How to Grow an Apricot Tree

Close up of apricot blooms in the spring


Tahreer Photography/ Getty images

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

People who grow Apricot Trees, however, are often dismayed to find out that most climates do not support fruiting on the trees. Unless you live in an area where your temperatures are stable all year round, this will sadly 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.

Including this delicate Asian native into your landscape design is an excellent way to extend the bloom time of a garden or 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 fresh 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 thing to 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
Toxicity  Partially

Apricot Tree Care

Planting the tree in a warmer area or a place closer to a building or 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 fruit, Prunus armeniaca is somewhat high maintenance with fussy soil and water needs. The benefits, though, are a gorgeous tree in your landscape or, if you are lucky enough, delicious fresh apricots. 

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 if in the goldilocks zone. 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 the 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.

Is the Apricot Toxic?

The apricot’s toxicity varies depending on the plant part and the amount consumed. The fruit of the apricot is, of course, not toxic and is edible. The pit and the leaves of the apricot contain hydrogen cyanide in relatively small amounts. These are toxic when consumed in large quantities and are extremely bitter and taste like almond.

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.