Apricots are something I want on my homestead, so I took some time to find out exactly how to grow one from seed. Here’s what I found.
- Remove the seed from the pit
- Stratify the seed (if needed)
- Plant the seed in a container
- When it has its first few leaves, transplant it into the garden or a bigger pot
- Thin the fruit and prune the tree to help it focus on growing
Apricot trees normally take 2-5 years to grow, but they’re more resilient once it’s matured. This process doesn’t need to be difficult and doesn’t require any specialized equipment.
Let’s take a closer look at these steps, so you can start growing an apricot tree yourself.
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1. Remove The Pit
When growing an apricot tree, start by breaking open the pit. This often requires some force. You might need to use a hammer or a nutcracker. However, be careful putting too much pressure on the pit, as this might damage the seed.
The pit is the harder part at the center of the apricot. This thick outer surface is designed to protect the seed inside, so it will be difficult to break-through.
But before you try to get into the pit, make sure you’ve prepared it properly. Wash off any flesh. Then, leave it to dry. It might take around 3 days.
To avoid creating a mess, put the pit on a paper towel or newspaper. This absorbs the water and dry it out.
Once you’re ready, remove the seed from the pit. In many cases, you might need to use a hammer or vice to put some pressure on the pit. You want to get the outer shell to crack, so the seed can be released.
However, if you put too much pressure on the pit, you’ll crush the inner seed, making it unusable. Because of this, get several apricot stones.
If you aren’t able to remove the seed, don’t worry. You can still plant the pit with the flesh around it. However, it might take a little longer for it to germinate and develop roots.
Do Apricots Grow True To Seed?
Being “true to seed” is a phrase used to describe how well the genetics of the parent trees are passed to the next generation.
For example, if the parent apricot is sweet, will the tree grown from its seed be as sweet? This isn’t always the case for trees grown from seed, so it’s difficult to predict the quality of the fruit.
To prevent this, many farmers take clippings from their most successful trees to graft clones of them and ensure the new trees produce the exact same fruit.
However, growing from seed can still be a good idea. You’ll often get most of the positive genetics from the parent tree. Trees grown from seed are also often hardier and live longer than grafted trees.
Additionally, growing from seed means a lower cost.
When Do You Start Apricot Seeds?
You’ll get the best results by using seeds gathered from ripe apricots. Typically, this means waiting until the summer months to start gathering seeds.
Choose apricot fruits in good condition to make sure you get a healthy seed.
In the warmer months, you’ll find an abundance of fruit. You can tell an apricot is ripe when they’re plump, but not hard. They will also appear deep-orange, rather than yellow. When in season, you can normally find them in most grocery stores and farmer’s markets.
When selecting what fruit you want to use, try to avoid ones that have been damaged. Fruit bruising or discoloration might cause damage to the seed. This will make it harder to germinate and may end up impacting the overall health of the tree.
2. Stratify (If Necessary)
Depending on where you got the seed from, you might need to stratify it.
To do this, wrap the seed in a paper towel. Then, put it into the fridge for a few months. This helps the seed germinate. Alternatively, plant it in a pot and leave it outside over the winter.
In many cases, when you purchase fruit from a farmers market, it hasn’t been exposed to the cold. This means you’ll be getting the highest quality fruit. However, it can often make this type of fruit tougher to germinate.
On the other hand, if you purchased from the grocery store, the apricots have already been stored in a cold environment.
Because of this, the stratification process has already started. In summary, if you buy from the grocery store, you might skip this step and move on to the next part of the procedure.
There are two ways to stratify these seeds. First, wrap them in paper towels and put them into a glass jar. Then, place them into the fridge for two to three months. The colder environment will help germinate them.
Alternatively, put them in a pot and leave them outside. The cold winter temperature should help stratify them. By the spring, you should hopefully start to see the first signs of life, as the seed begins to grow into a tree. If you find this is the case for you, skip step three and move straight to step four.
Choosing between the two methods depends on when you purchased the seeds. If you got the seeds at the end of summer or the start of fall, use either the fridge method or leave it outside in a pot.
However, if you got them any other time of year, it might not be possible to pot them during winter. Instead, try putting them into the fridge to help stratify them.
3. Plant The Seed
When you’ve finished stratifying the seeds, start planting the apricot seeds. It’s best to start in a pot, rather than putting them straight into the garden. Use a pot that’s at least four inches wide and two inches deep. Water them well and leave them in a warm environment.
Once you’ve finished stratifying the seeds, it’s time to put them into the pot. There are a few reasons why you might want to avoid going straight to the garden.
First, many animals will dig up apricot seeds. After you’ve spent four months germinating them, it can be very frustrating to see all your hard work become a squirrel’s dinner. Also, putting them into a pot makes it easier to control the temperature of the soil.
When you’re ready to plant them, start by preparing the pot. It can help to use a soilless potting mix (like peat moss, coconut coir, or wood chips). This will create a more sterile environment, helping to make sure the seeds won’t rot. You might also want to add some nutrients or a bit of fertilizer if you have some.
After you prepare the pot, dig a small hole for the seed. It should be around two inches deep. Put the seed into the hole, and cover it with dirt. Water the soil lightly.
Once the seed has been planted, try controlling the growing conditions as best as you can and wait for it to start sprouting.
In most cases, it can help to keep an apricot seed in a warm environment, ideally above 65ºF during the day. If this isn’t possible in your area, consider getting a heated pad to put under the pot. While it may not be ideal, it’s a cheaper solution than building a greenhouse.
You’ll also need to check on the moisture of the soil. You can do this by sticking your finger into the pot. If the top 2-3 inches feel dry, consider increasing your watering frequency.
While you don’t need a pool of water, you do want to try to keep the seed moist. It’s best to check the pot every few days.
How Long Does it Take to Grow an Apricot Tree From a Stone?
It can take up to three months before you start to notice the apricot seed sprouting. However, if you keep it warm and water frequently, they could sprout in as little as 4-6 weeks.
The amount of time it takes for the seed to start spouting can vary. Under good conditions, you could start to notice growth in as little as four weeks.
In other cases, it could take three months before it starts to sprout. Though sprouting can be anticipating, it’s important to be patient. If you disturb the soil too much, you could slow the progress of the seed.
When the apricot seed starts to sprout, keep watering and caring for it. It won’t be long before it’s time to transplant them. We’ll look at how to transplant apricot saplings in the next step.
After you’ve transplanted them into the garden, the apricot seed will continue to grow and develop.
It often takes between 3-5 years before it starts to bear fruit. It comes down to the nutrients in your soil and growing conditions like climate, sunlight, and water. It also depends on the type of apricot you have.
When the apricot seedling starts developing some leaves, it’s time to move it to a larger pot. In this case, use a container that’s at least a gallon. After a growing season, it should be strong enough to put into the garden. After 2-5 years, you should start to get apricots.
When you first plant the apricot seeds in a small pot, monitor them closely. In a few weeks, they will start to develop some leaves. When you see them, move the seed to a larger pot. This should be done soon because apricot trees develop a taproot.
This is a central root system, through which the tree gains all its nutrients. If you don’t transplant it soon enough, the taproot will quickly outgrow the pot. This can pose problems and stunt the tree’s development.
A one-gallon pot works best when you’re ready to transplant. This size of pot will give the tree plenty of space to develop before it gets placed into the garden or a bigger pot.
It’s recommended that you leave the apricot sapling in the pot for at least one growing season. Generally, it’s a good idea to leave it in a partly shady area. Just before the first rains of autumn, you should consider moving the tree into the garden.
When you’re ready to put it into the garden, dig a hole that’s twice as deep as the root system. Then, place the tree into the hole and gently pat down the dirt. Don’t make it too compact, as the water won’t get through the soil and reach the apricot’s roots.
When you’re finished, layer some mulch around the tree. Form a donut shape, with a dip around the base of the apricot tree. Dipping the mulch will help funnel and drip more water to the base of the tree. Once you’re done mulching, water the tree well. Now, all you need to do is wait.
Where Should You Put Your Apricot Tree?
Apricots have fairly invasive roots, so to give your tree the best chance at growing (and limiting any damage to your property), you should consider their placement well.
First, you’ll want to make sure that your apricot tree is at least 10-20 feet away from other trees. It’s also important to pick a sunny spot with good soil drainage.
The chances that your apricot tree will grow to bear good fruit will often depend on where you plant it. If it can’t get the resources that it needs, it will struggle to grow. You can reduce the trees’ competition for resources by planting the apricot tree a proper distance from other trees.
It’s also important to consider potential underground obstacles. Things like pipes can impact the way that roots develop, making it harder for the tree to grow. There are quite a few services you can use to find any buried pipes on your property (many utility companies can help with this).
Next, find a place that gets a lot of sunlight. Ideally, the apricot tree should be in the sun for most of the day (6-8 hours). Depending on your climate, it might also be a good idea to try to find higher ground. This can help provide protection against frost during the colder winter months.
Select a spot that has good drainage. The best way to test this is by doing a percolation test. To start, dig a hole that’s about a foot deep and 12 inches wide in the area where you plan to put the apricot tree. Then, fill it will water, leaving it to drain overnight.
The next day, return and fill up the hole again. Ideally, aim for a drainage rate of a few centimeters an hour or higher.
Finally, learn about the type of apricot tree you have. Some will be self-pollinating, but apricot trees grown from seed might need an outside pollinator.
In some cases, your tree could require pollinating insects or hummingbirds for the fruit to develop. Creating an environment that attracts bees can definitely help. For example, avoid spraying pesticides if you want bees and other pollinators to stay around.
When planting from seed, it can be harder to identify what species of apricot you have. So, you may want to try learning about the tree’s characteristics. This will help you identify whether it has anything unique that you should consider when growing.
What Are The Apricot Tree Growing Zones?
Apricot trees tend to grow best in zones 5-8, but can grow in a wider range, provided they are properly cared for. They prefer warm and sunny summers and access to plenty of water during the growing season.
Like most trees, apricots will perform best in an area where the climate suits them. Warm summers and springs with plenty of rain are the ideal weather. It’s also a good idea to choose an environment that has a mild winter. Frost or snow might negatively impact the growth of the tree.
If you have an area with a cold winter, the spring blooms can be killed by the frost. To help prevent this, mulch during the late winter, which helps thaw the soil. Also, try selecting a hardier variety of apricot (or consider getting a grafted tree with a resilient rootstock).
If you don’t have the perfect environment, it doesn’t mean that you can’t grow apricots. You can still likely grow them, you should be prepared to put in a little more work looking after them.
There are a few methods you should keep in mind to increase your chances of getting a healthy apricot tree.
A good way to care for your apricot tree is to water it frequently as it can often suffer from dry roots. Generally, this means giving them 1-2 inches of water every week. Also, pruning the tree seasonally will help it conserve energy for growth and fruiting.
Once you’ve planted the tree, it doesn’t take too much effort to make sure it grows big and healthy. One of the most important tasks will be watering the tree weekly.
They’ll need around 1-2 inches of water every week. This is even more vital in the spring and summer months when the tree is growing and producing fruit. So, you don’t have to worry about watering as much, consider setting up a semi-automatic watering system or drip irrigation.
Also, consider giving them nutrients occasionally. Trees generally absorb everything it needs from the soil, and if the nutrients or pH levels aren’t there, it will have a hard time growing. Aim for a soil pH of 6.0-6.5. Mulch and fertilize seasonally to insulate and provide more nutrients to the roots.
If you have issues with insects or other pests eating your apricot tree, try to refrain from using a pesticide. Using pesticides can disrupt your tree from cross-pollinating (unless it’s a self-pollinator). If you do decide to use a pesticide, consider using an organic spray, so you don’t kill pollinating insects along with the pests.
Do You Need Two Apricot Trees?
I’ve seen this question come up a few times and it’s a valid one. Do you need two apricot trees to pollinate or will they self-pollinate? The answer depends on how you grew it.
If you grew an apricot tree from a graft, then it most likely will be self-pollinating and you won’t need a second apricot tree to pollinate with it. However, if you grew your tree from a seed, then it will likely need another pollinator.
Placing two or more apricot trees in close-proximity will increase the chances that insects and other pollinators will stop by both trees.
While you don’t need two apricot trees, it will definitely increase the number of flowers pollinated, which then develops into more fruit for you.
When and How Do You Prune Apricot Trees?
One of the most important parts of caring for an apricot tree is pruning it well. If you prune it consistently and properly, you’ll develop a tree that has a good structure. Pruning will also encourage your apricot tree to focus on growing and fruiting. So, when do you start pruning?
It’s best to wait until late winter or early spring before you start pruning an apricot tree. This will ensure that the tree will heal quickly from any damage caused. When it’s younger, prune more often to help it develop a good structure. As the tree ages, you might need to reduce the amount of pruning.
Pruning should start when the tree is young. This will help create a good structure that will stay with it for the rest of its life. First, look for damaged branches or limbs.
These should be removed, as they will inhibit the growth of the tree. You’ll also need to remove branches that are growing more up than out. Finally, try to keep branches around six inches apart, removing any that are too close together.
As the tree ages, continue to prune. Remove any branches that are no longer producing fruit. Keep removing branches that are growing up and not out. Also, thin the canopy occasionally, making sure that there is enough sunlight getting to each branch. You’ll often need to prune the tree once a year in either late winter or early spring.
When you are finished pruning the tree, take the branches and leaves that you’ve removed and add them to your compost pile. The nutrients will breakdown and will provide the tree with many of its nutrient needs in the future.
The best time to add compost to your apricot tree is in early spring or late summer, right around the growing seasons. When the tree is more dormant in the winter, it can’t actively use as many nutrients from the soil and compost.
If you have more questions about pruning, especially with a young apricot tree, check out this video by Gary Heilig.
Growing an apricot tree from seed can give you a bountiful harvest of new apricots each year. This doesn’t need to be difficult. If you put in consistent effort and keep a somewhat watchful eye on your tree, you’ll reap the rewards.
If you’re ready to start your apricot trees from seed, follow the 5 steps above and you’ll have your tree growing in no time.
I personally prefer pluots when they’re in season (they’re a cross between plum and an apricot, and you’re missing out if you haven’t tried one yet!).
On the other hand, if you’re considering growing an apricot tree from a graft, check out this cool video by Alberta Urban Garden.