Apricot tree:no fruit from buds, just brown gum, munched leaves - what to spray?

I really wanted to grow apricots here northwest of Boston where it reliably gets down to -10 degrees at least once per winter. I planted two “Adirondack Gold” apricot trees from St. Lawrence nurseries two years ago. They have grown pretty nicely, and last year I got lots of flowers. Starting after petal fall, I sprayed pretty regularly with an insecticidal soap recommended by the local garden center, which says it is “potassium salts of fatty acids”. But I got no fruit. Where the buds had been, there was a brown sticky substance, and all the leaves were chewed up from the outside. Frustratingly, I didn’t see any bugs on the tree. I assume I should be spraying with something more potent if I want to get fruit, but what? Thanks for any suggestions.

Maybe less potent. That soap could have been too strong. Such products only work when you spray them directly on the pests.

Thanks for getting back to me @ltilton !

The soap was not helpful in any case, because during the growing season: new leaves would come out and look healthy, then a few days later when I checked the tree something had eaten big chunks out of all of them.

Any suggestions on something else to spray would be terrific! Does the fact that brown sticky goo appeared where the buds had been ring any bells with anyone?

I had something eating big chunks out of leaves last year. Couldn’t find a culprit but whoever it was did a lot of damage within couple of days. I never figured out what it was but the problem stopped when I wrapped the trunk of tree with Tree wrap (sold on amazon) and put Tanglefoot on it. So I guess it was some sort of crawling up the trunk kind of insect. Not sure if that’s your problem but Just something to think about.

I would put some pictures up if it comes back next year. It could be many things and with a picture it will be a lot easier. Definitely toss the soap, and pick a different garden center while you are at it – that’s a pretty bad suggestion!

Ideas it could be include Japanese beetles, some other beetle, brown rot blossom blight, shot hole aka bacterial canker, etc.

Before apricots fruit they don’t need much in the way of spraying assuming they are healthy. Once they start fruiting they need several sprays for brown rot, plum curculio, and oriental fruit moths, plus possibly other things.

Hi Mike,
Where are you in MA. I am in Worcester County, zone 6a, formerly 5b.

I am new to apricots, too. I grafted several varieties on my nectarine tree and one graft on my peach tree in 2016. They have grown by leap and bound and threatened to take over my original trees.

They’ve been very precociuos. Its blooms (and most of other stone fruit blooms) got wiped out in the spring of 2017 when it was warm in late Feb/early March and Went down to single digis for a few days.

Last year, 2018, no frost kill. I harvested several apricots and they were miles better than store-bought ( never get any good store-bought apricot anyway).

Like others said, it is difficult to figure out what ruined your apricots. It could have caused by a combination of what Scott listed plus the use of wrong spray.

I don’t know the variety you grow. I have Orangered,Tomcot, Robada and a few others that have not fruited.

Also, I agree with @Susu about wrapping trunks of all your fruit trees and smearing the wrap with Tangled Foot to prevent crawlers from going up your trees. Some of them work at night. That’s why a lot of us never see them if we don’t go out with a flash light at night.

1 Like

Thanks for the suggestion to post a picture @scottfsmith! I will certainly do that if the problem recurs, but right now I am focused on preventing it. You mentioned that apricots don’t need much spraying before they fruit, but I am not seeing any fruit; blossoms are followed by brown gum. One nursery in California (http://www.wegmansnursery.com/care-guides/fruit-citrus-trees/apricot-trees.html) recommends spraying during dormancy with a mixture of mineral oil and a copper product; does that seem reasonable?

Hi neighbor @mamuang! I’m in Bedford in Middlesex County. I reliably get -10 degrees once or twice a winter. The nursery’s blurb on their “Adirondack Gold” apricot says it’s

A selection of Manchurian found thriving and fruiting reliably in the Adirondack Mountains, where a 60-day growing season is the norm. The fruit is a small apricot, superior to the unselected Manchurian, with a non-fuzzy skin, (more like a plum,) and a dense, sweet flesh. Unlike the the wild Manchurian Apricot, it does not require a pollinator.

I will certainly wrap the trunks and smear with tanglefoot this year; thanks to you and Susu for the suggestion.

And thanks for sharing the apricot varieties you are growing. The fact that you are having some success makes me feel hopeful. Maybe I should get another tree or two. Is there one in particular you would suggest? Did you get the trees locally, or mail order? What do you spray with?

Though I am new to apricots, I am not new to growing fruit.

I would suggest you listen to extension services around here from the east coast. You can check out UMaas, Cornell, Penn State extension services, Their advice and recommendations are more relevant to our growing condition that of CA’s. CA climate is drier so they have far less diseases than what we have plenty here.

I like both Orangered and Tomcot.

By the way, I know Bedford well. I’ve been there many times over the past 15 years. You probably are zone 6a, too.

You may be interested in reading this sudden death in apricots before buying another tree.

Thanks for the tip on apricot varieties @mamuang ! And also for the pointer to the UMass extension service. I did find their online guide to spraying for apricots at 1 - Late Dormant | New England Tree Fruit Management Guide but it is geared to the commercial grower and describes commercial insecticides in terms of “pounds per acre” when I have only two trees and would be buying garden center products.

Most of the UMass listings for dormant spraying, however, seem to mention oil and copper fungicides, so maybe the California nursery’s recommendation of oil and copper is not too far off. Or do you have a spray regimen that has worked well for your peaches that you would suggest instead?

Thanks also for the pointer to that other thread. One of the posters actually mentions the Adirondack Gold variety but notes that he did not know if the fruit would be any good, so did not buy it. I hope I can get some fruit and report back!

UMass tends to gear toward commercial orchards. I’ve found Penn State and Cornell extension services friendlier to backyard growers.

Anyway, I am in the camp of low spray, less chemicals when I can. So, I follow @scottfsmith’s low impact spray schedule. Low Impact Spray Schedule (old version) - #53 by scottfsmith.

Apricot is one of those stone fruit i.e. peaches, plum, apricots, cherry.

At dormant I spray copper (Kocide 3000), dormant oil and sticker (Nufilm 17). Once tree set fruit, you need to figure out what are insects in your area, Oriental Fruit moths, Plum curculio, coddling moths, stink bugs, etc. or all of them.

For apricots, I also have thrips, too, which are big pain as effective spray is done at bloom time, risking killing bees. I mostly spray Surround (kaolin clay). Sometimes, I bag those fruit so Surround cover the bags making fruit inside cleaner. Surround can be washed off but don’t mix Nufilm with Surround. It’s impossible to wash off.

I am not aiming to produce perfect fruit. I only spray chemicals if needed. I try to use Surround, and bagging when possible. This approach is time consuming and not 100% effective. It’s more effective to spray chemicals if you do not object to it.


Yes, that’s a good idea given that you had problems the previous year. Apricots normally don’t need much spraying before they fruit, but in your case that doesn’t hold. The copper can help reduce brown rot and shothole issues if that is what your problem is. The oil is for scale which it doesn’t sound like is a problem but it won’t hurt.

My best guess is if you just stop the soap you will be fine in the coming year, but its not a bad idea to be conservative. If you have brown rot shoot blight, the most likely disease based on the description, you will need to spray sulphur or propiconazole in the spring. You also might want to Google brown rot shoot blight and bacterial spot and look at some pictures, so you will know what you may be dealing with.


Hello Mike,

I have two apricot trees here in Maine and they both produced fruit last year. On one of the trees I also have a Montrose graft which also fruited last year. My only problem was the chipmunks and squirrels ate 99% of my crop. This year I will start trapping them before the fruiting season. I had several hundred apricots on them and I ended up saving 7 from the rodents. I have never sprayed my trees or fertilized them. I just mulch them with my leaf litter. I have not had a problem with my tree otherwise.


That can be a symptom of shot hole. I would definitely use the copper.

I think Daconil-type fungicide is recommended for your first non-dormant sprays if shothole? I’m definitely not knowledgeable about whether that’s the best treatment method, but I’ve looked it up before, anyway, lol.

You can get copper fungicide and Daconil both at big box hardware stores.

(I think mine wasn’t shot hole in the end, but mine was just on the very tips of branches.)

Hi Mike. That’s from St. Lawrence, right? I had that one for a while too, but grafted over it before it fruited – the hope was that it would be a good rootstock for delaying flowering, but that didn’t work. Anyway, it looks like you already got some good advice, so I just wanted to say hi from another Mass person.

Allow me to jump on the bandwagon and advise you in the strongest way possible to do the copper/horticultural oil spray in dormancy. While I cannot swear the oil is helping since I don’t have much scale, I am absolutely certain that the copper has helped me with brown rot. Yes, I spray other things for brown rot but last year I accidently forgot to spray 2 of my peach trees that are on the other side of my property with copper and oil. Otherwise, they got all the same sprays after blooming. The 2 that didn’t get the copper absolutely had more brown rot and also had more peach leaf curl. Now the peach leaf curl may have had a lot more to do with variety, but I’m confident that the brown rot difference had a lot to do with those 2 not getting the copper.

And @mamuang was right to alert you to the sudden death of apricots issue. There have been a lot of other reports of it in threads besides the one she posted. With only a tiny, tiny number of exceptions, apricots are the only trees in my whole orchard that I have had survive the first year or two as healthy trees and then just up and die with no apparent reason. I’ve had almost no other trees just unexplainable die like that, yet I’ve lost 4 apricots almost exactly the same way. They would appear not just ok but to be the picture of good health. They would start growing like crazy after winter so it wasn’t winter kill. They would bloom and fully leaf out. Then in most cases a large limb would just wilt almost overnight. It would literally look as if it had just been cut off the tree. Leaves didn’t have time to turn yellow or anything. One day green leaves, then wilted, then within a couple days just dried green leaves. THen a couple weeks later another large limb or most of the tree would do the same thing. To this day I don’t know what caused it but its been pretty common for me., Others have never experienced so you may be fine. Just something to be aware of.

1 Like

It may be because the roots were damaged . In socal we lost many trees due to gophers eating the roots before we figured out the cause. The symptoms would be the same. For younger trees we would walk by and see the whole tree still standing but wilting in just a day or so. It was very easy to pull the whole tree up because all the main roots were eaten up to the surface. Older trees may recover. Last year all the fruits of an old navel orange tree stopped growing. I was thinking about citrus greening but they started getting bigger after a few months. I know that tree is on a gopher route. The mandarin next to it lost all the fruits. Planting in a wire basket will protect the tree until the roots grow out. The gopher may eat the roots after that. Some tree survives, some stops growing or fruiting.They love fig trees the most. I replaced all the lawn except for a small piece, have to have some green or the kids would go nut, by pavers and rocks because of that problem. I know gophers are still going through that piece of lawn. I just saw a mound on the sloped hill. I will put have to put some pavers on that area soon. Except for killing them, which I don’t want to, nothing else will deter them. One time I even saw one popped up halfway to see what was going on, while I was putting the pavers on. That is one of the reasons all the new trees go into containers now.

1 Like

I saw verticillium wilt for the first time in my lifetime last year. An apricot and a maple near each other all had leaves that wilted suddenly and died. There’s no question it was anything except verticillium wilt.

Pears and apples can be replanted in those locations, however, I’m converting that area to nut trees and neither hickory/pecan nor walnut are affected.

It was really interesting to watch it show up and how fast my trees died. Sometimes it affects only areas of a tree and eventually killing the tree or it affects the entire tree which was my case.


Thanks so much to all of you guys for the many great responses! I will be certain to spray with the dormant oil and copper. I’ll hope that the apricot trees don’t die on me suddenly. Yes, they are the ones from St. Lawrence @SMC_zone6. Not sure what to do about chipmunks and squirrels @Swizzle ; there are so many here that trapping them would be a full time job. I guess I will have to cross that bridge when I come to it. But protecting fruit from critters would be a problem I’d love to have; first I need some fruit! :slight_smile:

I’ll post an update with pictures once they bloom.


What you described sounded like verticillium wilt to me. I had two redbud trees died of it. I think my sweet cherry died of it, too.