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apricots ripen on the tree
Have you been searching for a small tree that will provide glorious autumn colour and, with the right care, an abundance of delicious, juicy fruit in your garden? Your search is over—an apricot is the perfect tree.

What you need to know about apricots

Name: apricot, Siberian apricot, Prunus armeniaca.

Height: typically 4m × 4m when fully grown. Dwarf forms that grow to 2m are available.

Foliage: deciduous with bright green leaves turning vibrant yellow in autumn.

Climate: hardy and easy to grow in cold or warm temperate climates, although winter chill is needed for the flowers to become fruit, and hot, dry summers are required to develop flavour.

Soil: adaptable to a wide range of soils but prefer well-drained, slightly alkaline soil with plenty of organic matter.

Position: full sun, staked to protect from strong winds.

Flowering and fruiting: a profusion of white/pale pink fragrant flowers in spring. Fruit is round and fleshy, a bit like a small peach, ranging in colour from yellow to orange with a rosy hue, ripening from late November to January.

Feeding: regular feeding with a balanced, controlled-release fertiliser for fruiting trees.

Watering: water young trees regularly while they establish and during their first summer. Older trees may need supplemental watering in very dry periods.

Appearance and characteristics of apricot

Apricot trees provide an explosion of colour in autumn, as the leaves turn from bright green to vibrant yellow. Fragrant flowers in spring give way to luscious fruit in summer, which will ripen from late November to January.

Apricot is a hardy tree that grows well in most climates, though hot, dry summers will generate the best fruit.

close up of apricots ripening on the tree

How to plant and grow apricots

An apricot tree is generally purchased bare-rooted in winter. Choose a sunny spot in your garden and dig a hole deep and wide enough for the roots. Keep the topsoil, so you can put it back in the bottom of the hole.

If the hole is dry, fill it with water and let it drain away. Drive two long stakes in either side of the hole, make a small mound of topsoil in the bottom of the hole and then spread the roots over it. Backfill your hole with the rest of the soil, making sure your tree is buried up to where it was in the container or bag. Secure your tree to the stakes, then firmly pack down the soil around it. Make a small well around the tree and add a handful of fertiliser. Mulch the plant well, then water it in.

Next, prune your newly planted tree by around a third (the instructions will be on the label), or ask one of our nursery team to do this for you in store. This helps to create a good-shaped tree and balances the top of the tree with the root system, allowing for better, stronger growth.

Caring for apricots

Apricot grows quickly and flowers earlier than many other fruit trees, so frost can be a problem in some areas. A heavy frost will damage flowers, leading to less fruit.

To help prevent bacterial and fungal diseases, spray with a Bordeaux (a mixture of builder’s lime and copper sulphate) when the leaves drop in autumn, and again just before the buds open in late winter/early spring.

Birds can be a problem, but simple bird netting is effective protection.

You should be harvesting fruit two years after planting, although it may take up to six years for your apricot to produce abundant fruit. It’s not uncommon for an apricot to bear heavily only every second year.

Fruit is best left on the tree until it’s completely ripe. Start picking when the fruit changes from green to orange and feels slightly soft but still firm. The exact colour will vary according to the variety, but you’ll soon learn when your apricots are best to harvest and enjoy.

Pruning apricot trees

Apricot fruits in summer, and the best time to prune is as soon as possible after picking, when the tree is still actively growing. This means the cuts heal quickly and diseases have less chance to take hold. Apricot trees fruit on the short stocky shoots called spurs, which form after two years of growth, so prune lightly in the first few years to maximise fruit production.

When pruning, maintain a vase shape to ensure good air movement and stimulate stronger, more vigorous growth. Removing weak, diseased or rubbing branches helps create a good-sized, healthy tree.

Apricot often produces more fruit than the tree can support. Thinning will ensure the branches don’t break and the fruit gets more sunlight, air and nutrients, making for a healthier tree with bigger and better-quality fruit. Thinning is best done in spring when the fruit is a couple of centimetres in diameter. Gently twist the excess fruit from the branch by hand or, if the tree is too tall, gently knock the fruit off with a long pole.

Diseases and pests

Fruit fly is a devastating pest of apricot trees. It lays its eggs in the fruit, causing the fruit to spoil and drop. Prevention is key and should start early in the season. Set up fruit fly traps and apply an attractant bait like Yates Nature’s Way Fruit Fly Control to the limbs and foliage. Reapply as needed.

If you like this then try

Peach: pretty spring blossom tree with sweet, juicy yellow- or white-fleshed fruit in summer.

Apple: the most popular home garden fruit tree, apple comes in a range of varieties to suit large and small gardens.

Nectarine: deciduous tree with attractive blossoms in spring and white- or yellow-fleshed summer fruit similar to peaches.

Plum: deciduous tree producing delicious summer fruit, perfect for stewing, eating and bottling.

Start planting today

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Health & Safety

Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.

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