Crabapple trees are pretty easy to maintain and don’t require vigorous pruning. The most important reasons to prune are to maintain the tree’s shape, to remove dead branches, and to treat or prevent the spread of disease.
When to Prune a Crabapple Tree
The time for crabapple pruning is when the tree is dormant, but when the possibility of severely cold weather has passed. This means pruning should be done in late winter or early spring, depending on your local climate and temperatures. Suckers, the little shoots that come straight out of the ground around the base of the tree, can be pruned away at any time of year.
How to Prune Crabapples
When pruning crabapple trees, start by removing suckers and water sprouts. The suckers grow from the rootstock of your tree and if you allow them to develop, they can grow into new trunks, possibly of a completely different tree type. This is because your crabapple was grafted onto the rootstock of a different variety.
Water sprouts are small shoots that emerge at an angle between some of the main tree branches. They don’t usually produce fruit and crowd other branches, increasing the risk of disease spreading from one branch to another. The next step in cutting back crabapple trees is to remove any dead branches. Remove them at the base.
Once you have taken off any dead branches, water sprouts, and suckers, you have to be a little more judicious about what to remove next. Remove branches to create a pleasing shape, but also consider removing branches to help them stay well-spaced from each other. Crowded branches make the spread of disease easier. You may also want to remove branches that hang too low and impede movement under the tree, especially if planted in an area frequented by passersby.
Just remember to keep your crabapple pruning simple and minimal. This tree doesn’t require heavy pruning, so take your time and consider how you want it to look before you start removing branches.