Flowering Trees-flowering crabapple

February 27, 2024

How To Choose Trees-How To Grow Them

Remembering An Old Crabapple Tree In Spring

I was seven when I was first allowed to ride off alone on my pony. Now, I lived in a town so quiet that children were always out and about. There were few planned activities and entertaining ourselves gave us freedom and independence. Going off on an early spring New England day took me past our small apple orchid. My favorite was always the smallest, the only Crabapple tree. I liked the fact that it was small and easy to climb. The flowers looked like a fantasy place but there were better trees for eating apples. The pony agreed, he liked the “real apples” too.

So What Is The Difference Between An Apple And A Crabapple

Two inches! They are both members of the Malus family. If the fruit is 2″ in diameter or less it is a crabapple. If it is bigger than two inches it is an apple. The first apple orchard in America was planted in 1625 by Rev William Blaxton in Boston. When the 17th Century settlers arrived with apples to plant all they found were “common apples” -the crabapple. Crabapples also have a tart-to-tart/sweet taste. The best of them lend themselves to ciders, jellies, roasted accents for meats, and deserts.

They may be “common” but the good reverend would be surprised to learn that they have come up in the world!

What To Love About A Crabapple

If you like to have them around, these are probably the features you admire

  • Pink and white blossoms in spring. In many cases the bud may be one color, perhaps burgundy and the open bloom may be white. New colors are available
  • Colorful fall fruit, yellow. orange, red and purple
  • Colorful foliage
  • Some have lovely shapes in the winter landscapes, some have striking bark colors
  • Most are “Lawn Size”
  • A good variety of shapes
  • Drought tolerant
  • Tough and adaptable

Wildlife Benefits

You and your crabapple trees will provide for wildlife in two ways. First, the flowers are a pollinator’s delight. Bees and hummingbirds will appreciate what you have. They need all the help they can get. In winter, birds and other wildlife will feed on the fruit.

Can I Really Cook With Crabapple?

The Crabapple is famous as an ornamental tree with its extraordinary range of color, size, and shape.

I was interested in the really wide range of cooking options! (Believe me, you will not pick it and eat it! ) I once met an old Georgia farmer who told me that I should be able to go into the field and dig up one of his Vidalia onions and eat it like an apple. Not the crabapple.

Here are recipe links showing some uses. These include roasting with meats, jams, jellies juices, and wine.

Crabapple Jelly From The Ballymaloe Cookery School
Spiced Pork Shoulder With Roast Crabapples

Some Crabapple Varieties To Cook With

Name of VarietyZoneTree SizeNotes
Hyslop3-8Jelly, pickle hard cider, dates to pre1860
Transcendent3-9white blossom, ea fresh, jelly, cook
Redfish15′-semi-dwarfred flesh, eat fresh
Centennialeat fresh, sweet
Kerr1-910′-12′ deer resistant, very cold hardylarge, juicy dark red fruit, eat fresh, jelly,
Wicksoncold hardy, wide territory on the west coastdense white blossom, pink/red fruit, high sugar/high acid content. Good for cider, eating, jam
Chestnut3-8adapts to different soilseat fresh, cook, jelly,2″ fruit, white flesh

What Are The Features To Look For

The problem with Flowering Crabapple trees is not having enough varieties to choose from. It is having so many choices that you don’t make the best decision for yourself. Worldwide there are more than 1000 cultivars and growing. Think of these features.

  • Persistence of the fruit. If people don’t like crabapple it is usually because they do not want messy fruit on the ground. Some varieties drop their fruit early and make a mess. Others will retain their fruit until the cold weather comes and feeds the birds in winter.
  • Disease Resistance-some of the new varieties are resistant to diseases which were traditional problems. These are apple scab, fireblight, mildew, Japanese beetle
  • Size and Shape-there are many choices for both. They range from 8′ to 40′ in height. There is one for every location.

How Do I Grow Them?

This is what they need.

  • Hardiness Zones-3-8, however, some cultivars have a larger range.
  • Light-full sun
  • Planting time-bare root plants in early spring, plants in balls or burlap can be planted in spring, summer or fall
  • Leave a mulched area around the tree rather than having the tree directly surrounded by turf. This will prevent the tree from being affected by unneeded water and fertilizer
  • Soil type-Crabapple is very adaptable. The best is rich, well-drained and slightly acidic
  • Water – one inch per week in year one. After that water in times of drought
  • Fertilizer-use only if the plant is stressed
  • Diseases-Apple Scab in humid weather. The best solution is to buy only disease-resistant plants
  • Pruning- to increase air circulation, to remove crossed or rubbing branches or any dead or damaged branches. This plant should require little pruning
  • Place the trees to have plenty of circulating air

I like The Idea-How Do I Choose One?

By Color
  • Flower color- there is a huge range, you have reds, from Burgandy to magenta, pink, orange and white. In some cases, the bud color differs from the flower color
  • Flower shape- some are in shapes similar to roses others have ruffled edges. There are single flowers, semi-double and double types.
By Fragrance
  • Not all crabapples are fragrant, but many are and the fragrances vary, Some are spice-like and others floral
  • Some Examples of varieties to consider: Malus madonna. Malus ionessis, Malus brandywine,
By Fruit
  • There are fruits lasting various amounts of time into fall and winter. The longest-lasting will provide color in the winter and feed the birds
  • The fruit colors are in great variety, purple, red. chartreuse, gold, red, orange
  • Shape-leaves are ovate, elliptical, oval, all within a thick canopy
  • Color- green, ranging from bright to dark. even purple. The fall colors are in great range. gold, yellow, red, orange, bronze
Tree Shape And Size
  • There is a wide range of tree shapes, upright, rounded, spreading, columnar, vase-like or weeping
  • Tree size-these range from as low as 10’high to a maximum of 40′
Disease Resistance

New cultivars are bred to be disease-resistant. The important issue is finding a disease-resistant tree for your zone. Trees are often disease-resistant in the zone they were designed for. Ensure that the tree you want is resistant in your zone. Disease resistance can vary by year. For example, in wet years some varieties are more affected by disease than others.

Choosing Crabapple Varieties For Your Geographical region

This is a series of articles suggesting suitable Crabapple varieties for gardens sorted by region.

Best Crabapple for New England Gardens

There are 13 varieties shown.

Best Crabapple Trees For Southern Gardens

17 varieties

Best Crabapple Trees for Midwestern Gardens

12 varieties

Best Crabapple Trees for Mid Atlantic Gardens

12 varieties

Best Crabapple Trees for Pacific Northwest Gardens

11 varieties

What Features Are Best For Me

Flowers– This is the obvious temptation, They are beautiful, you look forward to them, love them when they are here, take pictures of them. There are so many choices. But the flowers are soon gone. It seems that there are other features that are more likely to affect our lives in the garden for a longer time. These trees have the potential to remain where you planted them for 100 years!

Tree Size and Form-This feature can dictate the crabapple you put in your garden. The tree needs to fit, size is important. How big can it be?

The shape is important to appearance and usability. Crabapple trees are available in these shapes.

Columnar trees- will fit a narrow space

Vase shaped trees-leave more space beneath the canopy

Weeping shaped trees-will draw your eye to the ground

Pyramidal shaped trees- this shape, like a Christmas tree, will bring your eye up, they also need more space near the ground

Round shaped trees will create a narrow low point near the ground

Fruit-Will you use the fruit to cook or eat. You will want larger fruit and you will want to love the flavor. If you want the fruit to feed the birds, you will require persistent fruit to stay on the trees as long as possible in the winter and which the birds like. They seem to prefer very small fruit.

Disease Resistance-Many experts say this is the single most important feature. If your new tree is not resistant to the diseases we can reasonably expect, your new tree is likely to fail.

How do I know if a variety of Crabapple tree is disease-resistant?

The State Agricultural Universities do research to measure resistance to diseases. Access this research through your local Agricultura Extention Service in your county. Find your County Extension Service. Tell them the features you most want to find in a tree and ask for assistance. Many have published lists of trees you can use. Other sources of information may be your local garden centers and any breeders of Crabapple Trees.


In 1767 Linnaeus named a Siberian Crabapple Tree, Malus baccata. The interesting thing is that many of our best crabapple cultivars today have been created by crossing repeatedly to that tree. We have a long productive relationship with the “common apple”. It looks like we can continue to do so.

This link will take you to more flowering trees, for regions both north and south.

Planting In Fall

Crabapple trees are ideal to plant in both spring and fall. Plant the bare-root version only in spring. The young trees you buy in pots or wrapped in burlap are ideal for fall planting.

While you are digging, what else is good to plant in fall while the earth is warm and new roots can get a head start before winter comes?

Garden Herbs to Plant in Fall (and those to bring indoors to use in winter)

Perennials to plant in Fall.