Tag Archive for: treefarm

What are those stunning flowering trees I see every spring?

Well my friend, those are Crabapple Trees.


There are more than 1000 different varieties of Crabapples and about 100 of them are commonly available.  By definition a crabapple is an apple tree that produces apples less than two inches in diameter.  These are medium sized to dwarf trees that can be grown in our area from the plains up to about 8000 feet in elevation.  They will do best in a location that receives full sun, 6 hours or more, but they can tolerate some light shade.  More shaded locations can lead to diminished flowering and structural and disease issues.  With an April to May to bloom period there is always the chance of a later spring frost damaging the flowers but the trees most often survive and will bloom again next spring.  Trees that are planted on western or southern exposure will have a tendency to bloom earlier and therefore be more prone to frost damage.  Once established, crabapples are quite drought tolerant and will do well with 15 to 25 inches of moisture per year.  On the other hand, when they are planted in a highly maintained turf area, the extra water and fertilizer can lead to more risk of disease.   A mulched planting bed with drip irrigation and an eastern or northern exposure is the optimal environment.

Most crabapple trees do produce fruit though we do sell two sterile varieties that rarely produce fruit.  The downside of these varieties is that they have somewhat reduced disease resistance and require more vigilance for prevention.  Most of the crabapples we carry produce fruit that is less than ½ inch in diameter and many have persistent fruit that stays on the tree into or throughout the winter. This size fruit is usually taken care of by the birds.  We sell a product called Florel which will prevent fruit production on crabapples or other plants that produce ‘nuisance fruit’.  Several of our crabapples produce larger fruit that can be processed into jams, jellies, fruit butters or even eaten fresh if you like tart apples.  The fruits are one of the ornamental features of the crabapples and they have many colors besides red; Golden Raindrops has yellow fruit, Coralburst has bronze orange fruit; Prairiefire has blue purple; Candymint and Gladiator have purple red fruit; Sparkling Sprite has yellow to golden orange fruit to name a few.  The trees with persistent fruit, such as Sargent Tina, show particularly well in the winter with a dusting of snow.

The spring flowers are undoubtedly the main attraction of the crabapples.  The flowers can be single, semi-double or fully double and range in color from white to all shades of pink to red. Some varieties produce bicolored flowers, such as the Candymint which has pink flowers with red edges.  The blooms last one to two weeks depending on the weather.  Late spring frosts are a problem in our area and these will put an abrupt end to the floral display.  There are some strategies they can help.  Planting the trees with eastern or northern exposures will delay flowering and if the trees.  Those that are planted with a western or southern exposure should not be planted close to a house or fence that will reflect sunlight/heat and accelerate the bloom time.  If possible avoid planting the trees in a low spot because cold air settles.  Planting the trees higher up a slope will keep them warmer and also provide better water drainage which is important for crabapples.  If you grow domestic (eating) apples these strategies will help preserve the flowers to ensure fruit set.  And crabapples are excellent pollinators for domestic apple trees.  The single flowering crabapples are the earliest to bloom with double flowering types blooming slightly later.  Planting a combination of both will also result in longer flower display.