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Do you have an apricot tree with no apricots on it?

It’s a sad but common result, particularly after a wet spring. It’s probably not much help, but if it’s happened to your tree, you’re definitely not alone.

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Apricots are one of the most delicious fruits to grow in your backyard. But they’re also notoriously one of the hardest to grow.

The four main reasons your apricot tree has no fruit

Apricots are vulnerable to fungal disease. So it’s no surprise that the main reason it doesn’t have fruit is likely to be disease.

They are also one of the earliest fruit trees to flower in spring, which also makes them vulnerable to poor weather. Frost is the first one that springs to mind, but poor weather can also affect whether they have fruit in other ways.

The last reason is – thankfully – something you can completely control!

An apricot tree looking very sick due to dieback from Blossom blight
An apricot tree looking very sick due to dieback from Blossom blight

Reason 1: Blossom blight

This horrible disease accounts for most cases where your tree has no fruit. It causes the flowers to rot on the tree. Even worse, the disease then gets worse and causes dieback of the laterals. It can even cause branches to die. It can make your apricot tree look really sick. Luckily, most trees recover well. By mid-summer they usually look lush and healthy again.

What you can do about it

It is preventable with the right spraying of organic fungicide. However, extreme weather (like daily rain) might stop your sprays from working. If you got dieback of laterals in your tree, it’s really important to prune out all the dead wood before the next spring. This is one of the basic hygiene practices in your garden that will help to keep your trees healthy. Dead infected wood in the tree is full of fungal spores. Left in the tree, they’ll just start the whole cycle again next spring.

Reason 2: Frost

Any fruit tree can lose its fruit if it experiences a heavy frost while it’s flowering. Flowers are very tender and easily frost burnt. The problem with apricots (and almonds) is that they flower very early when the risk of frost is still high.

What you can do about it

Good planning is the first step. Apricots should be planted in the most frost-free site on your block. If they’re planted in a site that does get heavy frost then you’ll need to cover them with frost protection. That means you need to be alert to frost warnings through the whole flowering period, especially when the trees are at full bloom.

Reason 3: Lack of bee activity

If it’s too cold, or raining all the time when the trees are flowering, then there’s a good chance the bees won’t be out working. They’ll be in their hives staying warm and dry, like sensible bees.

What you can do about it

If you normally have good pollination and fruit set then you can feel confident that you usually have enough bees around. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to make them work in bad weather. However, if your trees tend to have no fruit even when the weather at flowering time is warm and sunny, then you may have a lack of bees. The rule of thumb is that you should be able to count at least 6 bees in the tree when it’s in full bloom. If you don’t have enough bees you should plant more bee-attracting plants in your garden, or maybe get a beehive.

Reason 4: Lack of pollination

This is one you can completely control. Most (but not all) apricot trees need a friend to help them have fruit. That means they need the right pollinising partner that they can exchange pollen with. Even apricots that are self-fertile will usually do better with a buddy that flowers at the same time, as long as their pollen is compatible. (See the chart below to find the right polliniser for your tree.) If you realise that pollination is the issue and don’t have space for another apricot tree, you can always graft a polliniser onto your existing tree.

A tree-ripened Hunter apricot
A tree-ripened Hunter apricot

Apricot pollination chart

BebecoAny apricot that flowers at the same time, e.g. Moorpark, Patterson, Trevatt, Tilton
DivinityBulida, Moorpark, Rival
EarlicottAny apricot that flowers at the same time, e.g. Katy and maybe Castlebrite.
EarlirilBlenril, Morocco, Sun Glo, Divinity.
GoldbarPerfection, Goldrich
GoldrichBlenril, Earliril, Riland, Rival, Tilton
Improved Flaming GoldSelf-fertile
Piet CillieSelf-fertile
RivalEarliril, Goldrich, Perfection, Sun Glo, Tilton.
Maybe Divinity, Trevatt, Skaha
Royal RosaSelf-fertile
SkahaPollination required, self-infertile. Self-infertile, needs pollination from any other apricot that flowers at the same time (mid-season).
SortilegePartially self-fertile, best to plant with another apricot that flowers at the same time (late season).
Spring GiantImproved Flaming Gold
Steven’s FavouriteAny apricot that flowers at the same time, Hunter.
SundropTrevatt, partially Moorpark if bloom overlaps
SungloAny apricot that flowers at the same time (mid to late season)
Tardif de BordaneilSelf-fertile
TomcotPartially self-fertile, best to plant with another apricot that flowers at the same time (early to mid-season).

Why do apricot trees get so big?

Apricots often grow into beautiful, lush, big, vigorous trees (like the one at the top of this blog). That’s partly because they’re naturally vigorous, and partly because they often don’t have a crop.

Fruit trees can put their energy into two things – growing wood, or growing fruit. A healthy, balanced tree that has been well pruned and maintained will grow both.

The ideal situation for your fruit tree is that it will have a good crop of fruit every year. It should also grow some new wood each summer, especially trees like peaches and nectarines that grow their fruit on one-year-old wood.

Because apricot trees regularly don’t have fruit, they can put all their energy into growing wood. As a result, they can end up being huge trees.

Huge, beautiful trees with no fruit!

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