known botanically as Prunus armeniaca, this stone fruit originated in China. It can be grown throughout much of the West, with some limitations. Because apricot trees bloom early in the season, they will not fruit in regions with late frosts. In cool, humid coastal areas, tree and fruit are usually subject to brown rot and blight; in mild-winter areas of Southern California, only varieties with low requirements for winter chill do well. In the East, try varieties bred from hardy apricot, Prunus armeniaca mandshurica.

Standard apricot trees reach 15 20 ft. high and wide and make good, easily maintained dual-purpose fruit and shade trees; they can also be espaliered. Thin, roundish leaves to 3 in. long are reddish when new, maturing to bright green; flowers are pink or white.

Apricot trees bear most of their fruit on short spurs that form on the previous year’s growth and remain fruitful for about 4 years. Most varieties ripen from late spring into summer.

To get a good crop of large fruit, do this: in midspring, thin excess fruit from branches, leaving 2-4 in. between individual fruits. Prune in summer (rather than in the dormant season, as is usually recommended) to avoid Eutypa dieback, a disease characterized by sudden limb dieback and oozing cankers; it is spread by rain and can infect trees through pruning wounds.