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Native to eastern North America, hawthorn is a showy, small tree that breaks into clouds of white flowers in spring, followed by vivid fall color, and long-lasting red winter fruits. The fruits, which resemble rosehips, stand out in a snowbound landscape. Robins sometimes line the branches in mid- to late winter, harvesting the fruits. This tree is also known as cockspur thorn, and for good reason. It sports numerous long, sharp thorns along its horizontal branches—which is why a grouping of these trees makes an excellent barrier or living fence. Hawthorns prefer a well-drained, slightly acidic soil but are unflappable in heat and humidity.
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What to Plant With Hawthorn
Enjoy the view of hawthorn's dense horizontal branching by combining it with other small trees in a large landscape bed. Great planting partners include crabapple, redbud, and serviceberry. All of these trees flower in spring to create a colorful screen that also provides sustenance for pollinators during flowering. Thanks to its thorns, this tree also makes a good hedge or screen plant on a property line or at the far edge of a landscape.
Hawthorn Tree Care
Hawthorn grows best in full sun and average, well-drained soil. Plant nursery-grown trees in early spring or early fall. After planting, water them well and cover the soil around the tree with a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch to prevent weeds and soil-moisture evaporation. Water spring-planted trees regularly and deeply through the first growing season. Water fall-planted trees regularly and deeply for a growing season beginning in the spring following planting.
Hawthorn rarely requires pruning. Remove dead or diseased branches as soon as possible. Many fungal diseases and pests plague hawthorn, such as rust, fire blight, powdery mildew, cankers, apple scab, and leaf blight. For the healthiest tree possible, start by choosing a disease-resistant variety. Do your part to keep hawthorn healthy by planting it in an area with well-drained soil and good air circulation.
New Types of Hawthorn
The development of thornless hawthorns means that user-friendly varieties of this tree can now spread their horizontal branches in landscapes of all kinds, including those enjoyed by children and pets.