Prunus mume
Common Name: Japanese apricot 
Type: Tree
Family: Rosaceae
Native Range: Southern China
Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 15.00 to 20.00 feet
Spread: 15.00 to 20.00 feet
Bloom Time: February to March
Bloom Description: Pink
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Flowering Tree
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 6-8 where it is grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained, acidic loams in full sun to part shade. Best flowering is in full sun. Foliage appreciates some part afternoon shade in the hot summers of the deep South. Avoid heavy clays and poorly drained wet soils. Prune if needed immediately after flowering. This plant is marginally winter hardy to the St. Louis area where it should be planted in a protected location. Unfortunately, protected locations may encourage the flowers to open early and succumb to freezing temperatures.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Prunus mume, commonly called Japanese apricot, is primarily grown for ornamental purposes, and in particular for its mid to late winter bloom of pink flowers. It is native to China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan. It is an upright, fast-growing, deciduous tree that typically grows to 15-20’ tall with a rounded form. It may be trained as a large shrub. Spicily fragrant pink flowers (solitary or in pairs) bloom in winter (February – March in St. Louis but earlier in mild winter climates) before the leaves emerge. Flowers have red calyxes and yellowish stamens. Flowers are followed by fuzzy-skinned, green to yellow apricots (to 1” diameter) with clinging stones. Apricots ripen in summer. Apricots are technically edible fresh from the plant (some say bitter and inedible), but are at any rate of very poor quality in comparison to commercially sold common apricots (Prunus armeniaca). Fruits may be harvested for use in making jams and preserves. Broad-oval leaves (2-4” long) are sharply-serrulate.

Genus name from Latin means plum or cherry tree.

Specific epithet is a variant of the Japanese name umi for a species of Prunus.

Problems

Cold temperatures in late winter may damage the flowers and subsequent fruit. Plants generally flower better in the southern parts of their growing range than in the northern parts including St. Louis. If fruits appear, they can be rather messy if allowed to drop to the ground. Potential insect pests include aphids, scale and borers. Potential disease problems include bacterial canker and brown rot.

Garden Uses

In St. Louis, plants are best sited in sunny but protected locations in the landscape such as areas on south side of a house. Excellent along walkways or near decks or patios. Specimen or groups.