Apricots are a member of the Rosacea family, as are Plums, Peaches and many fruit trees.
The centre of diversity was northeastern China, near the Russian border, around 2000 BC, and from there Apricots spread through central Asia, arriving in central Europe around 60 BC.
How to Grow Apricot trees.
Apricots are a rewarding fruit to grow, being relatively undemanding apart from feed and water, but a few basic rules are important for Apricot success.
Planting is best in either September or May for container grown fans preferably not in the depths of winter! Bare root trees can be planted during winter but protect the roots from freezing with a mulch .
Apricots like a well-drained soil with as much sun as possible. However, a south-facing site may result in the Apricot tree blossoming earlier than usual, exposing the Apricot to frost. An east-facing location or north slope can be much more beneficial as they are usually sheltered from the prevailing winds and benefit from the early morning sun, We do not recommend a west-facing site unless there is no other option. Apricot trees are very hardy to around 30F when grown in the ground, but the blossom will be lost below 28F. Apricot blossom is self fertile but it helps to hand pollinate your Apricot tree with a small brush during blossom time.
Of course if your Apricot is in a pot then you can move it around to your heart’s content to get the most sun. Note - trees in pots must be protected in winter. A shed or cold greenhouse is ideal.
Allow a space of around 15-20ft/4.5-6m for a mature tree or 12 x 8 ft/3.6 x 2.4m planted on a wall and trained. Most Apricots we grow are grafted onto a special Apricot seedling rootstock which avoids potential incompatibility with normal rootstocks. We do also graft onto St Julian for trees which are a little dwarfer but not so long lived.
Pruning for Apricots is much the same as for other stone fruit, i.e only to be done when the sap is rising -May is a good month. The object is to keep your Apricot tree to a nice open shape to allow good air movement and for the sun to penetrate the tree, i.e. removing branches that have been damaged or broken, keeping the Apricot to a good balanced shape.
Apricots fruit on spurs, therefore a framework can last 4 years or so, with removal of older branches to create new growth of the spurs.
There are many varieties of Apricot tree to choose from, varying in size, shape, colour and time of ripening. Some of the newer Apricots such as Isabella or Goldcott are a little hardier on the blossom side, but this will not normally matter so much. For those of you who have never tasted a fresh Apricot, be ready for a surprise, as they are much sweeter and juicier than any you will find in the supermarkets.