Connect With UsBecome a Member

Japanese apricot


Prunus_mume-tree-BFJapanese apricot, Prunus mume

Scientific Name

Prunus is Latin for members of the plum family; mume is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese name for the plant.

Common Name

Japanese apricot is named for where the plant was first observed in cultivation and its relation to apricot. Other names include Japanese flowering apricot and Japanese flowering plum.


Japanese apricot is native to China. Trees grow in woods and rocky hills in moist, well-drained soils. Although P. mume is from China, it was first observed in cultivation in Japan. The tree was chosen the national flower of China in the 1930s. In China, the 5 petals represent the 5 blessings: wealth, health, love of virtue, old age and natural death. Japanese apricot is a member of the Rosaceae family. The Rosaceae family includes some 200 species.


Not native to Kentucky


Growth Habit and Form

Japanese apricot is a small tree with a rounded to oval crown. Older trees have a gnarled branching structure and trunk. Japanese apricot grows to 25 feet in height with a similar spread.


Leaves are simple, alternate, ovate, deep green, and 2 to 4 inches long. The leaves have finely, sharply toothed edges and wedge-shaped bases. The underside of the leaves have fine hairs on the veins. The deciduous leaves may turn yellowish in autumn before dropping.


The 5-petaled flowers are 1 to 1 ¼ inches in diameter and occur singly or in pairs. The pale pink, fragrant flowers bloom between January and March before the leaves appear. Pollination is by insects.


Fruits are yellow to orange, rounded drupes (fleshy fruits with a single seed). The fruits are 1 to 1 ¼ inches in diameter and contain a stony seed. The tart fruits are eaten and seeds are scattered by wildlife.


The rough stems are glossy green. The bark is smooth and brown.

Wild and Cultivated Varieties

Cultivars include:

‘Alba” with single, white flowers

‘Pendula’ has pale pink, single or semi-double flowers on pendulous branches.

‘Kobai’ has red, semi-double flowers.

‘Contorta’ has an unusual contorted form; the cultivar is often hard to find in trade.


Landscape Use

Japanese apricot is a beautiful, long-lived small tree that is best used as a specimen.

Hardiness Zone

Hardy in USDA Zones 6 to 9.

Growth Rate


Cultivation and Propagation Information

Growth is best in moist, fertile, well-drained soils and full sun to partial shade. Flowering and fruiting is best in full sun. Young trees grow rapidly, at rates of 5 to 6 feet per year. Japanese apricot is easily rooted from softwood cuttings. Seed require a brief cold moist stratification.

Diseases and Insects

Japanese apricot is typically free of serious disease or insect problems. Borer infestation has been observed by authorities on grafted plants.

Wildlife Considerations

Maple trees provide homes, shelter and food for wildlife.

Maintenance Practices

Minimal attention given appropriate cultural conditions.


The flowers have been represented in paintings, on ceramics and porcelain.

Flowers have also been used in embroidery for centuries.

The 5-petalled blossoms are the floral symbol of the month of January.

A sauce made from the fruits is sold as plum sauce in Chinese markets.

The fruits are used as a substitute for vinegar, pickled or made into wine.

Japanese apricot was introduced into cultivation in 1844.