In my childhood neighborhood, there were several houses where Crabapple trees were prominently displayed. I have many pleasant memories of munching on the bittersweet fruit and climbing around on their branches. Walking around my old neighborhood produces strong impressions of the warm colors of the different types of Crabapples and of their fragrant blossoms. There is also something about this tree that brings up exotic images of the orient, and indeed, many varieties are of Asian origin.
There are literally hundreds of cultivars of Crabapple out there, many with exotic sounding names. For example, you might find in your nursery “Profusion,” “Red Splendor,” “Gloriosa,” or the “Manchurian”. There are cultivars with white, red, rose, and pink flowers, and a great diversity of fruits including dark red, bright red, green, orange and yellow. There are also some cultivars with purple foliage for an additional touch of color. With so many options, it will be hard to plant just one! You can contact The International Crabapple Society for more information about the selection of Crabapples out there.
Now that you’ve got an idea of the palette of colors you can work with, here are some important planting and maintenance guidelines to consider. Crabapples grown best in full sun, and will tolerate lots of different soil types. However, it’s important to have well drained soil with a decent amount of organic material mixed in. They grow well in hardiness zones 4 through 8A. They are not particularly drought tolerant and are not well suited for high pH soil. You may find that your Crabapple will sprout frequently from the roots so you’ll need to prune these down to maintain a nice shape. Pruning of the main branches is not necessary to have a strong tree.
Being aware of the Crabapple’s common pests and diseases will help you maintain a healthy and long-lasting tree. You’ll want to look out for aphids, fall webworms, borers and scales. Common diseases that affect the Crabapple are scab infection, fire blight, powdery mildew, cedar apple rust, and canker diseases. Overfertilizing your tree will increase disease problems. At your nursery, you can ask for disease resistant varieties including Mary Potter, Inglis, Ellwangeriana, Margaret, and Tomiko, among others.
Enjoy planting your Crabapple and the memories it will make. Don’t forget that the Crabapple makes excellent jellies!