When to prune crabapple?

Flowering Crabapple Trees: Learn How To Plant A Crabapple Tree

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.

How to Plant a Crabapple Tree

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.

Signs of a Dying Crabapple Tree

Crabapple trees (Malus spp.) make attractive small flowering trees for home gardens. However, they do not live forever, nor do they exist without threats of pests, diseases and injuries from wind, lightning or human accidents. Yellowing and falling foliage, die-back of branches and flaking and removal of bark are symptoms of trees that are on the decline. Reduced flowering or strangely-timed leaf-out or blooming can also mark a final effort by a dying tree to produce seeds.

Foliage Symptoms

A change in the look or color of crabapple tree leaves is the first sign of a problem. Although yellowing, brown spotting or wilting of leaves is not a direct sign the tree is dying, it does indicate a pest or disease bout that could weaken the tree if not addressed. Leaves may change in appearance and then drop off the tree, often followed by twig and branch death. Once a disease or pest weakens a tree to the point it is no longer making food from its leaves, it is much more likely to die.

Branch Death

Infections by fungi or viruses spread across the crabapple tree from their point of entrance, such as a bark injury. Likewise, boring insects can disrupt the flow of sap in twigs and branches, causing the abortion of leaves, flowers or fruits. Once entire branches lose foliage and bark cracks or flakes away, the situation is serious. Closer examination of the branch may reveal mushroom-like bodies or malodorous oozing gums, a sign the tree is infected and likely destined to die.

Trunk Issues

Much like the symptoms of dying branches, the trunk is the primary support and means for transport of nutrients, water and sap. Mechanical injuries on the trunk–such as a cut, crack or scar–may allow for pests and diseases to quickly infiltrate the tree. If bark on the trunk is loose, cracked or missing, the health of the wood inside is likely affected and will spread to all parts of the tree, roots included. Fungal crowns or oozing sap or goo from the trunk can also indicate a deteriorating tree.

Reduced Vigor

Crab apples do not live indefinitely. Those of considerable age will slowly decline, usually marked by production of fewer leaves and flowers over the course of the final years. Declining trees are more susceptible to pests and diseases and physical symptoms may be seen in the leaves, branches and trunk.

Unusual Flowering

Dying crabapple trees may flower or leaf-out, either at odd times or repeatedly. This is a natural mechanism common to plants, as it is a last-ditch effort to flower and make seeds before the mother plant dies. It is a means to ensure a future generation of crabapple in the immediate growing area.

Cinderella Crabapple Tree Half Dead

I had a new Cinderella Crabapple Tree planted in my back yard about 7years, & for the first time this summer it is NOT healthy, and I don’t know what to do or how to save it. I noticed about 6-8 weeks ago, that half of the tree was looking pretty sickly, & not near as healthy as the other half. The half that does not look good basically pretty much looks very dead. The leaves are completely brown & shriveled up, but still attached to the branches. And those branches are also very brittle & look dead, but are still attached & have not fallen off of the tree. But…the other half of it is as healthy as can be; green leaves, had flowers in the spring and the branches look as healthy as previous years. I’m a recent widow with 4 kids, so try to save or revive anything I can outdoors ….due to the cost of having to replant a whole new tree. Any help or suggestions of what it could possibly be would be extremely appreciated, or any type of a chemical or even a fertilizer at this point if there’s any hope in saving it. I have already read about the other diseases such as fire blight, cedar-apple rust, apple scab and frog-eye leaf spot, but none of them seem to have the same type of symptoms or have taken on the same look as those diseases. Once again, I do appreciate any input you can provide on my poor dying Cinderella Crabapple Tree. Thank you! Sincerely, Kathleen Thoreson 7749 Amberwood Trail Boardman, OH 44512 [email protected] (Cell) 330-550-6859

Crabapple trees in bloom are a dramatic feature of spring. The blossom
color varies from white and every shade of pink, to deep rose reds. Their appeal is not limited to the flowers. The green canopy is brightened in the fall with yellow, orange, red, or maroon fruit. The architectural branch patterns and attractive bark of crabapples create interesting winter features. They are outstanding trees to beautify the landscape for every season.
Where to Plant
Crabapple trees are sun lovers. Plant them where they will benefit from
at least six hours of sun a day. Fortunately crabapples thrive in the heavy
soil conditions of Central Indiana. They do like good drainage, so choose
a location where the roots will not remain wet. They can take the wind
and cold in stride.
Selection and Disease Resistance
There are several ailments that can affect crabapple trees, but most of the varieties now on the market are disease resistant. When shopping, request a disease resistant variety. If you have an older crabapple variety that is affected by defoliation, several applications of fungicide early in the season will greatly reduce the problem. Raking up and destroying leaves in fall is also helpful for disease prevention.
Care after Planting
Watering: As with most plants, crabapples will benefit from at least an inch of moisture each week. This is particularly crucial during the first year after planting. Set a hose by the trunk and let it trickle slowly for a half-hour as needed. Hot days are very stressful for transplants. A three-inch layer of mulch around the base of the tree will help retain moisture.
Fertilizing: Use only a root stimulator when planting to encourage root growth. Once established, an annual application of a balanced fertilizer is all that is needed.
Pruning: The only pruning needed on a crabapple tree is to remove shoots at the base of the trunk, shoots that grow straight up from lateral branches, or to remove dead or diseased limbs. The best time to prune is in the winter.

Summer pruning for fruit and flowers

Spring-flowering plants that have set fruit but will take until late summer to ripen, such as ornamental crab apples, can benefit from “tipping back” the foliage, so that the fruit is exposed to more light and ripens more readily.

This also ensures that the attractive fruit is more visible. Reducing excessive soft growth from woody plants can also help combat foliage wilt. This can be a problem when the benign growing conditions in spring, which encourage lots of soft, sappy foliage, are replaced by hot, dry conditions.

Much as we like to decry our summers, this can happen as the last few weeks show. There’s still regular deadheading of flowering shrubs to be done, of course, especially repeat-flowering roses.

Fortunately, all soft prunings can go straight on the compost heap – as long as they’re not diseased – and soft shoots are a doddle to prune with secateurs.

Ornamental crab apple

Crab apples are the most colourful trees for spring blossom and autumn fruit. Many are perfect for small gardens, too, such as Malus sargentii and M. ‘Red Jade’. After flowering, the fruit slowly develops over the summer, while new foliage growth extends from the terminal buds (the ends of each shoot), as well as from lateral buds.

The aim of pruning at this time of year is to lightly “tip back” this new growth, to within two or three buds of the old wood – but, importantly, not into the old wood.

This helps to reduce the amount of soft, wilt-prone wood, maintain the overall shape of the tree and control its size. It also exposes the fruit to the sun, improving fruit development and encouraging ripening.

Other candidates

This kind of midsummer pruning can also be applied to shrubs such as weigela, deutzia, exochorda and philadelphus, as well as to culinary fruit trees and shrubs, including espaliers and cordons. It has the same effect as pinching out on annuals and perennials – it removes excessive growth and encourages a second flush of less vigorous growth. This has a greater concentration of potassium, which, in turn, helps encourage better flowering and fruiting the following season.

Summer pruning also enables you to keep trees and shrubs to a manageable size. Rather than face the awful realisation a few years down the line that a much-loved plant has outgrown its allotted space, prune it regularly to ensure it doesn’t have to be removed.

Encourage fruiting

Remove the fresh flush of summer growth on culinary fruit trees and bushes such as gooseberries, pears, currants and some apple varieties. This encourages stubby growth spurs to form, which bear the flowers and fruit. It also helps reduce water loss via the leaves.

Stripping away the excess foliage saves the water that would otherwise go into this leafy growth and diverts it into the developing fruit, so they swell evenly and don’t split. Summer pruning also improves air circulation, which reduces the risk of fungal diseases and helps ripen fruit.

Time to tame wisteria

By midsummer, wisteria tends to resemble something from The Day of the Triffids, its shoots coiling around any support. These shoots are useful on young plants, as they can be tied in to help form a trained framework. But on mature plants they create a mess. Prune these long shoots to within two or three leaves (see above) to encourage a second flush of growth, which will need to be tackled in late summer or early autumn.

With regular pruning, the plant will become less vigorous and consequently easier to keep under control.

Prune for fruit

1 Aim to reduce the growth without altering the tree shape. It’s easy to see the new, lighter coloured growth on this Malus ‘Sun Rival’. In a month or so the difference will be harder to spot.

2 Use sharp secateurs to avoid crushing or tearing the stem. Cut back the new growth to within two or three buds of the previous season’s growth. This removes the soft, sappy foliage and exposes the fruit to better light and air circulation.

3 The finished plant is lightly reduced, with vigorous spring growth “tipped back”, but it still retains its attractive, mop-headed shape. By autumn the exposed fruit will be glossy red.

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Crabapple Pruning Info: When And How To Prune Crabapples

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.

Pruning Trees in Spring – Is It OK to Do?

As you’ve been admiring all the fresh green growth in your yard this spring, perhaps you’ve noticed something else, too. Like excessive growth of a tree or shrub that you want to cut.

Generally, the best time to prune most trees is when they’re leafless in winter. But as you know, with each rule of thumb, there are exceptions.

Read on to learn more about spring tree pruning.

Your Guide to Pruning Trees in Spring

If you can prune your trees before they begin growing, that still counts as dormant pruning and is the ideal time to prune because of these benefits.

Once trees start budding or blooming in spring, though, double-check that pruning now won’t put your tree in harm’s way.

Can I do any pruning after trees have leaves and buds in spring?

In general, pruning in spring can limit the tree’s bloom potential for the year. Plus, trimming in spring can leave cuts on trees that leave them more vulnerable to an insect infestation or disease.

But, you can safely do some tree pruning in spring–as long as you don’t remove any more than 10 percent of the tree’s branches.

Your goal with spring pruning should be one of two things.

  • Pruning for safety: Remove any dead, dying or decaying branches to keep your tree (and home) safe.
  • Minimal pruning for aesthetics: Cut or remove branches to shape your tree a bit.

Are there any trees that are better to prune in spring?

Yes! If you’ve just planted a new tree, cut off any broken, defected or damaged limbs, then learn how to prune young trees to improve their structure.

You can also prune maple, walnut and birch trees in late spring or early summer. When pruned in winter, they tend to ooze sap. The sap does little to no harm, but some people think it’s too messy! Trimming these trees after they have all their leaves for the season reduces sap bleeding.

And, finally, prune these trees once they’re done blooming for the season in spring:

  • Apricot trees
  • Chokecherry trees
  • Crabapple trees
  • Dogwood trees
  • Flowering cherry trees
  • Flowering plum trees
  • Juneberry trees
  • Lilac trees
  • Magnolia trees

Are there any trees I should never prune or trim in spring?

Remember: pruning trees in spring can leave them more vulnerable to insect infestation and diseases.

That’s why you don’t want to prune these trees in spring, summer or early fall:

  • Oak trees to reduce the chance of oak wilt (if oak wilt is in your area)
  • Elm trees to reduce the chance of Dutch elm disease
  • Sycamore trees to reduce the chance of anthracnose
  • Honeylocust trees to reduce the chance of stem cankers

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