University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
woody plants offer such value to landscapes and wildlife as do the
crabapples, with such variety in flowers and fruits and multi-season
interest. These qualities make them one of the most
popular small flowering trees. Just make
sure in your selections to choose ones resistant to diseases. Newer
introductions are often the best bets.
In the spring, the showy blossoms make their
appearance in mid to late May before the lilacs bloom. Although
actual time of
bloom will vary from year to year, depending on temperature, a total
period of up to four weeks can be expected. The bloom period of an
crabapple cultivar (cultivated variety) may vary from a few days to
weeks, depending on weather conditions.
Crabapple buds may be pink or red, and the open blossoms
of the various crabapples may range from white to dark purplish red,
variations of pink and red in between. Most crabapples have single
few have semi-double or double blossoms but bear fewer fruit.
good choices with white flowers include ‘Adirondack’, Camelot,
‘Dolgo’, ‘Donald Wyman’, Guinevere, HarvestGold, Lancelot, Molten
Sprenger’, ‘Red Swan’, Sargent, Sugar Tyme, and ‘Tina’. Some good
pink flowers include ‘Louisa’, ‘Robinson’, and ‘Strawberry
Parfait’. For red flowers, consider Centurion,
‘Prairifire’, or ‘Purple Prince’.
crabapples have attractive green foliage with solid margins, except
deeply cut leaves of Golden Raindrops. Some have a distinct reddish
leaf color for the first month or so of the growing season, while
the reddish coloration throughout the season as with ‘Purple
crabapple cultivars even have ornamental gold to yellow fall colors
as with ‘Calocarpa’
fruits are two inches or less in diameter. The color ranges from
bright red to
purple and from bright yellow to orange, with intermediate shades
combinations. Fruits of some cultivars begin to color in August,
do not reach their true color until September or October.
choices for red fruit include ‘Adirondack’ (orange-red), Camelot,
(cherry red), ‘Donald Wyman’, Guinevere, Molten Lava (orange-red),
‘Prairiefire’ (purple-red), ‘Professor Sprenger’ (orange-red),
(maroon), ‘Red Swan’, ‘Robinson’ (dark red), Sargent, ‘Tina’, and
Tyme. Good choices for yellow to golden
fruit include ‘Centennial’ (red-yellow), ‘Dolgo’ (red-yellow),
HarvestGold, Lancelot, ‘Louisa’, and ‘Strawberry Parfait’.
Fruits of some cultivars ripen and drop by the
end of August, while others may still be present (“persistent”) in
spring. If you don’t want a landscape littered with
fruit in the fall, look for those with persistent fruit such as
‘Professor Sprenger’, Guinevere, Lancelot, Sugar Tyme, or ‘Tina’.
choosing crabapples, consider not only your preference for flowers
but where they’ll be planted. Make sure
the soil is well-drained and doesn’t get waterlogged. They’ll
flower and fruit best in full sun,
but will tolerate a few hours of shade per day only with fewer
flowers (and so
fewer fruits). If planted near a walk,
or close to where they’ll be viewed, consider ones with persistent
small fruits, upright habit, or with fragrant flowers (such as
‘Donald Wyman’, ‘Prairie Fire’, or Sargent). If planted farther
away, consider ones with
larger and yellow fruits. White flowers
and yellow fruits blend better with evergreens, dark stone, or red
buildings. White flowers and red fruits
blend nicely with lighter natural color backgrounds such as light
crabapple trees are generally 15 to 20 feet tall. The Round Table
names such as Camelot, Guinevere, and Lancelot, reach about 10 feet
tall. Most crabapples are rounded or vase-shaped,
but growth habit varies widely from columnar such as with
weeping as with ‘Louisa’ or ‘Red Swan’.
the only insect that might be a serious problem in some areas is the
Beetle. Cultivars that have shown high
resistance to this include Centurion, HarvestGold, ‘Louisa’, and
are a much greater problem on many crabapples than insects,
older cultivars. Many of the newer
cultivars have been bred for resistance to the four main diseases
which are the
same as you’ll encounter with regular apples—scab, fireblight, cedar
rust, and powdery mildew. All the above
cultivars have good to excellent disease resistance.
diseases generally aren’t a problem in your area, or you can
tolerate some leaf
diseases, there are many more cultivar choices.
Beware of cheap trees at chain stores, as often these have few if
roots, and may only recently have been potted (basically a “bare
plant). Visit your local nursery or
full-service garden store for proven local cultivars with good
resistance and good roots.