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Plant Profile: Apricot (Prunus armeniaca)

apricotApricots are native to a uncertain area of Asia and appear to date back thousands of years. They are a member of the rose family, Rosaceae, that also includes almonds, peaches, cherries, and plums, and are most closely related to plums. When allowed to grow naturally the trees are wide spreading and have a dense rounded canopy. The dark bark is ridged and the simple finely toothed leaves are oval to heart shaped. They are shiny bright green, three to four inches long by 2 ¼ to 3 ½ inches wide, and are often covered with soft hairs on the underside. The flowers emerge singly in spring before the leaves and have five white to pink petals and are one inch wide. Due to their early appearance they are often damaged by frost so are best planted where there is some winter chill but no extreme cold or killing frosts. The edible fruits are round, orange, and 1 ¾ to 2 ¾ in diameter. Apricot trees need warm summers for good crop production and do poorly in areas with extreme heat, cold, or fog. Trees begin producing fruit at three to four years old and are usually pruned into a vase shape. Most varieties are self pollinating so only one variety is needed for fruit set.

Type: Deciduous, flowering fruit tree

Outstanding Features: Flowers, fruit

Form: Wide spreading; dense rounded crown

Growth Rate: Moderate

Bloom: Pink to white, five-petaled flowers one inch across in early spring before the leaves emerge

Size: 15-30’ H x 20-30’ W

Light: Sun

Soil: Fertile, deep, moist, well-drained; intolerant of alkali or bogginess

Hardiness: Zones 5-8

Care: Young plants should be headed up 24” with three main branches at the top to establish a framework. Annual pruning in winter is needed for maximum fruit production thereafter.

Pests and Diseases: Twig borer, aphids, thrips, codling moth, scale, brown rot, shot-hole fungus, gummosis,

Propagation: Seed with 2-3 months cold stratification; layering and softwood cuttings in spring, half ripe cuttings in summer