Flowering Crabapples are Small Trees with a Big Impact

A flowering crabapple tree (or Malus species) can be a wonderful addition to your yard.  These versatile beauties provide year-round interest with stunning blooms in the spring, attractive green leaves in summer, small, colorful fruits in late summer and fall, and autumn colors that can be yellow, orange, red or purple.

A branch of pretty blooming pink crabapple tree flower with a forest garden background.

Reasons to Select a Flowering Crabapple Tree:

  • Beautiful Blooms – Similar to cherry trees when they’re flowering, the blooms seem to cover the entire canopy in a profusion of color in mid to late spring when they bloom for a month. Their blooms range in hue from pink, red, purple and white to coral. They have single flowers, semi-double, or double blooms. These range in size from ¼” to 2”.  They are generally smaller flowers than apple trees, which are in the same Malus genus.
  • Small Size – Another good reason to select a Crabapple is their small size.  Many range between 10’ and 20’ tall, although some varieties may get up to 40’. The canopy is often as wide as it is tall, and you can recognize them by this distinctive shape.
  • Seasonal Interest – Their fall color is impressive, as is the display of small berries that hang all over the tree in a variety of colors depending on cultivar: pink, red, purple, or yellow. The fruits can persist on the tree beyond leaf drop, providing sustenance for hungry birds when there is less food available in winter time.
Attractive small red-orange mini crabapples hanging on a bare-branched crabapple tree in winter.

Crabapple Diseases

Flowering crabapple trees can be susceptible to some diseases. Here are some common ones to look out for:

  • Powdery Mildew – This fungus can stunt new growth and lessen the attractiveness of a tree, but its effect is more aesthetic than threatening to the health of the tree.
  • Apple Scab – This fungus can be made worse by spring rains which are common here in the PNW. It can cause ugly distortion of fruits and premature leaf drop.
  • Fire Blight – This is a disease that can cause dieback in twigs and more seriously to the branches and the trunk, potentially killing the tree. It often affects plants in the rose family, such as ornamental roses, hawthorn, and Cotoneaster.

Some pests can also affect these trees but are less serious than the above diseases. Insects such as tent caterpillars, aphids, scale and spider-mites can affect the health of your tree.

Disease Resistant Cultivars that thrive in the Pacific Northwest

There are over one thousand varieties and cultivars of flowering crabapple, so it can be confusing to pick one that will suit you and your yard. It is best to choose a disease resistant variety or cultivar, so you can plant your tree worry free and watch it grow and thrive. Here are a few varieties commonly found in nurseries in Washington state that we recommend:

Malus ‘Prairie Fire’ – This cultivar puts on a stunning spring show with its deep pink blooms.  The new foliage emerges with an attractive purple tinge, later producing a rich, deep purple fruit.  Disease resistant. Grows 15’ to 20’ tall and wide. USDA Zone 4-8.

Malus ‘Sugar tyme’ – If you’re a fan of white blooms, this one is a beauty. The buds are pale pink but open to snow-white flowers. Disease resistant. They reach 14-18’ tall and 12-15’ wide. USDA Zone 4-8.

For a more comprehensive list, here is a useful guide to cultivars that thrive in the Pacific Northwest.

Care for Flowering Crabapples:

  • Plant in Full Sun – This will ensure the best health and bloom for your tree and help avoid diseases such as powdery mildew.
  • Regular Watering – A deep watering weekly, more with high temperatures.
  • Well-drained Fertile Soil – Mix in compost with soil to improve drainage in clay soils and enrich sandy soils.

Overall, flowering crabapples are a wonderful choice for a small space in the yard to bring seasonal interest to your property.

Contact Frontier Tree Service or Frontier Landscaping for more information about tree selection and planting.