A Short Guide on Growing Apricot Trees
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Not many Australians have the opportunity to harvest beautiful apricots from their own backyard. Fresh fruit from the tree simply can’t be compared to what you can buy at the supermarket, and the varieties that you can grow are vast. But growing an apricot tree has an element of mystery and a large factor of misinformation out there which turns home gardeners away.
PlantNet® has decided to write this short article on all of the essential information for growing apricot trees in your backyard, no matter the size of your yard.
5 Minute Read
Where to plant your apricot tree
Plant your apricot tree in full sun in free-draining soil/potting mix with plenty of space around it. Apricot trees do not tolerate prolonged wet conditions so good drainage is essential. To achieve a good soil structure for planted trees, you should improve your soil at least 6 weeks prior to planting. Aged manures and compost work well in most cases for this. If you’re worried about drainage, consider building a mound, raised bed, or planting your apricot tree in a pot.
Apricot trees do best in climates with mild wet winters followed by a dry spring and a warm, dry summer. They flower relatively early, so areas with late frosts should be aware and protect flowers from negative overnight temperatures.
Areas that don’t have this kind of climate should look for spots in their backyard that might mimic this or consider planting in a pot to allow for seasonal movement. Try to avoid planting them in humid spots surrounded by other trees/large plants, and it’s wise not to plant anything in the same pot as an apricot that may compete for nutrients and raise the humidity around the trunk, thus promoting collar rot.
Otherwise, follow the complete planting and potting instructions on our Ultimate Guide to Growing Fruit Trees.
Do apricot trees need fertiliser?
Yes! In the home garden, a balanced fertiliser will work well. Organic fertilisers can be used but at a much higher rate than inorganic fertilisers. Apricots require fertiliser in early spring (once they begin to break dormancy) and again in autumn.
To give you a general guide, PlantNet® has created a great guide for fertilising deciduous fruit trees in pots from trial work completed by PlantNet® over a 3 year period. Please note that these recommendations are specific to apples, pears, and peaches but will apply to apricot trees also.
Watering and pruning apricot trees
In winter a small amount of water once a week is all that’s needed to prevent the soil profile from drying up too much. In spring water approximately twice a week, and in summer water every couple of days.
Apricots do not like excess water so care should be taken each time you water your tree. Use your hand to measure the moisture level of your potting mix/soil. When digging into the top 5cms you should look for any sign of moisture – if you see moisture, don’t water; if the potting mix is completely dry, water well.
Using wetting agents, mulch, and drip lines are all good ways to decrease the amount of time you need to spend outside with a hose in summer.
An open vase or central leader shape works well for apricots in the home garden, as these shapes are easy to achieve and allows good airflow. You should start shaping your tree when you plant it, always sterilising your pruners between cuts and trees. The best time to plant an apricot tree is in winter whilst dormant. Following this initial pruning, prune in autumn to remove dead, diseased, or crossing wood.
Apricots fruit from spurs which need to be removed when old, crowded, or weak. Reduce the length of vigorous laterals as well, to keep spurs close to the structural branches.
Common apricot tree pests and diseases
Apricots are susceptible to fungal diseases such as brown rot, bacterial canker/gummosis, shothole, and freckle. They can mostly be avoided by following the above steps and ensuring that airflow is high and humidity low. You can largely control these problems with a preventative organic Bordeaux spray at leaf fall, bud swell, and 2 weeks later. If the tree is in poor condition generally, it is more likely to become diseased.
Some common pests of apricots include scale, light brown apple moth, weevils, and mites. These are covered in our Common Fruit Tree Pests and Diseases article.
Netting is always the best option to keep pests away from your fruit trees. Ensure you use a frame that keeps the net clear of foliage and fruit.
For more pest and disease control advice, head to our page on Common Fruit Tree Pests and Diseases.
Apricot harvest guide
Depending on the variety you have, you will be harvesting fruit sometime between November to early February. Our earliest variety is Fireball™ Apricot, ready in November/December. Our latest fruiting variety Dwarf Tilton is good for cool climates which may receive later frosts.
Look for fully coloured fruit (bright yellow, deep orange, or slightly red, depending on variety) and complete a taste test – this is the best method! Most apricots can keep in the fridge for approximately 2 weeks and can then be ripened on the kitchen bench over a few days.
Glowinski, L. (1991) The Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia. Melbourne, VIC: Lothian.
Persley, D. (1994) Diseases of fruit crops Vol 1. Brisbane, QLD: Department of Primary Industries.