Manchurian Apricot, Prunus Mandshurica
Probably the cold-hardiest of all tasty edible apricots.
- Cold hardiness zones: 3 – 7 (can withstand cold to -40° F, -40 C)
- Soil PH: 6.0 to 7.5
- Watering needs: Medium. Drought tolerant once established.
- Blooming Season: Early spring.i Just be aware that Manchurian apricots only blossom every two or three years. This is healthy and natural, and doesn’t mean the fruits are failing.
- Harvest season: Late summerii
- Fruiting age: 2– 5 yearsiii
- Average mature yield: 80 – 100 lbs, or 36 – 46 kg.iv Some exceptional trees have known to get up to 1300 lbs of fruit, or 600 kg.v
- Pollination for Fruit: The tree will probably produce fruit on its own, but with more trees there will be significantly more fruit.
- Size at maturity: 15 – 26 feet tall, 30 feet wide, (4.5 – 8 by 9 meters)vi
- Sun needs: Part sun. They prefer some shade, but need some sun for fruit. Morning sun is probably preferred in most locations. Full sun is probably okay in areas that don’t get as much sun.
- Preferred habitat: In the loamy soil of forests, thickets, and rocky slopes.vii
- Growth rate (vigor): Fastviii
- Natural reproductive rate (and methods): Medium, mostly by root saplings.ix Also by seed.
- Propagation method: Seed, after cold stratification.
- Average life span: 30 – 40, though some can reach 200 years.x
- Plant family: Rosaceae
Manchurian apricots might be the most cold-hardy species of apricot available at the moment. And though some worry about blossoms freezing because of their early blooming season, this can be helped some by planting the trees on a north facing slope, or in front of a north side of the house. The reason this might help is that the ground is likely to stay cooler longer than the air in these locations, potentially slowing your apricot’s waking out of dormancy. Thus when it does come out, the season has warmed some.xi This strategy can work for most early blooming fruit species.
A little smaller than most domestic apricots, the Manchurian apricot fruit is about the size of a ping-pong ball. In terms of flavor, it varies from tree to tree. Keep in mind that Manchurian apricots are usually grown from seed, and in such a case, every tree is a unique variety. Some say the flavor is rather bland, others bitter, while others say it has a strong, intense apricot flavor.xii This strong variability of flavor suggests a great opportunity for cultivating this uniquely cold-hardy apricot to develop some good, commercial-worthy varieties.
Most seem to agree that it makes good jam/jelly, and some even prefer it over other kinds of apricots. You can use Manchurian apricots in any recipe calling for apricots (just watch the apricot’s measurements—if the recipe calls for a certain number of apricots, you may need to add more, perhaps even double, what the recipe calls for. This won’t be a problem when the measurement called for is in weight or volume). Most likely, however, the use of Manchurian apricot for traditional apricot recipes will vary from tree to tree. Your first or second year of fruit should give you a good idea what kind of flavor to expect for the rest of your tree’s life. And if you have one tree with good fruit, and another with bitter fruit. You can graft branches from your good tree onto your other tree. But before you completely remove your bitter tree, remember that it can be a pollinator for your good tree.
We’ve mentioned that there is good room for the establishment of commercial varieties of Manchurian apricots, but there are a few out there, and they include the following:
Prunus mandshurica ‘Adirondack’
Manchurian Hardy Apricot
Prunus mandshurica/Prunus armeniaca mandschurica
Prunus mandshurica ‘Westcot‘