Crabapple trees in bloom

Crabapple Not Blooming – Learn Why A Flowering Crabapple Has No Flowers

Help, my crabapple isn’t flowering! Crabapple trees put on a real show in springtime with dense masses of blossoms in shades ranging from pure white to pink or rosy red. When a flowering crabapple has no flowers, it can be a huge disappointment. There are several possible reasons for a crabapple not blooming, some simple and some more involved. Read on for tips on troubleshooting flowering crabapple problems.

Reasons for No Flowers on Crabapple Trees

Age: When a young crabapple isn’t flowering, it may be because the tree still needs a few more years to grow and mature. On the other hand, an old tree may be past its best blooming years.

Feeding: Although crabapple trees don’t need a lot of fertilizer, they benefit from one light feeding every spring during the first four or five years. Sprinkle a time-release fertilizer on the ground under the tree, out to about 18 inches past the dripline. Mature trees require no fertilizer, but a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch will return nutrients to the soil.

Weather: Crabapple trees can be fickle when it comes to the weather. For example, a dry autumn may result in no flowers on crabapple trees the following spring. Similarly, crabapple trees require a chilling period, so an unseasonably warm winter may create flowering crabapple problems. Erratic weather may also be to blame when one tree blooms and a neighboring tree in the same yard doesn’t, or when a tree displays only a few half-hearted flowers.

Sunlight: Crabapple trees require full sunlight and a too shady location may be the culprit when a crabapple isn’t flowering. Although crabapples don’t require heavy pruning, proper pruning in spring can ensure sunlight reaches all parts of the tree.

Disease: Apple scab is a common fungal disease that affects leaves when they emerge in spring, particularly when conditions are moist. Replace the tree with a disease-resistant cultivar, or try treating the affected tree with a fungicide at leaf emergence, followed by treatments two and four weeks later.

How To Choose The Right Flowering Crabapple for Your Garden

Among the most prized of ornamental trees, flowering crabapples have long been a staple of landscape gardening. They are best known for their spectacular display of magnificent blooms in spring and colorful fall fruit. Their summer foliage, small stature and various tree shapes add to their charm and give them year-round interest.

Most gardeners are unaware of the wide range of characteristics offered by Malus species and their cultivars in terms of flower color, fragrance, fruit color, fruit retention, fall foliage, tree shape, and disease resistance. These are key elements to consider when selecting a flowering crabapple. Consequently, you should not eliminate varieties merely by flower color alone, or you may end up with a less than optimum tree with limited interest.

Crabapple Flower Color

In the springtime, crabapples unfold their deep carmine, red, pink, or white buds and explode in a spectacular display of clouds of white, cream, pink, magenta, red, burgundy, red-orange and orange-coral. Often the combination of rich red buds opening to pure white blossoms adds to the sheer beauty of the floral display

  • Crabapple blossoms come in several forms – single, semi-double, and double. Some look like miniature roses while others have fringed or cupped petals.
  • Typically, Flowering crabapples bloom throughout a 4-5 week period starting in mid spring with Malus baccata (Siberian Crabapple), the earliest, and ending with Malus coronaria (Wild Sweet Crabapple) and Malus ionensis (Prairie Crabapple).
  • Peak crabapple bloom time is mid-spring to late spring, depending on regions and varieties. The average flowering period is about 10 days, although very hot days or windy conditions with rain can cut this down to 5-6 days. Double-flowering crabapples generally have a longer period of blooms, up to 12 days.

Malus ‘Profusion’

Malus ‘White Angel’

Malus ‘Prairifire’

Crabapple Fragrance

Many crabapple blossoms are delightfully fragrant but some are not. Some have the wonderful fragrance of apple blossoms, others have an exotic Oriental fragrance resembling cinnamon or cloves. Among the most fragrant crabapples are Malue coronaria, Malus ionensis, Malus coronaria ‘Charlottae’, Malus Brandywine, Malus Madonna, Malus Satin Cloud.

Malus ‘Charlottae’

Malus ‘Brandywine’

Malus ioensis ‘Prince Georges’

Crabapple Fruits

From fall into winter, crabapples put on a terrific display of colorful fruit in a wide array of color, including pale lime, chartreuse with yellow highlights, various shades of gold often rouged with pink, orange or bright red cheeks, bright orange, crimson, carmine, burgundy or even bishop’s purple. Their color parade can be enjoyed for months unless hungry birds feast on them.

  • Fruit can be large (1-2 in. or 2.5-5 cm), medium sized (0.5-1 in. or 1.3-2 cm), small (0.25-0.5 in. or 0.6-1.3 cm) or mini-fruited (less than 0.25 in.). Generally speaking, the smaller fruits are an asset as they do not fall, rot or litter the yard.
  • If you want a flowering crabapple with terrific winter interest, you may want to select a tree which holds its fruit and retains its color for a long time. Your crabapple tree may become a banquet for wildlife in winter, when food is scarce or difficult to find due to snow cover.
  • Flowering crabapples with persistent fruit

Malus x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’

Malus x zumi ‘Professor Sprenger’

Malus x zumi ‘Goldent Hornet’

Crabapple Foliage

Crabapple trees develop a thick canopy of ovate, oval or elliptical leaves in summer. Their lush foliage may be bright green, dark green or purple. In fall, many varieties clothe themselves in brilliant color, including golden-yellow, red, orange or bronze, before shedding to the ground. When the leaves fall, they reveal the glorious color of the fruit covering the branches. You can almost see the birds drooling in anticipation of the feast to come.

Crabapple Shape and Size

Another great asset of the flowering crabapples is the wonderful variety of tree shapes. Most are upright of rounded and spreading habit but there are also columnar, vase-shaped or weeping varieties of great beauty.

  • Large crabapples can grow up to 40 ft. tall and wide (12m); medium-sized trees reach 15-20 ft. in height and spread (4.5-6 m); small crabapples typically grow up to 10-15 ft. (3-4.5 m).
  • The smallest crabapples are the most useful of all flowering crabapples because they fit in almost any decent space. They are ideal for home plantings, patio and pots and street plantings. A great number of outstanding crabapples belong to these smaller trees.
  • Compare flowering crabapples on the basis of their height and spread as well as hardiness or seasons of interest.

Malus ‘Camelot’

Malus ‘Coralburst’

Crabapple Disease Resistance

Last but not least, you need to make sure you select a healthy, disease resistant crabapple. Crabapples are susceptible to four major diseases which can cause early defoliation, disfigurement and weakening of trees.

  • Apple scab is the most common and most serious of the diseases, especially in areas which receive plenty of springtime moisture. It disfigures the fruit and defoliates the trees. It shows up on leaves as olive green spots with a velvety, grayish surface. In midsummer leaves often turn brown and drop from the tree.
  • Fireblight occurs less frequently but is more serious because it kills bark and can spread to the main trunk and kill the tree. Affected blossoms, shoots and branches turn brown and have a scorched appearance, hence the name fireblight.
  • Cedar-apple rust is common where red cedar and crabapple are planted near each other. Orange spots or swellings appear on crabapple leaves, fruits and twigs.
  • Powdery mildew appears in midsummer as patches of grayish white powder on leaves and fruit.

Breeders have been busy improving the disease-resistance of flowering crabapples and there are many disease-resistant cultivars available. However, it is important to note that there may be significant regional differences in disease resistance – a cultivar that performs well in one area may do poorly in another. This just goes to show the importance of choosing cultivars well suited to particular climates.

To help you select the best flowering crabapple for your yard, we have compiled lists of varieties and cultivars that consistently perform well per geographic area .

Crabapples (Malussieversii), like other apples, are part of the Rosaceae family. “Crabs” are prized for their gorgeous spring blossoms in colors from snow white to deep red, and for fruit that is useful for pickling, poaching, roasting and making jelly or cider.

When I was growing up, the crabapple trees in front the neighbors’ houses were also valued for crabapple fights, providing a plentiful supply of ammunition, a sharp zing, and usually no lasting harm. The remainders would find their way into the kitchen, where they would usually be poached in port wine with cinnamon to adorn holiday plates.

Crabapples are wild apples, and they are adaptable to any reasonable soil that is not too wet or too dry. They prefer deep, well-drained soil, but they can thrive in rocky or gravelly soil. “Crabs” rarely grow more than 20 feet high, although they range from a mere 6 feet for some of the spreading types to almost 40 feet for robust varieties.

In home gardens, crabapples are often kept pruned to eight feet. At that height, they are useful as patio trees, as specimens in smaller gardens, or as options for planting under power lines.

You will find bare-root crabapples in nurseries early next year, but you can plant them in containers at any time. Crabapples do well in lawns, and it is easy to keep them small enough to line driveways or walkways. They tolerate wetter soil than other ornamental flowering trees and are prone to fewer disease and pests.

The difference between apples and crabapples is really just fruit size. Fruit smaller than two inches in diameter is classified as a wild apple or crabapple. Larger fruit is considered an apple.

If you have ever tasted a raw crabapple, you either appreciated its sharp bitterness or you quickly spit it out. But even the bitterest fruit can be made palatable by poaching in a spiced syrup, or by roasting gently in an oven or by a fire. And regardless of the fruit’s bitterness, birds and other wildlife always appreciate them.

Hard cider is making a comeback, and farmers are planting more crabapples to meet the needs of cider makers. Crabapples are high in pectin, so you can use them to help gel other fruit preserves.

In the landscape, crabapples are interesting in every season. Winter exposes their contorted crowns and branches that are often short and spur-like with defensive thorn-like twigs. Their twisted trunks make dramatic silhouettes against winter skies.

In spring, crabapples bloom before their leaves unfurl. Blossoms are usually generous, although some varieties bloom heavily only every other year. Many bloom in that cheerful soft pink that we associate with apple blossoms. The leaves that follow can be light green to dark purple. Fruits often hang in clumps or clusters, like cherries.

Apples and roses belong to the same genus. I have noted that the roses in my garden with the longest history have the most vicious thorns. I can easily imagine herbivores deciding that there were easier plants to eat. Wild crabapples protect their scrappy, survivor heritage with thorns, too.

Crabapples can be as small in diameter as one-half inch and as large as two inches. Fruit colors range from soft yellow to bright red, dark burgundy, purple and russet. There are more than 200 named varieties, with new ones coming to market each year. With so many crabapples, how does one choose?

If you want an upright tree, consider Malus ‘Profusion’. It reaches 20 feet and has green foliage with bronze tips, purplish-pink flowers and red fruit. For a 10-foot spreading shrub with dramatic zigzag branches, fragrant and profuse white blossoms and tiny red fruit, consider M. ‘Sargentii’. Many gardeners plant M. ‘Dolgo’ for its cherry-like clusters of tasty crabapples. You will have to taste for yourself to find the crabapples that appeal to you.

Crabapples are susceptible to a few pests and diseases. Look for varieties resistant to fireblight and scab. Your local nursery can provide solutions for coddling moths and powdery mildew. Crabapples do not need yearly pruning, except to remove dead or diseased limbs or to shape.

Workshop: Napa County Master Gardeners will conduct a workshop on “Rose Pruning and Maintenance” on Saturday, January 17, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at University of California Cooperative Extension, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Napa. This workshop will feature demonstrations on rose bushes to show and explain proper pruning techniques. Master Gardeners will discuss various types of roses, common rose diseases and routine maintenance including watering and fertilizing.Online registration (credit card only)Mail-in registration (cash or check only).

Master Gardeners are volunteers who help the University of California reach the gardening public with home gardening information. Napa County Master Gardeners ( are available to answer gardening questions in person or by phone, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to Noon, at the U. C. Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite 4, Napa, 707-253-4143, or from outside City of Napa toll-free at 877-279-3065. Or e-mail your garden questions by following the guidelines on our web site. Click on Napa, then on Have Garden Questions? Find us on Facebook under UC Master Gardeners of Napa County.


Malus ‘snowdrift’
G. Lumis
Malus ‘Van Eseltine
G. Lumis

There are few plants that create greater intrigue or visual impact during all four seasons than the flowering crabapple. In the spring all eyes are enticed with delicate colors offered by emerging leaves and buds. Unopened flower buds may hint of one color and as flowers open, other hues are revealed in a spectacular floral display. As flowers fade the rich foliage offers another subtle contribution to the landscape.

As autumn arrives crabapple foliage and fruit transform to match the vibrant colors of an artist’s palette. Falling leaves reveal the glorious color of the fruit. The snow of winter accents fruit, branches, and tree shape. It is no wonder crabapples are called “jewels of the landscape.”


Depending on the cultivar and spring temperatures, full bloom could occur as early as late April or delay until mid-May. Flowers are classified as single (five petals), semi-double (six-ten petals), or double (more than 10 petals). Double-flowering crabapples retain their flowers longer than other types, but fruiting is usually sparse.

Blossom colors range from pearly white through delicate pinks to a deep red. There are even cultivars with coral or salmon colored flowers.


Apples and crabapples are in the rose family, Rosaceae, in the genus Malus. Crabapples are differentiated from apples based on fruit size. If fruit is two inches in diameter or less, it is termed a crabapple. If the fruit is larger than two inches, it is classified as an apple.

Fruit is borne in the summer and fall. Colors range from dark-reddish purples through the reds and oranges to golden yellow and even some green. On certain selections the fruit can remain attractive well into the late winter. The larger fruited cultivars offer a bonus because the fruit can be spiced or used in jelly.

Growth Habit and Size

Crabapples have diverse growth habits or tree shapes. The shapes consist of weeping (pendulous), rounded, spreading (horizontal), upright (columnar), vase-shaped, and pyramidal.

Flowering crabapples vary greatly in size. At maturity, certain cultivars will only attain a height of eight feet, while others will tower to heights greater than 40 feet. However, most flowering crabapples reach mature heights of 15 to 25 feet.

Due to their versatility, crabapples make excellent choices for use around homes, schools, parks, public and commercial buildings, and in highway plantings.

Site Requirements

Flowering crabapples are adaptable but thrive in rich loam type soil (a combination of clay, silt, and sand). Regardless of soil type, good drainage is a must for tree health. Crabapples grow best in a moist, slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.0 to 6.5. Excessively moist areas and low spots should be avoided. On the other hand, relatively dry sites can be tolerated by crabapples if plant stresses are minimized during the first year after transplanting.

Plant stress, evidenced as unhealthy appearance (e.g. leaf scorch, poor leaf color), is a response to unfavorable environmental conditions. Drought stress, for example, is due to a lack of water, either from rainfall or irrigation. Water is essential for every life function of the plant. However, too much water or over-watering, a persistent saturation of the roots, can lead to root rot and eventual plant death. Other plant stresses include too much shade, insect damage, infectious diseases, and physical damage from lawnmowers, weed-eaters, animals, and children playing.

Full sun exposure, 8 to 12 hours of direct sun, is required for optimal development of fruits and flowers. Most flowering crabapples are hardy and can endure the colder temperature extremes of zone 4 on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone maps.

Planting and Establishment

Tree health and vigor depends upon proper site selection and preparation. Before planting, have the soil tested to assure proper pH and nutrient levels. If necessary, make any adjustments to the soil before planting.

Flowering crabapples may be planted almost any time of the year. Balled and burlapped (B&B) stock and containerized trees can be planted any time after spring frosts end through fall until about three weeks before the ground freezes. However, bare root trees should only be planted in the spring. Bare root trees become too stressed if planting is delayed past early spring.

Every effort should be made to keep roots or the root ball from drying out before planting. For bare root trees, the planting hole should be dug wide and deep enough to allow for the natural extension of the root system. None of the roots should be cramped or bent to fit into the hole. This can result in girdling (strangling) roots that will slowly kill the tree. Damaged roots should be pruned just above the break or damaged area prior to planting.

For containerized or balled and burlapped trees, a saucer-shaped hole should be dug. The overall size should be at least two times wider than the root ball diameter. The center depth of the saucer should be the exact height of the root ball. This allows the burlap to be untied and placed down into the hole at planting. Make sure all strings holding the burlap at the base of the trunk are removed or these may damage or even kill the tree in later years.

Containerized plants should be removed from the pots just prior to planting. Using a small, sharp knife slice one inch deep into the compacted root mass, from top to bottom, in at least three different areas. This will help prevent the formation of girdling roots.

Most flowering crabapples are grafted onto other root systems (rootstocks) which must be planted at the original depth they were in the nursery or slightly higher (1-2″ maximum). “Long term root decline” may occur if trees are transplanted too deep. When tree roots are buried deeper than originally grown, the tree can languish for years, resulting in lackluster appearance and health, and eventually death.

Backfill the planting holes with a 50-50 mixture of the original soil and organic matter (e.g. leaf humus, compost, peat moss). Do not pack backfill around the root ball. Instead, use water to help settle the soil around the roots when the hole is three-quarters full. When the water has drained, backfill the hole completely and water again.

Place a thin layer of mulch, no more than two inches deep, around the tree to help reduce water loss. Turfgrasses will compete with the young tree for water and nutrients. Keep turfgrasses away from the rooting area of the planted tree to provide optimal conditions for tree establishment and survival. The young tree will need about one inch of water, rain or otherwise, per week. These subsequent weekly waterings, during the first year, are crucial for tree establishment.


When crabapples are planted in a soil of average fertility and provided moderate amounts of organic matter, they need little additional fertilizer the first year. However, if annual growth is less than five to six inches or leaves are small or pale green, then fertilizer is essential.


Crabapples require little pruning. Watersprouts (rapidly growing shoots from branches), suckers (rapidly growing shoots from roots or base of tree), dead, diseased, damaged, and crossing branches should be removed. Occasionally pruning is necessary to open up the center of the plant to sunlight and air movement or to remove a wayward branch.

When pruning is done it should be completed before early June. By mid-June to early July, flower buds for the next season are beginning to form in most crabapples. Pruning after July will reduce floral display and fruiting for the following year.


If trees are well established after the first year, little additional watering is needed unless drought conditions prevail. In a drought situation it is necessary to water thoroughly and deeply every two or three weeks. Depending on the soil type and drought severity, two to six inches of water should be applied at each watering interval.

If crabapples are not watered during periods of drought they will not collapse and die. However, the trees will use most of their carbohydrates to merely exist and survive. As a result, the next year’s floral and fruit display will likely be diminished.


Many new flowering crabapples are disease resistant or tolerant. Disease resistance involves genetic resistance to infection by disease causing organisms. Disease tolerance implies the plant may be affected by certain diseases but are of little health significance to the plant.

Unfortunately, few crabapples possess all desirable characteristics of exquisite flowers, fruit, foliage, growth habit, and disease resistance. This does not mean that other cultivars should not be used. Many crabapples are slightly susceptible to certain diseases and yet have great merit. By accepting and understanding their limitations, these plants are perfectly acceptable in many landscape situations.

Apple Scab

This fungal disease first affects emerging leaves in the spring, during moist conditions, and then moves to the fruit. Scab causes dark, leathery spots with a corky appearance on the fruit. On leaves, scab infections first appear in May or early June as olive-green or oil-soaked spots. On mature leaves, the infections appear as black, velvety spots that are slightly raised. As the disease develops, leaves turn yellow and drop prematurely. If the tree is heavily infected, defoliation can occur by early summer.

Control can be achieved one of two ways. Remove the trees that are highly susceptible and select other less susceptible disease-resistant crabapples. Alternatively, apply fungicides as leaves begin to emerge, at two weeks and again four weeks after the first application.

For more on apple scab, .

Frog-eye Leaf Spot

Symptoms of this fungal disease are typically small, dark brown spots (dead leaf tissue) outlined by a thick, dark purple circle. Frog-eye leaf spot is found commonly on many flowering crabapples and its effect, from heavy defoliation to no impact, depends upon susceptibility to this fungus.

The best course of action is to select crabapples which are resistant or tolerant to this disease.


This devastating disease is caused by a bacterium, Erwinia amylovora. Symptoms appear as death of new terminal shoots in late spring or early summer. These shoots appear to be scorched by fire. The leaves remain attached to the blighted shoot which develops a characteristic curvature at the tip, commonly called a “shepherd’s crook.”

Fireblight often progresses down through the shoot and forms a canker in the older tissue. Cankers are typically sunken areas that are dark brown to purplish in color. An orange or amber gum may ooze from these infected parts. As the bark dies, the area becomes slightly depressed.

Control of fireblight can be easily achieved if these guidelines are followed. First and foremost, select plants that are genetically resistant to fireblight. If that is not an option then sanitation, removal, and disposing of blighted branches and shoots are the best alternatives.

For more on fire blight, .


Flowering crabapples are relatively undamaged by most insects. Although they are frequented by various types of caterpillars, leafhoppers, leaf-rollers, leafminers, and Japanese beetles, these pests rarely cause significant damage to the tree. The nest forming caterpillars (i.e. eastern tent caterpillar, fall webworm) are easily pruned out or removed with a gloved hand.

Japanese beetles and other pests are easily controlled with insecticides. Control may be warranted in young trees if one-third to one-half of the foliage is affected.


These recommendations are a small synopsis from a more thorough discussion of the ornamental ratings of crabapples by the authors.

Weeping-Spreading Form

Malus ‘Molten Lava’
Highly rated crabapple. White flowers, yellow-orange fruits, 8 to 10 feet. Outstanding weeping-spreading crabapple for much of the year, and never mediocre. Fruits and yellowing fall foliage provide a fiery cascading image. After the fruit falls, the remaining pedicels provide an attractive feathery winter effect that complements the elegant branching structure. Trace of scab, but not a factor ornamentally.

M. ‘Red Jade’
White flowers, red fruits, 8 to 10 feet. Great strength is its attractive spreading habit, providing interest through the year, especially in winter. Impressive blossom and fruit displays. Strap-like leaves and twisting of petioles are characteristic of this cultivar.

M. ‘Mary Potter’
White flowers, red fruit, 10 to 15 feet. Very attractive through the summer months due to pleasing spreading growth habit. Trace of scab, but overall very clean foliage. Exfoliating trunk bark is an intriguing feature.

M. ‘White Cascade’
White flowers, small yellow fruits, 10 to 15 feet. Exquisite flower display with waterfalls of cascading blossom covered branches. Provides an effective presentation from early to mid summer due to its attractive weeping form. However, moderate scab and a trace of frogeye reduce its appeal in late summer.

Small Spreading Form

M. sargentii
White flowers, red fruits, 6 to 10 feet. Attractive low-spreading growth habit is an excellent feature, especially as plant ages. Resistant to scab with just a trace of frogeye leafspot. Fruits tend to shrivel early in fall, diminishing winter impact. M. sargentii ‘Rosea’ differs from the species in that it has rose-pink buds.

M. ‘Red Jewel’
White flowers, cherry red fruit, 10 to 15 feet. Attractive, persistent red fruits are outstanding, complementing its small, delicate growth habit. Most effective through fall and winter months. Foliage is relatively scab free with a trace of frogeye.

Large Rounded Form

M. ‘Donald Wyman’
Highly rated crabapple. White flowers, bright red fruits, 20 feet. Lustrous green foliage, good overall growth habit, and outstanding small glossy fruits make this tree exceptional. Traces of scab and frogeye on leaves are negligible. Alternate flowering pattern results in “off” or sparse bloom, though this selection typically has outstanding blooms.

M. ‘Sugar Tyme’
White flowers, brilliant red fruits, 15 to 18 feet. Marvelous fruit and flower displays. Foliage remains clean with only traces of scab and frogeye leafspot. Excellent all-purpose tree due to captivating fruit display which begins in mid-fall and persists through the winter.

M. baccata’Jackii’
White flowers, maroon-red fruits, 30 to 40 feet. Glossy, large, disease-free, deep green leaves are an exceptional ornamental feature. Handsome overall form and structure. Fruit somewhat sparse, but shiny and in attractive clusters; becoming soft in November. Large tree is mediocre throughout winter months.

M. ‘Bob White’
White flowers, yellow fruits, 20 feet. Outstanding feature from November through February is persistent, small, firm yellow-gold fruits maturing by January into orange-gold color. Foliage relatively clean with just a trace of scab and frogeye leafspot. Only mediocre during spring and summer months.

Upright Form

M. ‘Sentinel’
White with pink tinged flowers, red fruits, 15 to 20 feet. Vase-shaped upright habit. Pink buds opening to tinged white flowers are sensational. Trace of scab does not diminish the ornamental effect of this tree. Persistent fruits through the winter are nice but can detract during spring and early summer until they fall off.

Unique Growth Form

M. ‘Strawberry Parfait’
Pink flowers, fruits start yellow with increasing red blush. Unusual erratic upright-spreading growth habit is one of best features. Good firm fruits into the winter. Foliage was striking as it developed along the upright stems in the spring. Excellent scab resistance with a trace of frogeye leafspot. Unusual shape is not for every landscape.

Information provided by the Ohio State University Extension Service

Purple Prince Crabapple

Crabapples are popular across Zones 4 – 8 because of their hardiness and massive flower display. Of course, the beautiful fruit display is very welcome during the cold winter months.

With so many wonderful improved Crabapple varieties, the hardest part is choosing the right one for your landscape. Purple Prince Crabapple (Malus ‘Purple Prince’) is an excellent choice.

First, an abundant amount of rose red flowers cover the tree in mid-spring. Then, this tree easily showcases the best purple foliage of any flowering Crabapple. Finally, super showy maroon fruits develop and hang for fall and winter interest.

Every season, this tree will make you fall in love with it. With a rounded profile, Purple Prince is a small ornamental tree is valued for its brilliant flowers, foliage and fruit.

This tree can be used as a single specimen, or it will make a gorgeous accent when planted in groups.

In spring, rich red single flowers are held all along the branches, dazzling you and your visitors a stunning spectacle of color.

Emerging a vivid purple-bronze in the spring, the leaves maintain their color well into the summer before transitioning to green foliage. They’ll mellow into a golden hue for fall.

The fruits are a deep, delicious ruby red color and look like little jewels hanging all along the branches all winter long. They make a wonderful display contrasting beautifully with snow in winter.

Local songbirds will love the fruit, so don’t worry about any mess or clean up. The birds will take care of all that for you!

Order yours today, this is an excellent selection of Crabapple.

How to Use Purple Prince Crabapple in the Landscape

Its year-round interest makes it perfect for locations where the rough, grey bark and dangling, scarlet Crabapples can add to the winter landscape. A front or side yard location would be a lovely choice for Purple Prince, as it’s useful as both a shade and ornamental tree.

Try Purple Prince in a group of 3 or more in a berm planting or along a driveway. Try one with different colors of Crabapples for a fun, informal “collected” look.

They could also be planted as part of a mixed shrub border to offer height and plenty of color. Space them evenly all along the back side of the border as a beautiful backdrop.

Purple Prince Crabapple makes a great street tree, especially where trees will be planted beneath the utility wires.

Crabapples also make excellent specimen plants used singly in any part of your landscape where a smaller tree is needed. Why not site one near a window? Imagine standing in your kitchen, washing dishes or prepping veggies, and being able to watch the beauty of nature unfold before you.

Plant them 15 feet apart for a formal grouping. Plant them 10 feet apart, if you want the branches to overlap as a screen.

#ProPlantTips for Care

This pretty tree has excellent resistance to diseases that were faced by old-fashioned Crabs. This is truly an improved variety and is much more refined and disease free compared to the older selections.

The only pruning that should be done is to carefully train lower branches, or to remove any crossing or damaged branches. You can either prune it while it’s dormant in late winter or early spring or wait until after the flowers are done and enjoy them first.

Give it full sun and well-drained soil for best performance. They are moderately drought tolerant, but please provide supplemental water if the weather stays dry for an extended period of time. Baby this wonderful deciduous tree, it’s worth it!

Although fast-growing, Purple Prince does not suffer from stem splitting as some rapid growth trees do. It isn’t fussy about soil conditions, as long as water drains quickly. They can even thrive in urban environments.

Order this outstanding choice today, and start enjoying brilliant foliage, flowers and fruit in your yard!

Apple trees are among the most widely cultivated plants in the world. With some 7,500 known cultivars within the Malus genus, the common apple tree (Malus domestica) we know and love produces sweet fruits that can be eaten raw or used in cooking. We know these types as orchard apples, eating apples, cooking apples, and culinary apples.

The other type of Malus is the wild apple, also known as the crabapple tree.

Producing tart fruits no larger than two inches in diameter, crabapples are often prized for their growth habit that is gorgeous no matter the season. Compared with common apples, crabapple trees are smaller in stature, very hardy, and far less work to maintain. And while perhaps sour fruits don’t appeal to you, there are plenty of things you can do with crabapple fruit!

5 Benefits of Growing Crabapple Trees

Crabapple trees offer a few practical benefits in addition to their good looks.

1. Crabapple Trees Provide A Beautiful Display for Every Season

A mature crabapple tree in full bloom.

An early harbinger of spring, crabapple trees bloom profusely in an amazing display of fragrant white or pink blossoms.

Once pollinated, the summer months see crabapple trees turn to fruit production and a return to a lovely canopy of green leaves. In autumn, it makes another dramatic transformation with bright red, orange, and yellow foliage.

When its leaves drop in winter, the dense, knotty, gnarly, spiny branches (often still bearing fruit) will continue to provide visual interest in snow covered landscapes.

2. Crabapple Trees are Pollinator Magnets

During their glorious springtime flowering period, crabapple trees attract bees and other pollinators to your yard. Not only will this help save the bees by providing them with an excellent source of nectar, attracting pollinators to your garden boosts the production of other vegetable and fruit crops you grow.

3. They are Excellent Companions for Orchard Apples

Orchard apples need to be pollinated by a second type of apple tree of a different variety in order to produce fruit. Since crabapple trees are such heavy bloomers, they are a great option for cross pollinating your eating apples.

Crabapple trees can be interplanted between the orchard apple rows, or you can take some branch cuttings while the crabapple tree is still in bloom and set them strategically around the orchard.

For best results, ensure your orchard and crabapple varieties are matched in blooming times by pairing up early, mid, and late blooming cultivars.

4. Crabapple Trees Are Super Productive

A Cedar Waxwing bird feasting on last fall’s crabapples.

Once established, a mature crabapple tree will produce a massive amount of fruit each autumn.

Fruits can be found dangling in numerous clusters upon each branch of the tree, in a growth habit that looks more reminiscent of a berry bush than a traditional apple tree. When you’ve gotten your fill at harvest time, leave the rest of the crabapples on the tree to provide a feast for wild birds.

5. Crabapple Trees are Very Low Maintenance

Unlike the domestic apple, wild apple trees are incredibly hardy and don’t need much beyond watering and the occasional pruning to remove suckers that appear at the base of the trunk.

While crabapple trees aren’t particularly prone to pests and disease, you can purchase disease resistant varieties to minimize the chances of apple scab, fire blight, and apple rust. Pests like Japanese beetles, caterpillars, and apple maggots will rarely do enough damage to impact the health of the tree.

How To Choose A Crabapple Variety

There are around 35 species of crabapple tree and hundreds of hybrids. When choosing a variety, consider these factors:

Size: Crabapple tree cultivars range from 8 to 40 feet in height and spread at maturity.

Shape: The growth habit and form of crabapple trees varies widely, from upright, rounded, oval, weeping, narrow, broad, spreading, low, and semi weeping.

Fruit Persistence: While many varieties hold their fruit into the winter, some will drop their crabs early and make a bit of a mess.

Fruit Edibility: Because crabapples are mainly bred for beauty, some cultivars are better for fruit eating than others. Some crabapple varieties produce crabs that are sweet enough to eat right off the tree, while others are better as cooking apples. In general, the smaller the fruit, the more sour it will taste.

Hardiness: Most crabapple trees are hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8.

8 Best Types Of Crabapple Tree To Consider

Since there are so many types to choose from, here are some choice picks that will add color, fragrance, and much fruit to your outdoor spaces:


Brandywine crabapple tree in full bloom.

An early spring bloomer, Brandywine is a lovely sight to behold. With masses of aromatic bright pink double flowers that look like roses, it has an upright, broad, and rounded shape that can reach a height of 15 to 20 feet tall. Bearing yellowish green crabapples that can be prepped into jellies and jams, these fruits will drop so avoid a messy clean up by harvesting as they ripen. The leaves are dark green in summer and turn red orange in autumn.


A well rounded variety, Dolgo blooms early in the season with long lasting, fragrant white flowers in an upright, open, and spreading shape. Growing to a height of 30 feet, the glossy green foliage turns bright yellow in autumn. Large red fruits are sweet enough to be eaten raw and persist into winter.

Purple Prince

Purple Prince is a fast grower with an elegant upward spreading growth habit that can reach 20 feet tall and wide. Its gnarled and twisted canopy comes alive in mid spring with bunches of dusty pink single blossoms. These are followed by half inch, purplish blue crabs that will cling to the tree into wintertime. Fruits are bitter raw but are good cooking apples. Leaves start out deep green and turn yellow before they drop at the end of the season.


An award winning crabapple tree, Adirondack is an excellent choice for smaller garden spaces. Growing to just 12 feet in height, it produces a plethora of large white blossoms in late spring that develop into glossy red fruits come fall. Though fruits are very bitter, your backyard birds will love them. Crabapples will persist into winter. Foliage is green most of the season, turning yellowish in autumn.


As its fiery name would suggest, Prairiefire is a bold and beautiful specimen that explodes in dense clusters of deep pink to vibrant red blooms, each 1.5 inches round, in mid to late spring. Fruits are small purplish red, and persist into winter, but are too bitter for human consumption. The pointed leaves start out purple tinged in spring, become dark green with reddish veins in summer, and turn vibrant orange in fall.


Heaving with dense clusters that dangle from each branch, Snowdrift blooms generously with pure white, gently scented flowers in mid to late spring. Blossoms mature into a multitude of orange-red crabapples, about 3/8” in diameter, that do not drop to the ground. Fruit is best left for the birds. With a rounded, upright canopy, its ovate leaves are dark green and glossy in summer, turning golden yellow in autumn.


A weeping variety, Louisa is a graceful beauty with branches that cascade to the ground. In early spring, it produces delicate and fragrant single flowers tinted in pink. Tiny, pea sized fruits, yellow in color, cling to its limbs throughout winter. Its summertime dark green leaves transition to yellow and orange in fall.

American Crabapple

Among the few crabapple trees native to North America, the American crabapple (Malus coronaira) can be found in the wilds growing in woodland openings and thickets on the eastern side of the continent. Because it is a native plant, it is especially valuable as a food source for North American bee populations that are, like the more publicized European honeybee, facing extinction.

In addition to its ecological merits, the American crabapple is a stunner as well, with a shorter trunk and an often crooked, broad, irregular crown. It flowers in late spring with fragrant five-petal blooms that start out light pink and turn white over time. The edible fruit is fragrant as well, green at the outset and yellowing at peak ripeness.

Other excellent edible crabapple trees include Chestnut, Centennial, Hopa, and Whitney. For more varieties of crabapple, check out these comparison charts here and here.

How to Plant a Crabapple Tree

Preparing the ground to plant a crabapple tree.

Choose a site for your crabapple tree that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. You’ll want to select a spot that has rich, well draining, slightly acidic soil. Also bear in mind the size the tree will eventually become at maturity.

If you purchased your tree balled and burlapped or in a container, you can plant it in spring, summer, or fall. Bare root crabapple trees should only be planted in early spring.

Prep the site by removing all grass in a 4 foot diameter circle. Dig a hole 2 feet deep and about twice the diameter of the root ball.

To enrich the soil, mix peat moss and compost into the soil you just dug out. Begin filling the hole with the soil mix, just enough so that the tree’s trunk is planted at the same depth it was when it was in the pot.

Place the tree in the hole and keep adding soil around the root ball until the hole is partially filled, gently tamping it down with your foot. Water the site well, allowing it to drain completely.

Continue filling the hole the rest of the way with the soil mix. Firm the soil’s surface, but be careful not to compress the soil. Finish by giving your new crabapple tree a thorough watering.

How To Care For Your Crabapple Tree


During its first year of growth, crabapple trees need regular watering. Keep the soil evenly moist over the root zone, about an inch per week. Once it is well established, crabapples are very drought tolerant and shouldn’t need supplemental watering unless the season is extremely dry.


Crabapple trees shouldn’t require fertilizer if you planted it in nutrient rich soil. If you notice stunted growth or sad looking blooms or fruit, give them a boost by working some finished compost into the soil around the base of the tree.


Crabapple trees do not need to be trained or thinned. Prune only in early spring to remove dead branches and suckers.

Companion Plants

While you can simply mulch the bare area around the tree, crabapples have a mutually beneficial relationship with many other plants. Bulb plants like daffodil, daylily, garlic, and onions have shallow roots that can help suppress weeds; since they go dormant in the summer, they won’t be competing with the crabapple tree for nutrients.

Planting dill, fennel, coriander, and nasturtiums helps to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects while repelling pests that can harm your tree.

You can also passively add nutrients to the soil with comfrey, yarrow, and alfalfa; simply chop these down and let them decompose into the soil.

Harvesting Your Crabapple Tree

A bucket of freshly harvested ripe crabapples.

Crabapple trees are typically ready to be harvested from September to November. Ripe crabapples should be both tart and sweet. Pick your crabs too early, though, and they will likely be quite bitter.

To test for ripeness, slice open a crabapple or two and take a look at the seeds. Seeds that are light in color – white, greenish, or beige – usually indicates it needs more time to mature. Dark brown seeds are one indicator that the fruit is ripe and ready to be picked.

Another way to tell ripeness is the fruit’s color. Depending on the cultivar you chose, the crabapples should be a vibrant shade of red, yellow, green, or purple. Test the firmness by taking a bite. The texture and flesh should be easy to sink your teeth into. If it’s too hard, it needs more time to develop.

Crabapples will be at their sweetest when daytime temperatures are still warm but night temperatures are cooler, down to 32°F. If your crabs are frozen at harvest, let them thaw out before handling them.

You can preserve your crabapples for later use by freezing them whole. Simply wash the crabs, removing the stems and blossom ends, and place on a cookie sheet in a single layer in the freezer. Once they are completely frozen, transfer them to an air tight container.

15 Ways to Use The Crabapples You Harvest

Do you already have a thriving crabapple tree and looking for ways to use the fruit? Then take a look at our follow-up article revealing enough crabapple recipes to satisfy even the most abundant tree.

Crabapple tree in full bloom

My crabapple tree seems never to have a dull moment. In early spring, just when I can’t take the grayness anymore, it pops out with deep magenta flower buds. As the buds open the flowers turn white, creating a multicolored rainbow as the foliage begins to sprout amid the blossoms. During the summer, the tree is lush and green and full of singing birds, with its dappled shade dancing on the walkway.

By late summer, the tiny crabapples come out in shades of red and orange, and the leaves begin to show their fall colors. And even when the leaves are gone and the last apples have fallen, the tree holds a nice shape for the winter – it’s my favorite for photographing snow and winter birds.

Crabapple trees offer almost everything you’d want in an ornamental tree:

  • Gorgeous spring blooms, usually in April or May.
  • Fall fruits on a crabapple tree

  • Fall fruits in shades of orange, red, and purple.
  • Colorful fall foliage.
  • Moderate lawn-friendly size with good foliage.
  • Variety of pleasing shapes that require very little pruning.
  • Drought-tolerant.
  • Tough and adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions, including cold winters and heavy soil.

About Crabapple Trees

There are too many varieties of crabapple to count, with shapes ranging from upright to spreading to weeping. Some are grown for their edible fruit, but many ornamental varieties – known as flowering crabapples – have been developed more for landscape use. Flowers are generally in the white-pink-red range, with both green and red foliage.

These striking, long-lasting fruits are gorgeous on snowy bare branches

Consider the following factors when choosing a crabapple tree:

  • Fruit Persistence: Some varieties of crabapple keep their fruits well into the winter, while others drop their apples early and can make a mess. In general ornamental Asian varieties are cultivated for long-lasting, colorful fruits.
  • Disease Resistance: Look for varieties that are resistant to apple scab, fireblight, mildew, and Japanese beetles.
  • Size and Shape: Sizes range from 8 to 40 feet, and shapes vary widely as well.

About Apples

Crabapples and regular apples both fall under the botanical genus Malus. They’re really only distinguished by fruit size. If the mature fruits are over 2” in diameter, they’re called apples while trees with fruits smaller than that are called crabapples. All are edible, but ornamental varieties will probably taste pretty sour.

Crabapple Growing Conditions

  • Hardiness: Crabapples are hardy to zone 4.
  • Light: Crabapples do best in full sun.
  • Soil: Crabapples are adaptable; but rich, well-draining, slightly acidic soil is ideal.
  • Water: Crabapples need regular water (especially the first year), but do better in dry rather than wet soil, so avoid wet or low lying planting sites.

Crabapple buds opening in spring

Crabapple Planting and Growing Tips

  • Planting Time: You can plant crabapples most any time the soil is workable. Bare-root trees need to be planted in early spring, but balled and burlapped or container grown trees can be planted in spring, summer, or fall.
  • Planting Depth: Many flowering crabapples are grafted onto tougher rootstock, so it’s important to plant them at the same depth they were in the pot – no deeper – so that the roots will establish properly.
  • Water: Make sure your crabapple gets 1” of water per week for the first year. Once the tree is established, it shouldn’t need supplemental irrigation except in extreme drought. Most crabapples will not die in drought, but they will focus on survival at the expense of next year’s flowers and fruits.
  • Crabapple tree in bloom

  • Fertilizing: If planted in good soil, crabapples don’t usually need extra fertilizer. Feed only if you notice stunted growth, pale yellow leaves, or poor blooms or fruits.
  • Pruning: Crabapples really don’t need pruning, other than an occasional shape-up to remove watersprouts or dead or rubbing branches. If your tree is susceptible to fungal diseases, you may want to prune to increase air circulation. Don’t prune after June, or next year’s flowers might be diminished.
  • Disease: Apple scab is a common fungal disease that affects crabapple trees during humid summer weather. It starts with dark, velvety or oily-looking spots on the leaves, which eventually die and fall off. Fungicides can help some, but your best bet is to look for trees that are resistant to apple scab.

Further Information

  • Crabapples for the Home Landscape (Morton Arboretum)
  • Flowering Crabapple (Landscape America)
  • Questions on: Crab Apple (North Dakota State University Extension)

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