Prunus mume (Japanese apricot or Chinese Plum) is often over looked, not just as a bonsai but as a plant or tree in the UK. This is one of my favourite times of year. The annual winter show has been and gone and everyone is busy repotting for the upcoming season. This is a frantic time of activity as the days start to get lighter again. I really appreciate when I open the door to the greenhouse, the potent smell of my Prunus mume in full bloom, as it rushes on its way outside. Also known as the Japanese Apricot tree, flowers can come in pink, white or even red variations and have an almond sweet smell. This, I know as so many good things do, lasts for a short time. Here are a few images of examples of Prunus mume I have seen or own.
The Japanese apricot is from the genus Prunus which is part of the Rosaceae family and it is a delightful small tree with bright green shoots and the flowers are single flowers that pale with age. They normally flower in March but have been found to flower as early as January and as late as April. They are extensively cultivated in Japan and also China and Korea but are less well known in the UK.
There are several cultivars which include:
- Prunus mume ‘Alba’
- Prunus mume ‘Alboplena’
- Prunus mume ‘Bendi-shidare’
- Prunus mume ‘Grandiflora’
- Prunus mume ‘Omoi-no-mama’
- Prunus mume ‘Pendula’
- Prunus mume ‘Rosea Plena’
With regard to pruning, avoid winter pruning due to the risks of infection, train when buds burst in spring. Carry out the main pruning after flowering and fruiting by pruning the leaves back to three leaves shoots that were shortened to five or six leaves in early summer. If side shoots have formed, prune these back by one leaf. So trim back hard after flowers have fallen and then again after the new summer growth has formed in autumn.
They can cope in full sun but protect them from winter frosts as this will result in twig die back and also affect the flowers that are forming. Watering so they do not ever dry out totally and this is important in the spring when the flower buds are swelling to ensure they are kept moist as otherwise they may drop buds or flowers. Feed them heavily in the summer to achieve better flowers the following year. They prefer an annual re-pot once they are established and this is advised to be carried out in late winter or post flowering ideally. They can be propagated from hardwood cuttings in late winter and also by layering in summer and grafting in both winter and spring.