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The Prairifire Crabapple Tree

The Prairifire Crabapple tree is a unique crabapple that differs in many ways from other varieties. With a long blossom period of bright colors and unique fruits, this tree is much easier on the eyes than on the palate.

Keep reading to learn about all of this tree’s wonders, including its history, ways to enjoy its beauty, and even tips on growing your own at home.

Simply looking to buy a Prairifire Crabapple tree? Check availability!

Prarifire crabapples on a tree.
Prairifire crabapple fruit.

Characteristics of the Prairifire Crabapple Tree

What It Looks Like

The Prairifire Crabapple tree has vibrant flowers, leaves, and fruits that line the tree branches.

This tree has an upright form, with many branches and twigs stemming from one relatively thin trunk to help draw your eyes to the focal point of this tree.

The most famous feature of this plant is its flowers. These flowers are deep pink in the spring with dark green leaves surrounding them. Following the blossoms in the spring, you’ll find an abundance of glossy, cherry-like fruits. These are the Prairifire crabapples, and match the flowers with their deep pinkish-red color.

The brilliantly colored flowers on a Prairifire crabapple tree.

In the summer, the previously all-green leaves develop dark purple veins that perfectly complement the flowers and fruit.

During fall, this tree’s green and purple hues are replaced by warm yellowy-bronze tones that are guaranteed to shine in any landscape.

Size of the Tree

When mature, this tree reaches an average height of 20 feet. It also has a spread (or width) of about fifteen feet when fully grown.

What Its Fruit Tastes Like

These trees are more known for their beauty than the taste of their fruits. The Prairifire crabapples are extremely bitter and tart, making them unappealing to most people.

History of the Prairifire Crabapple Tree

The Prairifire Crabapple tree has an interesting history that contributes to its complexity.

Unlike other crabapple trees, which have been around for hundreds of years, this variety was created in 1982 by Dr. Daniel Dayton. This University of Illinois professor created this tree as a disease-resistant cultivar.

Crabapple trees are members of the Rosaceae, or rose, family. Scientists and gardeners are constantly developing new forms of these plants, which has resulted in the presence of approximately 800 cultivars of crabapples today.

Dr. Dayton intentionally misspelled the word “prairie” in this variety’s name. His reason for doing so isn’t definitively confirmed anywhere, so the story behind the tree’s name will likely always be a mystery.

Ways to Use This Tree

A simple crabapple wreath hung outside in the snow.

The biggest criticism of this variety is that although the fruit is edible, its taste is not well-liked and is best left for feeding birds and animals. No matter how much sugar you add, this crabapple variety is not even good for preserves!

It is classified as an edible crab apple but is more practical for ornamental uses. Here are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy this tree’s beauty.

Using its Fruit

The Prairifire Crabapple fruit makes for great holiday decor with its rich colors and glossy exterior.

If you’re a DIY project lover, try using this fruit to make a Crabapple Wreath. The deep red color of the fruit against the forest green leaves makes this project the perfect finishing touch to a Christmas-ready home.

The Prairifire Crabapple also resembles the small red fruits of mistletoe, allowing it to match any other ornaments you may already have.

Not to mention, this project makes for a festive and fun holiday activity!

Closeup of bright red crabapples on a tree.

Using its Flowers

With such a vibrant and ever-changing blossom, it would be a shame not to enjoy the beauty of the Prairifire Crabapple tree’s flowers throughout the seasons. Luckily, drying flowers is an easy process that allows you to preserve and admire their beauty, even after the seasons change.

All you need to do is strip the excess foliage from the outside of the flowers and hang them upside down in a dark, dry, well-ventilated area.

After two to three weeks in this position, you’ll have dried blossoms that can be used in many different ways. You can frame them for wall decor, add them to potpourri, or use them to garnish your favorite recipes.

The opportunities are endless, giving you the perfect chance to let your creativity shine!

Closeup of the hot pink flowers of a Prairifire crabapple tree.

In Your Landscape

Crabapple trees are a great focal point or accent in any landscape or home garden.

Because of the Prairifire’s extended blooming period, placing this tree in your yard is sure to wow your neighbors and bring you joy each time you look outside the window.

Using a geometric layout and creating a “zig-zag” or triangular garden bed is the perfect setup for the placement of this crabapple. You can line your driveway with rows of trees or separate them to place color throughout your yard.

Another option is to group your Prairifire Crabapple tree with other crabapple varieties to create a range of colorful foliage that lasts year-round and is sure to catch the attention of any passerby.

Growing Your Own Prairifire Crabapple Tree

Fall color of bronze leaves and bright red fruit on a Prairifire crabapple tree.
Fall color of a Prairifire crabapple tree.

The Prairifire Crabapple tree is a disease-resistant variety that is self-fertile (meaning you don’t need a male and a female plant for pollination). This makes it a great tree for beginner or gardeners with small spaces that can’t accommodate more than one tree.

If you’re looking for an overview to get you started on growing your own crabapple tree, we’ve put together some important information below.

For a full and more detailed explanation, check out our How to Plant a Crabapple Tree post.


Prairifire Crabapple trees grow best in well-drained soils. This plant can thrive in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, sandy, and wet soils. It can also tolerate clay soil as long as it drains quickly after rain.

If your drainage is poor, try creating a raised mound between 18 and 24 inches above your native soil, and plant your tree directly into that mound.

When planting the Prairifire Crabapple tree, make sure the flare of the trunk (just above the roots), is visible. If the tree is planted too deeply, it will have less chance of success because of the lack of soil drainage.


Crabapple trees thrive in full sunlight. Make sure your tree has access to at least six hours of direct and unfiltered sunlight every day.


Ideally, crabapple trees should be pruned in very late winter or early spring. This is their dormant period and it minimizes the chances that new growth will begin in the wrong season.

For further instructions on pruning your Prairifire Crabapple tree, make sure to take a look at our post on How to Prune a Crabapple Tree

A Prairifire crabapple tree covered with ice in the winter.

Care Tips

Prairifire Crabapple trees were made to be disease resistant but may still be susceptible to common crabapple tree diseases. However, with the combined use of sanitation, natural resistance, and fungicides, these trees are able to avoid most diseases.

Make sure to water your tree at its base once a week if there has been no rain. This encourages a sturdy root system and is preferred over frequent shallow watering.

After its first year of life, this tree should be fertilized once every year during the spring using a balanced time-release formula.

Keep an eye out for suckers or watersprouts and remove them as they appear on or around the tree. Not only do these compete for the main tree’s resources, but they can also create an environment for pests and diseases.

Where to Buy This Tree

A man watering a newly planted fruit tree.

Is your yard feeling a little incomplete because there’s no Prairifire planted in it? If you’ve decided to make this brilliantly-colored tree part of your home’s landscaping, we can help you there!

We recommend the Prairifire Crabapple trees sold online by one of our favorite tree retailers, Nature Hills Nursery. Order yours in time for spring planting.

The Year-Round Color-Changing Tree

Closeup of the bright pink colors of the blossoms on a Prairifire crabapple tree.

Despite the fruit’s poor taste and minimal culinary uses, the Prairifire Crabapple tree still has plenty to bring to the table.

With its bright tones and colors that change with the seasons, this tree is arguably one of the most exquisite crabapple varieties and is sure to delight those who experience its wonders. For all things crabapples, make sure to take a look at our Crabapple Trees page to learn more.