Last week I was picking up a good friend at his house and noted that the large old crabapple in his front yard was totally covered in fragrant pink blossoms. The tree’s colors rivaled any tree in bloom in the area, yet my friend disliked the tree because of the assured crabapple drop.
For he and his wife, the tree is a bone of contention between the two of them. He wants it removed and she wishes to keep the tree.
Today, there is many variety of crabapples grown specifically used in the residential and commercial landscape with crabapple fruit the size of a pea. With these newer varieties, the small apple no longer becomes a mess in the yard and just dissipates into the lawn or is eaten by birds.
Garden centers and nurseries carry the new crabapple varieties, and the tree tags often times will not only promote the tree’s flower color but also the fruit as being a great seasonal landscape characteristic of these newer trees.
Rather than taking the time of listing specific varieties, let’s discuss some basic characteristics and cultural needs to consider when selecting a crabapple.
Crabapples thrive best in full sun. A location of continued high noon sunshine to a very late afternoon sunshine that is normally available on the western side of a landscape could also be suitable. A crabapple planted in a shady area or an area of morning sunshine will survive but will not bloom effectively.
Crabapples are generally not small ornamental trees, however, many varieties in the commercial landscape are pruned to maintain their small size and the tree can still provide effective flowering.
However, the biggest mistake for most homeowners is to plant the tree too close to the house. My recommendation would be a minimum of 10-15 feet away from the house. The young small tree looks great, however as it becomes larger maintaining a tree planted too close to the house becomes work.
There are many different flowering colors of crabapples. A single tree (specimen) planted by itself in a landscape can be effective. A mass planting of three or more crabapples of the same variety can be very dramatic. A mass planting of crabapples of three different colors as red, white, and pink blooming at the same time is a showstopper. For those who have a large landscape, having different crabapples blooming at different times can also extend the all too brief spring flower show of the trees.
There are some crabapples which produce small quantities of fruit, however, when selecting a crabapple view fruit size (now small) and fruit color an added good feature of the tree. In the middle of summer, bright red, orange, or yellow fruits against the leafy backdrop of the tree provide a great midsummer display of color.
When the snow starts to fall in November, bright crabapple fruit on bare branches of a tree is an added bonus for color in the landscape. After many cold snaps, the fruit is softened and will attract birds that will clean the fruit off the tree.
In mid summer after a rainy spring the older varieties of crabapples often times will drop their leaves due to fungal problems of apple scab and fireblight. Most of the newer varieties of trees offered are very resistant to those problems and those trees, which are susceptible, are probably not offered in most nurseries today.