

An important note regarding apricots and the genus Prunus is that not all apricots are created equal. The Japanese apricot (Prunus mume), which is sometimes just referred to as an “apricot,” is an entirely different species. The flower is similar, but they are different. The Japanese apricot blooms much earlier. 

Botanical Name Prunus armeniaca
Common Name Apricot Tree
Plant Type  Tree
Mature Size  20-30 ft. tall and wide.
Sun Exposure  Full Sun
Soil Type average, medium moisture, well-drained
Soil pH Neutral to Slightly Alkaline
Bloom Time Late April
Flower Color white or pink
Hardiness Zones USDA 5-8
Native Area  China

Apricot Tree Care

Planting the tree in a warmer area or closer to a building in full sun will help maintain the flowers longer, especially through frosts. Also, it is possible to look for one of the many cold-tolerant cultivars available. There are hundreds of cultivars of Prunus armeniaca available in the nursery trade.

Whether it is being grown as an ornamental or for fruit, Prunus armeniaca is somewhat high maintenance with fussy soil and water needs. The benefits, though, are a gorgeous tree in your landscape and, if you are lucky enough, delicious fresh apricots. 

Apricot tree branches with light green apricot fruit closeup

The Spruce / Randi Rhoades

Apricot tree branch with white and pink blossoms closeup

The Spruce / Randi Rhoades

Apricot tree with bright green leaves and light green apricot fruit on branches

The Spruce / Randi Rhoades

Orange apricot fruit held in hand with seed exposed

The Spruce / Randi Rhoades

Light

For best fruit and flower production, ensure that the apricot tree is planted in an area that receives full sun.

Soil

Apricot trees perform best in loamy, well-draining, organically rich soils.  They thrive in neutral or slightly alkaline soil, and it would be beneficial to test the soil’s pH before planting to see if amendments are needed.

Water

Full-grown trees will need supplemental water to keep the soil moist. The apricot tree is not drought tolerant. Supplemental watering will ensure good production of blooms and fruit in the warmer zones. Drip, sprinkler, or other watering methods can be used to saturate the tree’s soil at least weekly.

Temperature and Humidity

Site selection is vital for frost management as Apricots bloom early in the spring. Plant apricots in elevated areas where there is good airflow and avoid low spots. When the temperature drops, warm air rises, and cold air settles on lower elevations. The area can become a microclimate and can create an artificial frost zone. Otherwise, the apricot tree can survive in Zones 5-8 and thrives and fruits in areas where winter and spring temperatures do not fluctuate considerably.

Fertilizer

Fertilize your apricot trees in early spring before new growth begins, applying the fertilizer along the tree’s drip line. Using a low Nitrogen fertilizer is ideal for these trees.


Harvesting Apricots

If you find the ideal location for your apricot tree which allows for fruit production, it is time to harvest when the fruit shows a beautiful blush but is still firm to the touch. Fruits should be handled gently and removed from the tree with the stem intact. Ripe apricots are best eaten fresh or cooked in any number of ways. They are better canned than frozen raw which toughens the skin, so if freezing is desired, peel the fruit first.

Pest and Disease Controls

Apricots are generally resistant to many of the pests and diseases that affect their cousins, peaches and nectarines. The biggest impediment to a viable apricot crop is frost. Good sanitation in the orchard, appropriate fertilizing and watering may be all the additional care needed once the tree has established and blooms have survived the frost free date in your zone.

Apricot Tree Varieties

One of the benefits of cultivating so many variants of the species is that it has allowed growers to breed for form and shape alongside hardiness and fruiting. 

There are cultivars available such as Prunus armeniaca ‘Homedale’ STARK SWEETHEART and Prunus armeniaca ‘Wilson’s Delicious’ that are dwarf cultivars grafted on dwarf rootstock. These allow a landscape designer or homeowner to plant the tree in a much smaller setting.