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How to Care And Grow an Almond Tree

Last Updated on October 19, 2023 by Plant Mom Care

Almond trees have been cultivated since 4000 BC and have also been mentioned in the Bible. Romans thought almonds represented fertility and they showered newly married couples with the nuts – a practice that continues today on some occasions. 

There are diverse types, from small ornamentals grown mainly for their attractive flowers to 10 – 15 feet tall trees that produce the well-known edible nuts. These trees can live for 25 years if they are properly cared for. 

They grow best in locations with arid and hot summers, which helps the tree produce a bountiful crop of nuts. A prolonged growing season without frost is also important, as frost damages the flowers, which are crucial for a good harvest. It usually takes around 5 years for the trees to become mature and produce nuts. The fruit takes 7 – 8 months to mature. 

How long does an almond tree take to grow

The fruit is covered with a green leathery casing containing a light-colored hard shell that contains the edible nut. While the fruits can also be eaten, it’s better before the nuts mature, which might be too early before they are fully ripe.

There are two types of almond nuts, the sweet almond from Prunus dulcis is mainly used for desserts and eaten raw or roasted. The other type is a bitter almond from the Prunus dulcis var. amara variety that is often used to flavor liqueurs. 

Most varieties are not self-fertile – two or more trees growing nearby are needed for pollination. And they all have to match flowering times to successfully produce a good harvest of nuts. Plant the trees 15 – 25 feet away from one another however the “Garden Prince” cultivar, a 10 to 12-foot tall tree, is self-pollinating and cold-hardy to zone 8.

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Light Requirements

These trees will bear more flowers (and so, more nuts) if they grow under the full sun.

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Watering

Like other nut-producing trees, these trees also need a great deal of water to grow and thrive. 

Around 3 – 4 inches of water every week will maintain good hydration although they are somewhat drought tolerant, it’s better to provide them with plenty of water for a productive harvest. Over-watering could cause root rot so monitoring the soil is important since they might need more water in summer and less in winter.

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Humidity

These trees prefer low humidity and don’t thrive in tropical countries. The more arid the climate is, the better.

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Temperature

These trees enjoy temperatures of 60-85°F, together with mild winters and dry, warm summers. 

The length of their growing season directly affects fruit production. If the trees only get a short warm period, they might not produce fruits at all. Frost can also have an impact on fruit production, damaging early flowers in spring. 

They also need protection from cold winds. To produce fruit, the trees have to undergo an extended dormant period with 200-300 hours of exposure to cold temperatures below 45°F (not freezing temperatures though). 

During this period, they’ll drop their leaves and store up the necessary energy they need to produce fruit. Dormancy typically takes place from November until January. They grow best in zones 7 to 9.

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Soil

Good draining soil is essential, so they prefer sandy soils over clayey soils. Dig planting holes deep so the roots can penetrate down into the soil.

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Repotting

These trees prefer growing outdoors however they easily suffer damage when temperatures drop below 40°F. They can live indoors, but fruit production is less likely to happen. 

You can make a trade-off by growing dwarf almond varieties in 10 or 20-gallon containers that have plenty of drainage holes and can be easily moved indoors if you live in a cool climate. You might even be successful in getting a few nuts to harvest. 

You may even harvest a few nuts after about three years. Consider using a rolling platform because the container-grown tree will be rather heavy to move. Use a mix of sand and soil. 

Repotting will be difficult due to the tree’s size so top-dress the soil every year to refresh the nutrients. Container-grown trees can reach around 4 – 5 feet high. Prune the tree yearly during its dormant period to maintain its height.

Move the container outdoors when the weather is warm and bring the tree inside when cooler weather approaches. Keep trees away from drafts and air-conditioning vents when they are indoors. Place the tree in a location where it can receive bright afternoon sun since it requires plenty of light – use artificial grow lights if natural light is not enough. 

Water the tree until water trickles from the drainage holes, then don’t water until 2 – 3 inches of topsoil is dry – generally water once a week, depending on the season and temperature. Never let the container stand in water. 

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Propagation

These trees are normally propagated by grafting and are usually budded on peaches, plums, or apricot rootstock since they are closely related. 

Despite that, these trees are also propagated from cuttings, with limited success as the cuttings will not likely root in the soil. This is why most gardeners propagate by seed or by grafting. 

Propagating from cuttings

Take 10 – 12 inch cuttings from healthy shoots that look healthy with robust, well-spaced leaf nodes when the tree is dormant in autumn, remove any remaining leaves and dip the cut ends in the rooting hormone. 

Prepare small pots filled with moistened, well-aerated, and well-draining soilless media like peat or coco peat. Plant the cut ends in the media about one inch deep or so. Cover the pots with plastic bags and keep them under indirect light at 55 – 75°F. Remove the bags every day or two for air circulation and to see if the media is moist.

It will take some time for roots to grow (if you’re lucky). If and when that happens, remove the bags and wait until at least two sets of healthy leaves grow out before moving them out to the garden or in containers in spring.

Additional Care

Use a balanced fertilizer to feed the tree in spring, applying it along the tree’s drip line.

Pruning is seldom necessary other than removing dead or damaged stems and branches in the tree’s dormant phase.

Common Problems

Possible pests and diseases affecting these trees are numerous and are often deadly. Mites, ants, caterpillars, leaf-rollers, stink bugs, borers and scales can infest the trees. 

The best method to manage pests is to consult your local horticulturist or garden center for treatment recommendations. Some pests can be treated by spraying the trees with insecticidal soap or neem oil solutions, however other pests may need professional intervention. 

These trees are susceptible to many fungal and bacterial diseases as well. Environmental conditions can also factor into what diseases can affect the trees. Again, the best method to manage diseases is to consult local horticulturists or garden centers for treatment recommendations. 

Proper maintenance and care also help reduce potential pest and disease problems. Plant the trees in a suitable site, provide sufficient water and fertilizer and prune the tree when needed. All these chores will help reduce problems. 

Avoid pruning wounds or damage as this is an entry point for infection from botryosphaeria canker (band canker), a fungal disease. If your tree is infected, it’ll have to be removed, including the stump.

Where are almond trees best grown?

The most yields of nuts are often from almond orchards located in sunny locations with extended hot summers, with less rainfall. In the US, Central California has the best climatic conditions for cultivating almond trees. If you grow the trees in the garden, make sure you plant them in a sunny area.

How long do almond trees take to produce fruit?

The trees take 5 – 12 years to start flowering and producing fruit. Mature and properly cared for trees can produce fruit for 25 years.

What is the lifespan of almond trees?

The trees can live for 20-25 years or more but will not bear any fruit for 5 years after being planted. In addition, these trees bear more fruit in alternate years – for example, a large crop produced this year will be followed by a light crop next year.

Can I grow almond trees from almond nuts?

You can only grow trees from fresh raw nuts that are unshelled, untreated, unpasteurized, and unroasted. The only way to obtain raw nuts is from a farmer or grower.

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