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Clusters of fragrant pom-pom spring flowers, striking fall foliage, and dangling winter fruits that attract birds make crabapple a splendid landscape tree. Add small stature to the list of attributes and you have a fitting choice for landscapes of many different sizes. Popular in Midwest landscapes where it is hardy, this deciduous tree typically grows 10 to 20 feet tall and wide. Plant breeders continuously work to develop new varieties, some maturing at less than 10 feet tall.
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Crabapple Design Ideas
Although it's easy to fall in love with crabapple, it's important to remember that plant diversity is important to a thriving ecosystem. A mix of small woody species is more valuable to local wildlife than a crabapple monoculture. Plant two or three crabapple trees alongside redbud, viburnum, lilac, dogwood, magnolia, juniper, holly, and/or cotoneaster. Create a living fence by planting crabapple trees along with other flowering shrubs and evergreens along a property line. Crabapple trees also make excellent specimen plants. Anchor the corner of a foundation bed with a low-branching, spreading cultivar. Add a crabapple to a perennial border for vertical interest year-round.
Crabapple Care Must-Knows
Crabapple trees grow best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. They will tolerate partial shade and heavy soils, but flower quantity is often diminished as a result. A moderate-to-fast grower, crabapple trees need to be planted where they have plenty of space to expand to their mature size. Plant crabapple trees in spring or fall. Dig a planting hole that is slightly wider than the plant's root ball. Position the tree in the planting hole so the top the rootball is level with the surrounding grade. Backfill with the excavated soil and build a shallow, 3-foot-wide basin around the base of the tree. Water the newly planted tree regularly during the first year after planting—about 1 inch per week. Moving forward, the tree shouldn't need much supplemental watering except in times of drought.
Like many trees, crabapple is susceptible to some problems and diseases. Along with mildew and Japanese beetles, watch out for apple scab—which causes trees to drop a large percentage of their leaves by midsummer. Cedar-apple rust, a problematic fungal disease, produces yellow spots on leaves and reddish brown galls on young twigs. Fireblight is a frustrating bacterial disease that causes branches to turn brown or black and wilt. Solutions to these problems may include fungicides and/or pruning to improve air circulation (check with a horticulturist). You may want to start out by searching for disease-resistant cultivars when shopping for crabapple varieties.