The almond tree (Prunus dulcis) belongs to the rose family and is a close relative of the peach. The almond tree dates to about 10,000 years ago in ancient Greece. The almond has a lifespan of about 50 years, making it one of the long-lasting trees. The tree is small to medium sized and widely used commercially, but is also suitable for the home gardener.
The tree grows from 10 to 30 feet tall, develops a spread of from 10 to 30 feet and produces thin leaves from 3 to 5 inches long. Light pink or white flowers bloom in March. The nuts first appear when the tree is three to four years old and is in full production when the tree is from six to 10 years of age. The nut grows inside a hull, which dries out and opens, revealing the nut
The almond is a native of the Middle East. The tree needs mild winter temperatures, long hot summers and low humidity. The tree does need rain or supplemental watering to produce a good crop. Plant the almond in well-drained soil and full sun. The tree will not grow in heavy, clay soils. Late spring frost damages the tender buds. The tree is hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 9.
The flowers are pollinated by honey bees, The trees are developed by budding--grafting a single bud to the root stock from a different plant. For almond trees, the bud is grafted to bitter or sweet almond, apricot, myrobalan, peach or plum seedlings. The tree is also grow from seeds in a nursery environment and transplanted outdoors after the first year. The grafting method is used most often in the United States.
Almond trees are susceptible to leaf spot, die back, powdery mildew, cankers, black knot and verticillium wilt--more often in cooler, wet climates than in the areas that are warmer and less humid. Aphids, scale, borers, caterpillars, tent caterpillars Japanese beetles and spider mites damage the leaves, stems and twigs.
Almond nuts are used in numerous ways in the culinary world. In the home garden, the plant is a shrub or tree by a patio, in group plantings or as a specimen tree on the lawn.