Flowering Crabapples

Malus Crabapple

The very cold nights we had last month, coupled with recent snowstorms, have badly damaged flower buds on crabapples and other popular spring bloomers.

Flowering crabapple trees, with single to double blooms of white, pink, or carmine, are a beautiful symbol of springtime. Varying widely in form, cultivars range from small upright trees 15 feet tall to umbrella-like specimens more than 30 feet across. Some form narrow columns; some are weeping. Many produce small, ornamental fruit that lasts all winter, in shades of yellow, orange, or red. The simple green leaves of some varieties may have a reddish cast, especially in the spring. ‘Indian Summer’ is an example having orange fall foliage. ‘Molten Lava’ has attractive yellow bark. With over 200 cultivars available, you can choose a tree that matches your site and provides four seasons of garden interest.

Persistent fruit will feed birds.

Persistent fruit will feed birds.

Crabs can be longer-lived and are hardier than other flowering fruit trees. The biggest problem in Colorado is fireblight, a bacterial disease which can disfigure and eventually kill the tree. The best prevention is to choose one of the many disease-resistant varieties. The trees tolerate a range of soil types as long as they have good drainage. Plant them in a moderate water zone. Only minimal pruning is required, to remove suckers and correct shape.

Their smaller size makes crabapples good candidates for small yards. They may even be espaliered against a fence. Consider planting them where fruit drop will not be a problem, although they also make good lawn trees.

[This article was first published in the Colorado Springs Gazette on April 25, 2007.]

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