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Plant Profile: Apricot (Prunus armeniaca)

Native to central Asia, this deciduous small tree is a member of the rose family, Rosaceae, that also includes  cherry, almond, and lady’s mantle. The trees grow 26-39′ tall and have a dense, spreading canopy of ovate leaves 2-3.5″ long, with toothed margins and 2 small glands at the base of the blade.  In early spring before the leaves appear, white to pinkish flowers appear singly or in pairs.  They have 5 petals and give way to fruits called drupes that are fleshy, yellow to orange tinted with red, each with a single seed enclosed in a hard ridged stony shell.  Fruit production is very difficult because flower buds are very sensitive to early frost but the tree is well worth growing for its ornamental value.   Evidence suggests that the apricot was domesticated in China by 1000 BC and was introduced into Greece by Alexander the Great.  It is proabably the “apple” of the Bible.   The genus name, Prunus, comes from the Greek word  προύνη, and is the Latin word referring to plum, also a member of this genus.  The specific epithet, armenaica, refers to Armenia, one of the geographic origins of the plant.

Type: Deciduous  small tree

Outstanding Feature: Fruits, flowers

Form: Umbrella

Growth Rate: Moderate to rapid

Bloom: White to pink 5 petaled flowers singly or in pairs before the leaves appear in early spring

Size: 26-39′ H

Light: Full sun

Soil: Average, moderately moist, well-drained

Hardiness: Zones 5-8 (but may not produce fruit reliably because of damage to flower buds by early frost)

Care: PApply nitrogen in spring; prune annually and open the center; when fruiting thin to 3-4 fruits/cluster

Pests and Diseases: Apricots are susceptible damage by many insects, and fungal and bacterial diseases,

Propagation: Cuttings, budding, grafting

Outstanding Selections: Many varieties avaialble including dwarfs and relatively hardy ones.