Flowering Apricot

By KENPEI (KENPEI's photo) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.1 jp (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.1/jp/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

By KENPEI (KENPEI’s photo) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

Japanese flowering apricot, Prunus mume, is a small to medium, ornamental, flowering tree growing to just over 15 feet tall and wide. Unlike the name suggests, the tree is actually native to China and Korea, although it is highly regarded as an ornamental tree in Japan. It has been cultivated in Asia for nearly 1500 years but most of it’s popularity has grown right here in Raleigh.  Many plants are closely associated with the J.C. Raulston Arboretum, but few as close as Prunus mume.  Dr. J.C. Raulston of the North Carolina State Arboretum was one of Prunus mume’s biggest cheerleaders.  It would be difficult to find a reference piece about these beautiful trees that doesn’t reference Dr. Raulston, his students or the Arboretum.  We may have one of the largest collections right here in Raleigh with the Arboretum having at least 22 cultivars.


Depending on a variety of factors- site, cultivar, and of course the weather, Japanese flowering apricot can flower anywhere from late December to early March. Although the tow are closely related, these beautiful flowering trees give the more popular Japanese cherry trees a run for their money. Prunus mume trees are rounded, with handsome, dark green leaves and bright green young stems in Spring and Summer. Winter is this tree’s time to shine, offering a burst of bright color in a generally dismal winter landscape.  Blooms range from single to double and can be white, red or pink.  The flowers have a nice, spicy, fragrance.

Planting & Care


The plant is self-fertile and will bear small edible fruit. Whichever variety you choose, plant in full sun to part shade in acid well drained soil. Be sure it gets adequate water for the first two seasons. Once established, it is a tough, heat tolerant and easygoing tree for the South.  The Arboretum has trialed dozens of selections over the years and claim most to be good performers and reliable.

Prunus mume flowers on the previous year’s wood so some caution is recommended when pruning. Buds will set during the growing season so care should be taken not to prune these future flowers away. Reserve pruning until after flowering; this regular pruning will be beneficial to flower quantity as well as overall tree health.

If you are looking to add an small ornamental tree to your landscape with winter interest, Japanese flowering apricot is a fantastic choice!