Crabapple trees give meaning to the saying, “Big things come in small packages.” These bold and beautiful trees, which are native to North America and Asia, are known for their flora, fruit, foliage, and year-round beauty.
In the U.S., crabapple trees are especially popular landscaping plants. Planting crabapple trees adds a cheerfully colorful aesthetic to any property. Conveniently, crabapple trees are also quite low-maintenance when compared to other kinds of trees.
Interested in planting crabapple trees on your property and wondering how to get started? Keep reading to learn how to plant a crabapple tree, why you should plant a crabapple tree, and more.
Characteristics of Crabapple Trees
People love options, which is one of the reasons why planting crabapple trees is so popular. Depending on the variety, these small trees differ in shape and size.
While most crabapple trees grow between 15-20 feet tall, there are plenty of semi-dwarf and dwarf varieties. Because of the compact size of these smaller varieties, you can plant crabapple trees to fill vacant spaces in gardens and yards.
Taller varieties grow to about 40 feet, so there’s truly a tree for everyone’s taste.
Crabapple trees may be rounded, weeping, vase-like, spreading, or columnar, so you can choose a style that perfectly complements your property.
Flowers, Fruit, and Foliage
Color is an extra-special feature of crabapple trees that varies, and it’s one of the tree’s most-beloved traits.
Crabapple tree flowers bloom in mid-to-late spring, ranging from red, carmine, magenta, and pink to snow white. The flowers are also pleasantly fragrant and charmingly beautiful.
The leaves of a crabapple tree are typically lush green, though some leaves have red, bronze, or purple undertones. Come autumn; the foliage transforms into awe-worthy shades of bronze, gold, yellow, orange, red, and purple.
Late summer through mid-fall, crabapple tree flowers develop into small fruits. Crabapples are typically sour compared to apples and are the size and shape of small marbles.
These fruits are usually red, though some varieties bear maroon, orange, and honey-yellow fruit. Wide crabapple varieties hold onto their fruit throughout the winter. The berries offer a beautiful contrast when capped with snow.
Choosing the Right Crabapple Tree
There are over 900 known crabapple tree varieties. Still, only about 100 of them are popular to plant in the U.S. Consider planting a few crabapple tree varieties for a stunning assortment of colors each season. Selecting varieties you love is important because crabapple trees live for about 40 to 60 years.
To make your search easier, you should consider the following: Am I planting crabapple trees for the fruit? Is it the shade I’m after?
Or is it to add an ornamental touch to my landscape? Is it a combination of all three, perhaps? To select the best variety, it’s important to consider your intended purpose for planting crabapple trees.
Popular Crabapple Tree Varieties and Where to Buy Them
There are so many crabapple trees that we couldn’t possibly cover them all here. Below is a selection of five popular crabapple trees in the U.S.
Prairie Fire Crabapple Tree
Prairie fire crabapple trees are easily identifiable by their stunning hot pink and magenta flowers. The vibrant flora is complemented by purple and carmine-colored leaves, which transition to dark green in the summer and golden orange in the fall.
This tree bears purple-red fruit that clings to it all winter, adding its own beauty. This tree is bred to resist most diseases that affect apple trees, so plant this variety if you’re looking for something that’s particularly easy to care for. Check availability.
Dolgo Crabapple Tree
Dolgo crabapple trees are a bit on the larger side and grow to about 25 feet tall and 25 feet wide with a rounded shape. Plant this crabapple tree variety for its shade and also to add a delicate ornamental element to your yard.
The tree produces gorgeous white flowers that emerge from light-pink flower buds and has dark green leaves that turn yellow in the fall.
Its fruit is also on the larger side of a crabapple tree and grows abundantly, so we recommend planting this crabapple variety if you plan to use the fruit in cooking. Check availability.
Red Jewel Crabapple Tree
Red jewel crabapple trees are named after their sumptuous red fruits. Like wide varieties, the fruit lasts through the winter and is especially pretty to photograph after a snowfall. The tree produces pink buds that blossom into elegant snow-white flowers, and it has dark green leaves that turn yellow in the fall.
Smaller than other kinds, this tree has a narrow body that grows to 12-15 feet tall with an eight- to 10-foot spread. Plant this crabapple tree in your yard to attract butterflies and cedar waxwing birds. Check availability.
Spring Snow Crabapple Tree
The spring snow crabapple tree also produces exceptional white flowers, but it has an added appeal: it’s fruitless. Less mess and clean-up for those who plant crabapple trees strictly for ornamental purposes.
The tree is both low-maintenance and fast-growing. Plant this crabapple tree if you’re new to landscaping and want something easy to care for. Check availability.
Centennial Crabapple Tree
Centennial crabapple trees are popular to plant for ornamental purposes and for their fruit. This tree produces bushels of sweet-tasting, oval-shaped, orange-red crabapples that are perfect for canning and making jelly or crabapple butter.
The tree is smaller and grows to just eight-feet tall, so it’s easy to fit in most locations. In the spring, it produces beautiful allover white flowers that are fantastic to admire up close and from a distance.
Plant this crabapple tree for the three-fold benefits of its darling flowers, delicious fresh fruit, and greenery. Check availability.
How to Plant a Crabapple Tree
Now that you’ve learned about a few of the most popular crabapple trees to plant keep reading to find out how, when, and where to plant them.
When to Plant a Crabapple Tree
Plant crabapple trees in the early spring or fall. Aim to plant these trees in November or March when temperatures are cooler, and moisture requirements for the tree will be lower.
Crabapple trees require at least six hours of unobstructed sunlight each day. Planting a crabapple tree in a location that receives less than its required amount of sunlight will result in a tree that produces fewer flowers and fruits, has sparse leaves, and is more susceptible to disease.
Spacing and Soil
Plant crabapple trees in well-drained soil. These trees strive most when they are planted in well-drained soil.
Planting the Tree
There are three parts to planting crabapple trees in your yard: digging the hole, preparing the tree, and securing the tree.
Digging the Hole
In preparation for planting a crabapple tree, you need to dig a hole that is at least as deep as the tree’s root ball and two to three times as wide.
Securing the Tree
You’ll need to use a stake to ensure your crabapple tree grows straight and upright. After digging the hole, place one end of the stake in the hole before adding your tree. This step is to ensure you don’t damage the tree’s roots by when you pound the stake into the soil.
Preparing the Tree
When the hole is ready, position your crabapple tree in the center of the hole and fill it with soil. Add soil around your tree in such a way that it appears as a small bump in the ground and does not lay flat. Then, water your tree and cover the soil with a layer of mulch.
Crabapple trees require about one inch of water per week. Typical rainfall should be sufficient. You should only provide additional water if there is a drought.
Reasons to Plant a Crabapple Tree
There are so many reasons to love this all-season tree. Keep reading for our thoughts on why you should plant one–or five!
Crabapple Trees Add Beautiful Color to Properties
Crabapple trees are so popular in landscaping because of their beautiful flora. Whether you love color or prefer a clean look, there are so many plant varieties to choose from. Even a single crabapple tree will add color and class to your property.
In addition to their flowers and leaves, crabapple trees also have particularly beautiful bark. As they age, these trees develop mottled bark, resulting in a patchy appearance.
Many people appreciate the varied shades of gray, brown, and even green that make up the bark of an aging crabapple tree. Mottled bark is a perfectly normal sign of a healthy crabapple tree and can be understood as the tree’s natural process of exfoliation.
Crabapple Trees are Low Maintenance
Compared to other plants, crabapple trees are easy to care for. This tree requires little watering; once a crabapple tree is established, it needs very little care.
The most you’ll need to do is remove a few branches that grow too aggressively or overlap other branches and remove weeds growing underneath. Otherwise, you’ll be able to sit back, relax, and appreciate the natural growth of your crabapple tree.
Crabapple Trees Help with Pollination
We’re not the only ones attracted to the beautiful flowers of crabapple trees in full bloom and the scent of this flora. Natural pollinators like bees, butterflies, wasps, and ants are also attracted to their beauty. However, these critters have an even greater purpose: to drink from the nectar of their flowers.
Are you surprised to learn that having bees on your property is a good thing? Visit our page on bees to learn all about bees, their important jobs, and why these pollinators are so necessary in nature.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should you plant crabapple trees next to apple trees?
Apple trees generally thrive most when they have a companion apple tree because they help with pollination. Likewise, crabapple trees are perfectly fine to plant next to apple trees.
What animals do crabapple trees attract?
Planting crabapple trees attracts many kinds of animals year-round. In the winter, birds like cardinals, finches, mockingbirds, sparrows, and robins are drawn to crabapple trees with bright-colored berries. Berries, in general, are consumed by many types of birds.
Crabapple trees can produce fruit from spring through early fall. The fruit may attract animals such as deer and bears, crows, blackbirds, and insects. As fruit falls to the ground, it becomes more accessible to other creatures like mice, voles, foxes, badgers, rabbits, and raccoons.
If you live in or close to a wooded area, you may want to plant fruitless crabapple trees so they don’t attract all these animals to your property. Depending on what kinds of fruits, vegetables, and plants are growing in your yard, fruit-bearing crabapple trees can place them at a greater risk of being eaten.
Are crabapples toxic for dogs?
If you’re a dog owner, you’ll need to plant fruitless crabapple trees or a different tree altogether. The fruit of crabapples is edible, but its core and seeds are not. The seeds actually contain small amounts of a chemical component known as a cyanogenic glycoside.
When this component is broken down in the bodies of dogs and also in humans, it becomes cyanide, a toxic substance.
The core and seeds are removed when crabapples are used to make jelly, jam, and various desserts. However, when a dog comes into contact with fallen crabapples, the fruit is obviously eaten whole.
A large amount of crabapple cores and seeds must be consumed to experience the ill effects of eating the fruit. Nonetheless, it’s still important for dog owners to consider, especially if their pets have free range in their yards.
Wrapping Up on How to Plant a Crabapple Tree
There’s a lot to love about crabapple trees. Once you go ahead and plant one (or a few), it’ll likely become your favorite greenery on the property–and you surely won’t regret it.
Want to learn more about crabapple trees? Visit our page on Crabapple Trees for answers to all your questions and more!