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Growing Apricots: Prunus armeniaca

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Overview
A member of the Rose family, related to plums, peaches, and cherries, and cultivated for more than 3000 years. P. armeniaca is the most widely available, but several other species called apricots are grown in the northern hemisphere. These include P. manshurica: 'Manchurian' Apricot, P. sibirica: 'Siberian' Apricot, P. mume: 'Japanese' Apricot, P. holosericea: 'Tibet' Apricot and P. brigantina: 'Alpine' Apricot / Briançon.

Description
Form: Tree.
Lifespan: Up to 50 years in full production.
Leaf retention: Deciduous.
Growth rate: Moderate to rapid.
Mature Size: 15-30' high and 10-20' wide.
Flowers: White to pink, five petals, appear singly or in pairs before leaves emerge. Bloom on one-year old wood.
Bloom: Late winter or early spring. Late frosts can destroy flowers and buds resulting in no fruit for that year.
Self-fruitful: Usually. All cultivars can benefit from a second apricot tree to act as a pollen source, but some require it. Any apricot cultivar can cross-pollinate another.
Years before fruiting: 3-5 before full production, but can start in second year.
Fruit: Similar to a peach, skin yellow to orange with a red blush on the side facing the sun, smooth or velvety. The flesh is orange, usually firm and not juicy, sweet to tart. The single seed is enclosed in a hard woody shell. The seeds (kernels) of most cultivars are toxic, containing cyanide, but a few Asian cultivars are sweet, edible and used as an almond substitute.
Months for fruit to ripen: 3-6, depending on cultivar. They are ripe on the tree when fully orange with no green and slightly soft.
Storage after harvest: Apricots that are ripe and still firm can be stored up to one week in a refrigerator. Once soft, they must be consumed immediately.
Leaves: Glossy green, wide, rounded with a pointed tip to nearly heart-shaped.
Stems: No thorns.
Roots: Grafted to a rootstock appropriate to local growing conditions.
Cultivars of Note:
Prunus armeniaca 'Gold Kist': Apricot - USDA hardiness zones 7-9, chill hours 300.
Prunus armeniaca 'Katy': Apricot - USDA hardiness zones 7-9, chill hours 200-400.
Prunus armeniaca x domestica 'Flavor Delight':   Aprium - USDA hardiness zones 6-10, chill hours 300. A hybrid of three-quarters apricot and one-quarter plum. These trees have the same characteristics as Apricots and are grown the same way.
Wildlife: Attracts bees, birds, mammals.
Toxic / Danger: Many parts of plant are toxic, especially the leaves. Seeds of most cultivars are toxic. Ripe fruit is edible raw, dried or cooked.
Origin: Northeastern China. The apricot was initially thought to have come from Armenia because its widespread distribution is quite ancient.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 4-10 depending on cultivar, usually 4-7.
Sunset climate zones: Depends on cultivar. 'Gold Kist' and 'Katy' 12-13.
Chill hours: Depends on cultivar.
Heat tolerant: Depends on cultivar. 'Gold Kist', 'Katy' and aprium 'Flavor Delight' are considered best for warm regions.
Sun: Full sun except afternoon shade in hot desert regions.
Drought tolerant: Yes, especially on an apricot rootstock.
Water after becoming established: Weekly when bearing fruit, every two weeks otherwise. Water should be very low in boron, chloride, and sodium salts.
Soil: Well drained, deep, moderate organic content, pH 6.6-7.8 (neutral to slightly alkaline). Avoid sandy and heavy clay soils.
Fertilize: Use a standard 10-10-10 fertilizer once a year just before the tree begins to bloom, mid-winter to mid-spring, depending on your local climate. Add one pound of 10-X-X fertilizer for every inch diameter of the trunk. If the tree has a four inch diameter trunk, add four pounds of fertilizer. Spread inside the drip line but at least one foot from the trunk. Fertilizer must never touch any part of the tree. Water immediately.
Mulch: 4-6" organic material out to drip line. Keep one foot away from trunk. This will keep roots cooler in summer. Some growers also paint the bottom 3' of the trunk with an interior white latex paint, thinned by 50% with water, to keep the tree cooler. Use a rodent gnaw guard at the bottom of the trunk.
Prune: In early winter, remove all damaged, broken or crossing branches. Remove all branches that do not grow at a 35-55° angle from vertical. Remove all branches within 18" of the ground. Shorten the central trunk to 3-4'. Remove branches in the center so that the tree develops into an empty vase shape. This provides maximum sunlight to the interior of the tree and provides more energy for fruit production. Remove marble-sized young fruit so that only one remains every 6" on the branch.
Litter: Flower, fruit and leaf.
Propagation: Seed does not grow true to parent but can be grown by home gardeners. Cuttings on rootstock are used commercially.
Pests: Apricots have few problems compared to peaches.
Uses: Edible fruit.

Comments
Fewer aprium cultivars have gained popularity in comparison to pluots, which are more widely grown.



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