How to grow an almond tree
All you need to know about growing and caring for an almond tree.
Almond tree (Prunus dulcis) is a deciduous flowering tree grown for its pretty spring blossom and edible nuts. Almond trees form an upright and spreading head of branches, wreathed with masses of small pale pink or white flowers borne on the bare branches in late winter and early spring, before the leaves open.
Almond blossom flowers are bowl-shaped, borne singly or in pairs and are up to 5cm across. They're usually pale pink, white, or deeper pink, depending on the variety. The dark green leaves, which open after the flowers, are lance-shaped with serrated edges. Large, rounded, green fruit form during summer and mature in autumn, forming velvety cases that enclose the edible almond nuts.
Correct siting is key to success with growing almonds in the UK – they do best in areas with mild winters and warm summers. An alternative to free-standing trees is to grow fan-trained almond plant against a south-facing wall or fence, which can retain more heat for the tree.
How to grow almond tree
Plant your almond tree in good soil and a sheltered site, avoiding frost pockets, with space to grow out as well as up. Ideally plant when dormant, preferably in autumn. Keep watered during dry spells for the first year and mulch annually. Bear in mind that some almond trees need a pollination partner, so you may need to find space for two.
Where to grow almond tree
Grow your almond tree in sun, sheltered from cold north or easterly winds. The ideal soil for almonds is fertile and well-drained, with plenty of organic matter to retain moisture. As almond blossom appears very early in the season, avoid planting in cold, exposed, or low-lying sites where frost is likely to damage the flowers. In the UK, almonds grow best in areas of mild winters and warm summers. In colder areas, grow almond tree as a fan against a sunny wall, where the heat from the wall will protect the blooms from frost damage.
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How to plant an almond tree
Autumn is the ideal time to plant an almond tree, so the tree can start to establish well before the growing season starts in spring. Late winter to early spring is the next best time. However, container grown trees can be planted at any time of year.
- Dig a planting hole sufficiently wide for the roots to be spread out
- Ensure the top of the root ball is at soil level, firm in well, water in, and mulch the soil with compost or chipped bark to improve moisture retention and discourage weed growth
- Stake the tree with a short stake angled at 45 degrees and secured to the trunk using a tree tie
How to care for an almond tree
During the first year, keep your almond tree watered during dry spells, watering thoroughly once every several days to encourage deep roots to develop. Keep the ground around the base of the tree clear of grass and weeds to prevent competition for water and nutrients. Ideally, apply an annual mulch of well-rotted compost, 5-8cm thick, over the tree’s rooting area.
Harvest the almond fruits in mid-autumn. The fruit capsules starting to split is a good sign that the nuts are ripe. Spread the fruits on a dry, sunny windowsill or bench indoors for several weeks, which makes it easier to split the fruits and remove the nuts.
How to prune an almond tree
Almond trees require minimal pruning. However, if you need to prune out dead, diseased, or damaged shoots, do so when the tree is dormant in winter. Thin the stems if necessary to create an open head of branches, as well as taking off any shoots that are growing on the trunk.
Growing almond trees: problem solving
Almond trees are prone to several diseases including peach leaf curl (almonds are closely related to peach trees) and canker.
- Peach leaf curl is a fungal disease that causes unsightly red blisters on the leaves. The spores are spread by raindrops, so in high-rainfall areas, almonds are often best grown as fan trained trees against a wall, where the tree has some shelter. Picking off and disposing of infected leaves helps limit spread of the disease
- Dead or shrivelled shoots may be infected with canker and should be pruned out during winter
- Frosts are likely to damage the blossom, which is borne very early in the season. Prevent this by growing your almond tree in a sheltered site and away from low-lying areas where cold air gathers
Advice on buying an almond tree
- Almond trees are often available as container-grown trees from nurseries and garden centres
- Nurseries that specialise in fruit trees offer a selection of varieties bred for improved fruit production. These are best bought during the dormant season when trees are easiest to transport
- Some almond trees require a pollination partner to fruit successfully, although modern cultivars tend to be self fertile. Check before you buy
Where to buy an almond tree
Varieties of almond to grow
Prunus dulcis 'Sultane' – early pink almond blossom followed by sweet, soft-shelled fruits.
Prunus dulcis 'Robijn' – beautiful pink almond blossom. Shows some resistance to peach leaf-curl. Self fertile but would produce a bigger crop if it had a pollination partner.
Prunus dulcis 'Ingrid' – Pale pink, spring almond blossom. Self fertile but would produce a bigger crop if it had a pollination partner.
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