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The Marilee Crabapple Tree

If you want to make a statement in your home landscape, adding more drama than a Marilee crabapple tree is nearly impossible.

Ideal as a sidewalk planting or a splash of backyard color, the Marilee greets spring with large pink blossoms that become white as they open wide against the tree’s rich green foliage.

The Marilee crabapple produces no fruit and grows columnar, stretching just eight to 10 feet wide as it reaches a height of more than 20 feet.

It’s also adaptable to many soil types, so it’s easy to grow. Read on to learn more about the Marilee crabapple tree, including tips on making it a stunning presence in your landscape.

Already planning to buy a Marilee crabapple tree? Check availability.

crabapple tree similar to the marilee crabapple

Characteristics of the Marilee Crabapple Tree

The Marilee crabapple tree is prized as much for its shape as its vibrant springtime floral display. Growing as an inverted cone, the Marilee is ideal for planting in problematic areas of the home landscape, such as a narrow side yard or rear yard or tight spaces alongside a patio or courtyard.

And just as its springtime flowers make a statement in the landscape, the Marilee crabapple is no slouch in the fall, as its green leaves become a shimmering shade of gold.

History of the Marilee Crabapple Tree

The Marilee crabapple tree is a relatively new variety, having been discovered in 1982 in a private garden in Washington state’s Skagit Valley, tended by a man named Marvin Jarmin. Jarmin’s last name continues to be used as an additional way to designate the Marilee crabapple.

Patented shortly after its discovery, the Marilee is now available in many nurseries. Because it doesn’t bear fruit, the Marilee crabapple is a great choice for landscaping in the northern United States, but it also grows well across the southern United States.

Growing Your Own Marilee Crabapple Tree

Whether you get your Marilee crabapple tree from a local garden center or order it online, it will come to your yard in one of three ways — planted in a container, with a root ball covered in burlap, or as a bare-root specimen.

When transplanting a container-grown Marilee, remove it from the container and loosen any roots growing in a circular pattern at the outer edge of the dirt. Plant the tree in a hole twice the size of the container, deep enough so that the root flare, where the roots and trunk meet, is a couple of inches above the ground.

For a balled-and-burlapped tree, move the trunk around to ensure it is still tightly attached to the roots, and then plant it as you would a container-grown tree.

Remove the roots from any packaging for a bare-root tree, and soak them for a few hours. Dig a hole twice as large as the roots but not as deep as container-grown or balled-and-burlapped trees.

With the root flare a few inches above the ground, tightly pack soil around the tree to keep it in place. For best results, plant bare-root trees in the spring.

Ongoing Care

You won’t have much to worry about as long as you plant your Marilee crabapple tree in a spot with well-draining soil that gets a good amount of sun each day.

You also likely won’t have to worry about fertilizing your tree, although you could spread some compost around the base if it doesn’t seem as robust as you would like.

You’ll need to pay particular attention to your Marilee crabapple tree during its first year, watering it deeply once a week. After that, natural rainfall should be enough to keep your tree healthy unless your area is experiencing a particularly dry season.


Like other crabapple varieties, the Marilee will need light pruning in late winter or early spring. The exception is suckers, tiny shoots growing from the tree’s base, which can be cut whenever they appear.

In addition to suckers, watch for water sprouts, and small shoots that show up between the main tree branches, growing at an angle. Water sprouts can crowd the tree’s growth, making spreading pests and diseases easier.

And, of course, you should be on the lookout for dead branches, making sure to remove them.

Other than that, your pruning of healthy branches should focus on removing those crowding other branches or moving the tree away from its inverted-cone shape. Remember to take a minimalist approach when pruning your Marilee crabapple tree.


Small sap-sucking insects called aphids are the only pests likely to bother your Marilee crabapple tree. Sprays are available for aphids, but as a rule, it’s foolish to try to cover an entire tree with a spray. As an alternative, a natural way to help control aphids is to plant flowers like aster, black-eyed Susan, and coneflower nearby to attract birds that feed their young with the tiny insects.


Like other landscape plants and trees, crabapple trees, including the Marilee, are subject to several diseases. With your Marilee crabapple, watch particularly for scab, canker, and mildew.

Scab shows up as black or brown splotches on leaves. Canker is revealed by patches of dead bark that will eventually encircle and kill branches. Mildew covers leaves with a dusty white coating that eventually turns brown.

Of these three, canker is the most dangerous and can only be controlled by cutting out damaged parts of your tree. But scabs and mildew are also hard to control, due mainly to a lack of truly effective treatments.

As with other landscape plants, the best way to control diseases is to keep them from developing in the first place. One way to do that is to be sure that your tree is getting plenty of sun, not blocked by shade from other trees.

How to Add Marilee Crabapple Blossoms to Interior Decor

White flowers on a crabapple tree.

If you’d like to bring a touch of spring indoors, the Marilee crabapple offers a great way to get that done.

By “forcing” Marilee blossoms indoors, you can enjoy their splendor a few weeks before the tree blooms in your yard. To force Marilee crabapple blossoms, you’ll need to cut some branches just as you begin to see buds swelling, usually sometime in February.

Cut new-growth stems with lots of buds from established branches with small hand pruners, making sure to cut as close to the branch as possible, and also being sure that the branches you cut won’t adversely affect the tree’s shape.

Bringing Your Stems Indoors

Once you have your branches, place them indoors in a large container of room-temperature water. After soaking for several hours, move them into a new container in a cool location for two days, misting them occasionally to keep the buds moist.

Next, take the branches from the water, trim the ends, and scrape the bark clean for 2 inches from the bottom of the branch. Put the newly trimmed branches back in some fresh water, and move them to a location with bright but indirect sunlight.

From there, change the water every few days, and re-cut the stems every week. Your buds should open within a few weeks, at which time you can arrange them in a vase containing water and a floral preservative, which you can order from Amazon.

Recutting the stems and replacing the water weekly will ensure your display lasts as long as possible.

Where to Buy the Marilee Crabapple Tree

In addition to Nature Hills, check your local nursery or garden center for a ready-to-plant Marilee crabapple tree. Or, if you’re particularly adventurous and have a friend with a Marilee who won’t mind you taking a few branches, you can start your own tree, for free, from one of those cuttings.

Wrapping up the Marilee Crabapple Tree

Now that you’ve learned about the Marilee crabapple tree, you should consider adding it to your landscape. For more on the many varieties of crabapple trees and other great information on home landscaping and gardening, check out Minneopa Orchards.