Crabapple Tree Care Tips and Selection Guide

Crabapple Tree Care Tips and Selection Guide

crabapple trees in bloom

Crabapple trees are common landscaping Flowering Trees with a ton of perks! Whether you call them Crabs, Crab Apples, or Crabapples, the fragrant blooms, lush foliage, fall color and persistent ornamental/edible fruit of these Apple tree cousins, will leave you speechless! 

Old-fashioned Crabapple (Malus) varieties were wildly susceptible to Apple Scab and other diseases, to the point where the leaves would rain off the trees by August. Older selections have large fruit that dropped everywhere, creating a mess. 

Those days of disease-ridden, messy Crabapple varieties are gone but not forgotten! 

Today, Nature Hills offers Crabapples in a myriad of flower and leaf colors, jewel-like persistent fruit, plus many sizes, forms, and improved disease resistance. Making this lovely family worth a second look!

Choosing the Right Crabapple for You

With so many options, how do you choose which is right for you? 

There are both Fruiting Crabapples and Flowering Crabapples to choose from! Start narrowing your options by the following criteria:

  • What is your growing zone?
  • How much room is available?
  • How much sun does the site receive?
  • What flower color are you looking for?
  • Do you want a fruitless, purely flowering tree?
  • Or want edible fruit?
  • Simply ornamental fruit? 
  • Or all of the above?

A Tree For Every Situation

First select trees that are suitable for your growing zone and sun requirements. Then look for the mature size and width based on what you have available.

Look into the tree's growth rate, fall color options and if it has other perks - like a particular disease resistance for something prevalent in your area. Your County Agricultural Extension Office will be able to help you with that one.

Or Choose From These Great Options

Why Crabapples are a great choice

  • Want to increase the pollination of your Apple orchard? Choose Dolgo, Chestnut, or Whitney Crab, or another white flowering variety to boost yields!
  • All Crabapples do well in clay soil, even heavy clay, just as long as it is not soggy for long periods. They prefer good drainage. 
  • Don’t want messy fruit? Try the darling Marilee for little to no fruit, or the luscious fruitless white Spring Snow!

What sizes do Crabapple Trees come in?

  • Tiny Tina Crabapple full treeNo room for a full-sized tree? 
    • Choose a dwarf Tina Sargent Crabapple for disease-free white blossoms
    • Or a Marilee Crabapple with a narrow columnar form!
    • Tuck a Tina Sargent, Marilee, or Lollipop™ into a large planter or container
    • Choose a smaller weeping variety or prune a semi-dwarf as small as you need
  • Go big!

Are Crabapple Trees Disease Resistant?

Modern trees and rootstock mean vast differences compared to old-fashioned varieties.

  • Avoiding cedar apple rust and powdery mildew? Snowdrift Crabapple creates a blizzard of white blossoms without problems
  • Problems with Apple Scab? Try a Royal Raindrops or Prairifire Crabapple!
  • Highest fireblight, apple scab, cedar apple rust and powdery mildew resistance - Choose a Sargent Crabapple or Sugar Tyme®.

Crabapple Cold & Heat Adaptability

  • For the most arctic cold durability - You need a First Editions® Gladiator™ or Starlite® Crabapple Tree
  • Best in the heat and humidity - Hewes Crabapple, Adirondack or Prairifire

What Color do Crabapples Come in?

Available in sparkling white, baby pink, dark pink, maroon, purples to reds, the flower color options of the modern Crabapple are mind-boggling! Plus fall color and winter interest!

  • Dramatic Purple Foliage 
    • Purple Prince
    • Royalty
    • Gladiator™
  • Best Blooms

The Adirondack has a color-changing flower display - starting out as ruby-red buds that burst into white blossoms streaked in pale pink!

Enjoy a spectrum of fall colors from harvest orange, fire-engine red and maroon-purple to the golden-yellow tones of the Louisa Crabapple!

  • Royal Raindrops crabapple in fallOther Fall Color Options
    • Prairifire 
    • Royal Raindrops
    • Indian Magic
  • For 4-Season Interest
  • Persistent Fruit

Crabapples for Food & Edible Landscaping

While all Crabapples technically produce edible fruit, only a few are sweet-tart and ideal for eating fresh, or cooked without using tons of sweetener! Make baked goods, apple sauce, or yummy preserves that are sure to set because Crabapples are naturally high in pectin!

  • Best for fresh eating - Hyslop Edible, Dolgo, or Hewes Crabapples, are all fresh off the tree without the super tartness
  • Best for preserves: Centennial or Chestnut Crabapples for flavorful jam, jelly and syrup

Best Crabapple Trees for Birds

Fruiting Crabapple are going to call songbirds in droves as they seek out fall snacks to fuel up before winter. Trees with persistent fruit that remained through winter, feed early-arriving birds looking for food while they wait for the spring snows to melt.

The Most Unique Head-Turners

Boost curb appeal and showcase your property with the new Sargent Crabapple Espalier Tree, or the April Showers™ Weeping Crabapple! We’re sure the entire neighborhood will be talking!

How to Care for Crabapple Trees

Flowering Crabapple trees are easy to grow and are very rewarding, even for a beginner gardener! They thrive in a wide range of soils and locations. All Crabapples are highly adaptable, and even tolerate brief drought once established.

As with any flowering or fruiting tree, full sun ensures the most blossoms and fruit. If you just have partial sun and don’t mind fewer blooms and fruit, go with Indian Magic or Red Barron.

Crabapples prefer well-drained enriched organic soil and a 3-4 inch thick layer of mulch over the soil surface to grow the best. Don’t forget the Nature Hills Root Booster when planting your tree to get it off to the best start possible!

With easy-going moisture needs, once established. Many are naturally drought-tolerant but protect your investment by providing water when times are tough. Low maintenance and very easy to grow, simply prune in late winter or very early spring.

How to Use Crabapple Trees in the Landscape

These outstanding ornamental trees are great accent trees. Use in a front yard lawn planting where you'll see it from your picture window. On larger properties, try grouping trees to create a natural, park-like setting. 

Crabapples are ideal edible landscape ornamentals and screening plants! Take advantage of this double-duty year-round interest as a wall for property definition, flowering privacy and bird-friendly screening! 

Happy Planting With Crabapples!

Whichever you choose, your landscape becomes adorned with colorful and fragrant blooms, swarms of pollinators and butterflies, gorgeous foliage all growing season, fall color, vibrant fruit and winter interest!

Nature Hills offers many different selections with great disease resistance, flower choices, and plant forms, and don’t forget the fruit display! Come see what we offer at and have your garden delivered to your doorstep!

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