|Improved Seasonal Performance
The fabulous blooms of crabapples, long embraced for head-turning spring extravaganzas, make the trees among the most popular small ornamental trees used in Zones 4–7 residential landscapes. Crabapples offer an avalanche of colorful and fragrant spring flowers, handsome dark green to burgundy leaves, masses of vividly colored fruit to enliven the fall and winter landscape, and a full complement of growth habits and sizes to fit any landscape.
Placed in the genus Malus with other apple trees, crabapples are defined by the size of their fruit, which are
2 inches in diameter or smaller. Older varieties of crabapples often had fairly large and sour fruit, which generally fell to the ground to spoil and attract insects. Newer cultivars offer fruit that is small in size or persistent (clings to the tree through the winter) or serves as food for our winged friends. Crabapple blossoms range from crimson to salmon to white. Some trees feature bud color that may be different from the hue of the open blossoms.
Choosing The Cast
The decision to invite crabapples into your garden hinges on several factors. Foremost, the tree you choose must fit the site. Dwarf crabapples, such as ‘Firebird’, ‘Camelot’, or ‘Lancelot’, are suitable for most yards. If you need a narrow, upright form for a narrow side yard or a boulevard, selections such as ‘Adirondack’, ‘Centurion’, and ‘Sentinel’ are appropriate. Crabapples with weeping growth habits such as ‘Louisa’, ‘Luwick’, and ‘Royal Fountain’ provide charming focal points. On sites with ample space, informally arranged drifts of five or more trees offer sweeping, bold statements in
Next, consider how disease susceptibility and fruit characteristics affect a tree’s appearance. Wet weather or poorly drained soils tend to encourage apple scab and other unattractive diseases. However, ‘Louisa’, ‘Canterbury’, ‘Adirondack’, and ‘Prairie Maid’ are among many newer selections that are immune or resistant to apple scab. Crabapple selections such as ‘Red Jewel’ produce persistent fruit that eventually falls from the tree, but only after the fruit dries and shrivels to the size of a raisin. Other trees such as ‘Snowdrift’ and ‘Bob White’ drop very little fruit thanks to opportunistic and grateful birds. ‘Prairie Rose’ is said to rarely bear fruit at all.
Finally, consider a crabapple’s ability to stop you in your tracks. One look at ‘Prairie Fire’ covered with bright pinkish-red flowers, ‘Indian Magic’ ablaze with reddish-orange fruit, or the handsome purple cut-leaf foliage of ‘Royal Raindrops’ confirms the beauty crabapples can add to your landscape.