Growing Flowering Apricot

This little ornamental tree simply can’t wait for spring.

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Prunus mume  (01) Spring

Prunus mume (01) Spring

Japanese flowering apricots are among the first spring ornamental trees to bloom in winter, sporting, white, pink or rose flowers.

Japanese flowering apricots are among the first spring ornamental trees to bloom in winter, sporting, white, pink or rose flowers.

No doubt, Japanese flowering apricot is the perfect small tree.

The little ornamental, which grows to 20 feet, begins blooming in early January—even late December in mild climates—during the darkest days of winter. One glimpse of its white, pink or rose flowers, single or double, sparks fantasies of an an early spring.

Flowering apricot, Prunus mume, can put on a show that lasts six to eight weeks. That’s because its flower buds have a staggered dormancy—meaning if an inevitable freeze kills its early blooms it still has “back up” dormant buds that are unharmed.

Unlike the more common spring flowering trees—cherries, crabapples, pears, dogwoods—the apricot has been slow to catch on in this country, while in its native Japan there are some 300 varieties.

Once the flowers, with their rich, spicy fragrance, fade, they are replaced by attractive dark green foliage.

Easy to grow, the trees prefer full sun and fertile well-drained soil. They bloom on old wood, so any pruning should be done immediately after flowering so as not to remove new flower buds.

The earliest cultivar to flower is ‘Rosemary Clarke’, with her large double white flowers, followed by ‘Peggy Clarke’, sporting double rose-red blooms. There’s also ‘W.B. Clarke’ (double) and ‘Pendula’ (single), which are pink-blooming weeping varieties.

For really tight spaces, consider small cultivars that are perfect for containers, such as the bright pink ‘Beni-chidori’ and ‘Dawn’, which grow to only 8 feet.

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