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Growing Apricots: Prunus armeniaca

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Overview

Apricots, members of the Prunus genus and the Rose family, are related to plums, peaches, and cherries. Prunus armeniaca is the apricot species most widely available, but other species called apricot are also grown in the northern hemisphere.

Description

Form: Tree.
Lifespan: 20-40 productive years.
Leaf retention: Deciduous.
Growth rate: Moderate to rapid.
Mature Size: 15-30' high and 10-20' wide.
Flowers: White to pink, five petals, appearing singly or in pairs before leaves emerge. Blooms appear 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 fruit can start in the second year.
Fruit: Similar to a peach, the skin is yellow to orange with a red blush on the side facing the sun, and is smooth or velvety. The flesh is orange, usually firm and not juicy, with a sweet to tart flavor. 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: The flowers attract bees, the fruit attracts birds and mammals.
Toxic / Danger: Many parts of plant are toxic, especially the leaves. The seeds of most cultivars are toxic. The 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. It has been cultivated for more than 3000 years.

Cultivation and Uses

USDA hardiness zones: 4-7 for 'Katy' and 'Gold Kist'.
Chill hours: 200-300 for 'Katy', 300 for 'Gold Kist' and 'Flavor Delight'.
Heat tolerant: 'Gold Kist', 'Katy' and aprium 'Flavor Delight' are considered suitable for hot 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. The water should be very low in boron and sodium chloride.
Soil: Well drained, deep, moderate organic content, pH 6.6-7.8 (neutral to slightly alkaline). Avoid sandy and heavy clay soils.
Fertilize: Use an organic fertilizer once a year just before the tree begins to bloom, mid-winter to mid-spring, depending on the local climate. Spread the fertilizer inside the drip line but at least one foot from the trunk. Water immediately.
Mulch: Use 4-6" of organic material out to the drip line. Keep mulch one foot away from the trunk. This will keep roots cooler in summer. Some growers also paint the bottom 3' of the trunk with tree trunk paint 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 the vertical. Remove all branches within 18" of the ground. Remove marble-sized young fruit so that only one remains every 6" along the branch.
Litter: Flower, fruit and leaf.
Propagation: Seed does not grow true to parent but can be grown by home gardeners. Cuttings grafted onto rootstock are used commercially.
Pests: Apricots have few problems compared to peaches.
Uses: Edible fruit.

Comments

Fewer apriums have gained popularity compared to pluots, which are more widely grown.


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Apricot: Prunus armeniaca - flowers

Apricot: Prunus armeniaca - fruit

Apricot: Prunus armeniaca - leaves


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Latest update: December, 2018