Although apricots' (Prunus armeniaca) early flowering tendency makes them vulnerable to Colorado's frosty springs, cold-hardy apricot varieties do grow successfuly in the Centennial State, even in the coolest high altitude regions, according to the Colorado Tree Coalition. Colorado State University Extension advises, "Short to medium-length growing season varieties are better because many Colorado locations have shorter growing seasons." To gather the sweet, juicy rewards of apricot harvest in Colorado's U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3a to 7a, choose late-blossom varieties that will stand up to freezes without losing the crop.
Holly Acres Nursery in Elizabeth, Colorado, recommends apricot varieties that are hardy as low as minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit such as "Chinese," "Tilton," "Moorpark" and "Puget Gold." "Tilton" and "Moorpark," along with "Wenatchee Royal" are self-pollinating, while you will need at least two" Riland," "Perfection," and "Rival" trees for pollination and fruiting. Late-blooming varieties that can withstand Colorado's cold springs include, "Goldcot," "Moorpark," "Moongold," "Scout," and "Sungold." The plum-apricot hybrid known as "Plumcot" is hardy down to minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
In addition to choosing late-flowering varieties that are less vulnerable to frost, you can encourage delayed spring flowering with a little advance preparation. CSU Extension recommends covering the ground around the trunk with a wide layer of thick mulch after fall freeze. Wood chips, pine bark nuggets, pine straw or compost make good mulch for fruit trees to hold in moisture, control weeds and enrich the soil, which contributes to the trees' overall health and production of a good crop of apricots to harvest.
According to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, apricots are ready to harvest from mid-August through mid-September. Morton's Orchards, a USDA-certified organic grower in Palisade in western Colorado, reports that its apricots are ready to pick in early July through the end of the month. In either case, the harvest season is short, so apricot lovers should fill up early.
Although generally hardy at sub-zero temperatures, apricot trees have different cold tolerances at different budding stages during the growing season, advises the Colorado State University Western Colorado Research Center. Depending on where the tree is in bud development, temperatures between 0 and 28 degrees can damage or kill the buds and blossoms and prevent them from fruiting. In the colder areas of Colorado, this can cause inconsistent fruiting and harvest if the tree is exposed to fatal temperatures at the wrong time. There will be no crop to harvest when that happens, so the colder your growing region, the more likely you are to skip a year or a few between apricot harvests. Even in the absence of harvest though, apricot trees make good shade trees and beautify the landscape with their leafy, colorful foliage and beautiful blossoms.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone Map:Colorado
- Holly Acres Nursery and Garden Center: Apricots and Nectarines for Colorado
- Colorado Tree Coalition: Apricot
- Colorado Department of Agriculture: Colorado Produce
- Colorado State University Extension: PlantTalk Colorado: Apricots
- Colorado State University Extension: PlantTalk Colorado: Fruit Trees for Colorado
- Photo Credit Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images
- Plant Maps: Interactive Colorado Last Frost Date Map
- Colorado State University Western Colorado Research Center: Apricot Bud Stages and Critical Temperatures
- Colorado State University Western Colorado Research Center: Possible Fruit Tree Cultivars for Cold Locations in Colorado
- Utah State University Extension: Preserve the Harvest: Apricots
- Morton's Orchards