in Tucson, Phoenix,
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Gardening in Tucson, Phoenix, Arizona and California

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Growing Almond: Prunus dulcis

Botanical Overview

Almonds, members of the Rose family and the Prunus genus, are closely related to apricots, cherries, peaches, and plums.


Form: Tree.
Lifespan: 40-150 years. Commercial trees are cut down after 28 years because their declining crop yield makes it more profitable to replace them.
Leaf retention: Deciduous.
Growth rate: Rapid.
Mature Size: 10-30' high and as wide depending on cultivar and rootstock.
Flowers: White to pink, five petals, fragrant, solitary or paired, appearing before leaves develop.
Bloom: Early spring. Late frosts can destroy blooms and new fruit. This tree tends to be alternate bearing, blooming and fruiting heavily one year, then lightly the next.
Self-fruitful: Depends on cultivar. Most dwarf and semi-dwarf cultivars for home gardens are self-fruitful. Full size commercial cultivars are usually not.
Years before fruiting: 3-4.
Fruit: A thick, leathery, downy, grey-green hull covers a hard inner shell enclosing the almond seed. The seed is commonly called a nut.
Months for fruit to ripen: 8.
Harvest: Almond seeds ripen starting from the top of the tree and working down. Wait until nearly all the hulls have split, revealing their shells. If bird predation becomes a problem, start harvesting a little sooner. Remove the hulls, then spread the almonds out in a single layer to dry.
Storage after harvest: Fully dried almonds can be stored at room temperature for up to eight months, or in a refrigerator for up to one year.
Leaves: Green, serrated margins, lance-shaped.
Stems: Light grey bark.
Roots: Commonly grown on rootstock appropriate to the growing location.
Cultivars of Note: The chill hours on some cultivars are in dispute, with claims ranging from 250 to 500 hours said to be required on the same cultivar. These include self-fruitful 'Garden Prince' and 'All in One', and non-self-fruitful 'Ne Plus Ultra' and 'Nonpareil'. In fact, gardeners report these trees producing almonds in regions with only 250-300 winter chill hours.
Wildlife: The flowers attract bees and other pollinating insects.
Toxic / Danger: All parts of the tree are toxic except the ripe almond seed.
Origin: Near East.

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Cultivation and Uses

USDA hardiness zones: 7-9.
Chill hours: 250-600.
Heat tolerant: Extra water and afternoon shade are needed when temperatures are over 90°F, especially when young. Avoid reflected light and heat.
Drought tolerant: Not without loss of fruit crop.
Sun: Full sun for at least 8 hours.
Planting: Locate this tree where it will receive full morning sun and afternoon shade. Being in a low area of the yard where cold air collects, and where the root area and trunk are in shade during winter, may help with winter chill hours. Being in a cold spot, however, may make the tree more prone to late frost damage to flowers. Dwarf cultivars can be grown in large containers.
Soil: The almond tree needs well draining soil 5' deep. Remove any caliche layer if required. It is tolerant of soil types but does better with moderate organic content. It accepts pH 5.6-8.5 (acidic to alkaline) soil, but does best in 6.6-7.8 (neutral to slightly alkaline) soil. This tree is salt intolerant.
Fertilize: Apply organic fertilizer every two months from mid-winter to early fall.
Water after becoming established: Deep water or basin flood weekly from flowering through fruit production. Decrease water to once a month in winter.
Mulch: Apply organic compost mid-winter, keeping it 8" away from the trunk.
Prune: In winter, remove dead, crossing or damaged branches. Flowers bloom on one year old wood. Keep the soil under the drip line weed-free. In hot climates, apply tree paint to any sun-exposed trunk and branches.
Litter: Dried fruit and leaves in the fall.
Propagation: Grafted cuttings.
Uses: Edible seeds.


Ask your neighbors if they have any success growing almonds before purchasing a tree. Find out the name of the cultivar they own.

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By H. Zell - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid-10939915

By fir0002flagstaffotos [at] gmail.comCanon 20D + Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 - Own work, GFDL 1.2, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid-496628

CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid-271934

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Latest update: June, 2020