Apricot treesWe are fruit tree specialists and can advise on all aspects of choosing and planting apricot trees.
More about Apricot trees
Apricots trees belong to the species Prunus armeniaca, and originate from central Asia, where they have been cultivated for thousands of years. Most commercial production takes place in Turkey, southern Europe, and California.
Apricots have excellent nutritional and medicinal properties, and they contain more concentrations of beneficial compounds than most other fruit. They are one of the best natural sources of Vitamin A.
Apricot trees are easy to grow in warm climates but can be a more challenging in temperate climates such as much of the UK and northern Europe. The main problem is not winter cold - all Apricots are very hardy - but inconsistent and variable weather, especially in late autumn and early spring. Apricot trees prefer a simple regime of cold winters (with at least 500-700 hours below 5 degrees centigrade) and hot sunny summers. They do not like either the cold of winter or the heat of summer to be interrupted, and mild weather in late autumn or cold weather in late spring can be a challenge for them.
The mild winters of 2015 and 2016 have been particularly difficult for apricot trees in the UK. Trees did not enter dormancy properly in the autumn because the temperatures did not fall far enough and fast enough. When a period of real cold finally arrived in late January the trees were still growing and large areas of younger growth were then killed, or left open to bacterial canker infections. The only thing you can do if you suspect your apricot tree has not become dormant by December is to try to protect the tree with fleece over the winter.
The other challenge can be frost injury to the blossom, because apricots flower very early in the spring, before there are many pollinating insects about. Hand pollination with a small soft brush is therefore often necessary in the UK - do this over 2-3 days when the weather is dry. Keen gardeners will also use frost fleeces on nights when frost is forecast, to avoid frost damage to the blossom. It also helps to choose a sloping site where cold air can drain downhill away from the tree.
All apricots are self-fertile, and you only need to plant one tree to get a crop. However planting two trees (each of a different variety) will often produce heavier crops, as well as spreading the risk of frost damage.
With regard to pruning and training, apricots are best treated like plums (to which they are closely related). That means keeping pruning to an absolute minimum, and where it is necessary to prune, only do so in early spring. Although the UK climate means fruiting is sometimes eratic, apricot trees are generally healthy and hardy. The most common problem is dieback, a fungal infection which causes shoots to die rapidly. As long as you spot it early enough it is easily treated - just prune out the damaged branch.
Like plums, apricots may sometimes over-crop, particularly if the spring weather has been good. If this happens then be sure to thin the fruitlets - the ones that remain will be bigger and more flavoursome as a result. Tree-ripened home-grown apricots have a rich fruity flavour that is far superior to shop-bought fruit.