The apricot (Prunus armeniaca) is a small fruit tree originating from southern Europe. Depending on the variety, apricots can be grown in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 to 9, and they are valued for their fleshy orange fruits and attractive growth habit. Varieties of apricots are available for different growing regions. You can select for fruit size, color, quality, and disease resistance.
"Blenheim" is one of the most widely planted apricot varieties. It is medium-sized, aromatic, and freestone -- meaning the pit does not stick to the fruit.
"Goldstrike" bears large, highly colored red-orange fruit on a prolific tree. This variety has a high "chilling" requirement -- the number of hours below 45 degrees needed each winter for the tree to set fruit.
"Poppy" has excellent eating qualities, and is among the earliest-maturing varieties, ripening in the third week of May.
"Canadian White Blenheim" and "Chinese" apricots are two cold-hardy varieties that extend the apricot-growing region into zone 4. These two varieties are much less susceptible than most to crop damage by spring frosts.
In the warmer reaches of zone 9, "Katy" and "Gold Kist" are two of the best varieties, needing only 200 to 300 hours of winter chill to set fruit. For a dwarf variety, "Pixie Cot" is an excellent choice. It can be kept as low as 6 feet in height, and is suitable for growing in containers.
Apricots are notoriously disease-prone trees, which often makes cultivation by the home gardener difficult. They suffer in particular from fungal diseases, such as brown rot and perennial canker. These pathogens are somewhat curtailed by the drier conditions of the West, but are usually intensified by the humid environment of the eastern United States. However, some apricot varieties have been bred particularly for their disease resistance and adaptability to humid areas. These include "Goldcot," "Harcot," "Royal Rosa," "Tilton" and "Harglow."
Apriums are plum/apricot hybrids. They are lager than apricots, have the texture of plums, and are very sweet.
"Coral Cot" apriums are particularly large and flavorful.
"Autumn Sprite" is unique for extending the harvest season into fall.
"Honey Rich" Apriums have a smaller fruit, but are known as one of the best flavored varieties.
Plumcots are another hybrid, but one that emphasizes plum qualities slightly more than apricots.
"Flavorella" is one of the best varieties, ripening in early June and requiring at least 500 hours of winter chill.