How to Grow Crab Apple Trees

Crab Apple Flowers

About Growing Crab Apple Trees as an Ornamental Tree

Crab Apple trees are fruit tree, which is very popular as landscaping ornamental. Homeowners like growing crab apple trees for the profusion of fragrant flowers, that have a long-lasting spring bloom.

Crab Apples are a deciduous tree, with over 500 varieties. They grow 15 – 25 feet tall, depending upon variety. The flowers are various shades of red, and white.

By definition, a Crab Apple tree is any tree that produces fruit less than 2 inches in diameter. The fruit is varying shades of red, or yellow. The small apples are edible, with a tart flavor. Generally, they are too bitter to eat raw. As you might expect, they taste like apples when cooked.  People who collect the fruit for consumption, most often use them for jellies. Birds and squirrels seek these small fruits in the fall, too. 

Did You Know? The seeds are called “pips”.

Plant Hardiness Zones: 3 – 8.

Crab Apple Tree Propagation

Crab Apple trees are propagated from seeds. Collect the seeds from ripe fruit in the fall. Wash the seeds. Then, dry them on a screen or drying rack for 2-3 weeks. The seeds require a cold chilling period, called “stratification”, for 3 months or longer. Place dried seeds in a baggie and place them in the refrigerator, or another cold location like a garage or shed. But importantly, do not place them where the seeds may freeze.

You can also propagate them from cuttings. See: Propagating plants from cuttings.

Nowadays, most people buy young trees from a garden store, or online.

Buy Crab Apple Trees

Planting a Crab Apple Tree

Transplant young crab apple tree saplings into your yard or garden in the spring or summer. Most likely, the container of the tree you purchased, is made of bio-degradable, heavy peat material. After planting, it will soften and break down in the moist soil, allowing the roots to easily penetrate it and grow. If the container is plastic or some other material, you need to carefully remove the roots from it during planting.

If you are growing more than one tree, space them 10 – 20 feet apart.

Dig a hole about three times as big and deeper than the root ball. Mix in plenty of rich compost into the hole, along with fresh,  rich soil.

If it is in a peat container, cut slits in the container to speed up its decomposition, and to help the roots to emerge easier.

Plant the tree to a depth equal to where it is in the container. Do not plant it deeper.

Fill in around the roots with a mixture of compost and soil. Tamp down the soil lightly around the tree.

If planted in a windy area, stake the tree so it will grow straight.

Water well and deeply in the first year. Repeat deep watering frequently, to help new roots to grow and spread.

Ideal pH level: 6.0 – 7.5

Crab Apple Tree

How to Grow Crab Apple Trees

Grow crab apple trees in full sun. Shaded trees produce less dense foliage, and fewer flowers and fruit. Shade also makes them more susceptible to plant disease.

Once your tree is established, it should grow well with little attention.

Using fruit tree fertilizer spikes for the first few years will help young trees to get off to a fast, healthy start. Established trees generally do not need additional fertilizers.

The roots grow deeply. Established trees usually do not need extra water.

Mulch around the tree, to keep weeds, down and maintain an attractive appearance.

Pruning Crab Apple

Like other plants, pruning your crab apple tree is healthy for it. This should be done during late winter to early spring, before the new year’s growth begins.  

Prune the tree yearly. First, remove dead or unhealthy branches and limbs. You can also prune branches to maintain a shapely-looking tree.

Annual pruning will help keep your tree smaller and more manageable, too.

Each spring, before buds open, apply a dormant oil fruit tree spray. This will kill a variety of insects. Apply a fruit tree spray frequently during the season, if you have problems with insects or disease. Follow the directions on the label for application and use.

We recommend spraying the trees with a general fungicide in early May and again in early July.

Disease Issues

Like other apple trees, Crab apple plant disease is common.  Regular use of fruit tree sprays and fungicides will minimize this potential problem.

Related Articles

Also, people who read this article will like:

Buy Crab Apple Trees

More on Bird Control

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

    Please support our site. Shop for:

    Scroll to top