Growing crabapple trees in the landscape is commonplace for many homeowners, but if you haven’t yet tried it, you may be asking, “How do you grow crabapple trees?” Continue reading to find out how to plant a crabapple tree as well as how to care for a crabapple tree in the landscape.
Flowering Crabapple Trees
Often called “the jewels of the landscape” flowering crabapple trees create four seasons of outstanding visual impact. In spring, the tree leafs out while the flower buds swell until they burst open to reveal fragrant blossoms in shades that range from white or pale pink to red.
As the flowers fade, they are replaced by small fruit that are relished by birds and squirrels. Most crabapple trees have vibrant fall colors, and once the leaves fall, the fruit stands out against the bare or snow-covered branches. The fruit often lasts well into the winter months.
The difference between an apple and a crabapple is the size of the fruit. Fruit less than 2 inches in diameter are considered crabapples, while larger fruit are called apples.
Choose a location in full sun with well-drained soil. Trees that are shaded develop an open canopy instead of a more attractive, dense growth habit. Shaded trees produce fewer flowers and fruit, and they are more susceptible to disease.
Dig the hole for the tree as deep as the root ball and two to three times as wide. When you set the tree in the hole, the soil line on the tree should be even with the surrounding soil. Fill the hole half full with soil and water well to remove the air pockets. When the soil settles and the water drains through, finish filling the hole and water thoroughly.
How to Care for a Crabapple Tree
Growing crabapple trees in the home landscape is much easier if you choose disease- and insect-resistant varieties. This allows you to focus your attention on care essentials like fertilizing, watering and pruning.
- Newly Planted Trees – Newly planted crabapple trees don’t need fertilization until the following spring, but they do need regular watering during their first year. Keep the soil over the tree’s root zone evenly moist. A 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch over the roots prevents the soil from drying out too quickly.
- Established Flowering Crabapple Trees – Crabapple trees are drought-resistant once established, but they grow best if you water them when there is less than an inch of rain in a week during summer. A 2-inch layer of mulch applied every spring provides sufficient nutrients for a crabapple tree. If you prefer, you can apply a light feeding of slow-release fertilizer instead.
Crabapple trees need very little pruning. Remove dead, diseased and damaged twigs and branches in spring and remove suckers as they appear. Pruning crabapple trees after the end of June significantly reduces the number of flowers and fruit in the following year.