A small deciduous tree, the almond tree (Prunus dulcis), rarely attains a height of over 30 feet. When grown commercially the tree is normally maintained at a height of 20 feet through annual pruning. The tree's life span is relatively short and rarely exceeds 25 years. Each spring the almond tree produces an abundance of blossoms followed by fruit which contain a nut, known as an almond. Almond harvest occurs in the fall, and the nuts are used in many culinary dishes or for raw consumption.
The spring flowers of the almond tree depend on bee activity to insure pollination occurs. Once pollination occurs, the tree is able to set and grow fruit. Cross pollination from multiple almond tree varieties helps to assure an ample crop occurs. Fruit production begins when the almond tree reaches four years of age. The small green fruit, called drupes, are inedible but inside the fleshy fruit is a hull that contains one or two small seeds or nuts. Fruit production begins in mid-May and extends into July. Once the fruit appear on the tree, they begin to mature and crack in preparation for releasing the seed or nut.
From July through August the fruit husk dries out. When the husk becomes fibrous and dry, it cracks open and the hull separates from the nut. In nature the seeds drop to the ground for germination to begin. When the almond tree is grown for almond harvest the seeds are harvested by large mechanical shaking machines which shake the tree so the seeds fall to the ground. Once on the ground they are gathered.
The almond tree does not create sucker growth. It also does not propagate well from cuttings. The tree must be grown from seed for the best success rate. The seeds take seven to eight months before they are dropped from the tree so that germination can occur. A short period of cold stratification helps the seed to successfully germinate the following spring.
The almond tree grows best in full sunlight for maximum seed production. It requires well draining soil conditions to thrive. The tree needs a hot location and does not tolerate high humidity, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. It grows best in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 7 to 9. The tree requires a relatively long growing season because blossoms appear in February and can easily be killed by frost which destroys the trees ability to produce ample almonds.
The almond tree variety is normally grafted on peach tree root stock for best growth. The tree's bud union, where the upper portion of the tree is joined with the rootstock, should be placed directly above the soil line for best growth results, according to the University of California. Commercial planters always place the bud union of the tree so that it grows where it receives incoming wind. This is achieved by leaning the tree at a 10 percent angle so the tree's bud union is placed more towards the location that the wind blows. This practice is believed to help prevent fungal and rot infections from occurring during the tree's growth.