Flowering crabapple is a popular ornamental tree that many people choose for landscaping for the attractive shape, spring flowers, and low-maintenance needs. Despite its hands-off nature, feeding a crabapple may be necessary to promote growth and health.
Crabapple Fertilizer Needs
Crabapple feeding should be balanced: not enough fertilizer and the tree may not grow well or only very slowly, but too much fertilizer can make it grow in an unhealthy way and make it more susceptible to diseases like fire blight. Excessive fertilizer can also promote more leaf growth and restrict the number of flowers that develop.
In general, crabapples don’t need a lot of fertilizing in the first year. Instead, use an organic material, like compost, to prepare the soil before planting. You may also want to consider testing the soil first to determine if there are any nutrient deficiencies. If there are, they can be addressed first to prevent problems later.
A general 10-10-10 fertilizer is a good choice for feeding a crabapple tree. Another recommendation is to use one to two pounds of fertilizer per 100 square feet (9 square meters) of ground around the tree. The root system extends about 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters) beyond the edge of the crown of the tree. You can use this information to calculate the area and determine the fertilizer needs but stick to the low end of the recommendation for crabapples.
The best time to fertilize is in fall or late winter.
How to Fertilize a Crabapple
There are several methods for fertilizing crabapples. Two of these are not recommended any longer by most experts: drilling holes in the ground around the tree and inserting fertilizer and using stake fertilizers inserted into the ground. Both have been found to be less effective than simply spreading fertilizer on the ground.
This preferred method, however, is simple to do. Measure the amount of fertilizer needed and use a spreader to evenly distribute it on the ground. Alternatively, you can spread it by hand, but be sure to wear gloves to handle the fertilizer.