Attractive spring blossom trees, with brightly coloured decorative fruits in autumn. Grafted trees (grown on dwarfing rootstock) are ideal for smaller domestic gardens, providing both spring and autumn interest. The small fruits can be used to make delicious jams and jelly.
Family: Rosaceae (rose)
Botanical Name: Malus
Common Names: Crab Apple
Foliage: Deciduous, broad, ovate green leaves.
Blossom: Mainly white, with varying shades of pink, red or purple. Single or double forms are available.
Flowering Period: April-May.
Soil: Moist but well-drained fertile soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam). Any pH.
Conditions: Best in full sun, although they will do fine in light shade. Ideal for any aspect, in a exposed or sheltered location.
Habit: Spreading, branched.
Type: Shrub or small tree.
Hardiness: Fully hardy in the UK. However, late frost can damage the blossom.
Plant in an open sunny site in any good moderately fertile soil, so long as it has adequate drainage. Add plenty of organic matter to the soil at planting time.
Usually grown as specimen trees for the back of the border or on lawns, although falling apples can make a mess.
Protect from cold winds and stake young sapling
until they are fully established.
Mulch with organic matter in spring and keep grass and weeds away from the base of the trunk.
Prune in late winter, in the same way as fruiting apple trees. Keep the centre open by thinning out and removing any dead or weak growth. Trim to create a well-balanced branch system.
To produce edible apples grow another apple tree
nearby for cross pollination.
Susceptible to attack by Aphids, Capsid bugs, Moth caterpillars, red spider mite, codling moth and apple sawfly.
Can be affected by apple scab, apple canker, blossom wilt, honey fungus and powdery mildews.
Can be grown from seed, but the results are often unsatisfactory. Best to buy new grafted plants.
A wide selection of flower, leaf and fruit colours are available, supplied as either standard trees or bushes.
Malus baccata (Siberian crab apple) has large white flowers and yellow or red fruit. Popular cultivar 'Lady Northcliffe' is a small densely branched tree with white blossom, opening from red buds, followed by yellow fruit. 'Street Parade' is another good cultivar with shiny, purple-red fruits. height to 16ft (5m), Spread to 10ft (3m).
Malus coronaria Charlottae (Garland or Sweet crab apple) is a particularly good variety with very fragrant pink blossom at the end of May. Height to 30ft (9m).
Malus x floribunda is a profuse flowering cultivar with pale pink flowers emerging from red buds. The fruit is yellow.
Malus 'Golden Hornet' is an old favourite with white flowers in spring and golden fruits in autumn (see main image above).
Malus hupehensis (Hupeh crab) has fragrant white flowers opening from pink buds. Round mid-red fruits. Height to 25ft (8m).
Malus 'John Downie' is a narrow, upright tree with with showy flowers in spring and orange-red or yellow fruits. One of the best varieties for crab apple jelly, due to the size of its fruits.
Malus 'Profusion' is a lovely deep-pink-flowered, purple-leaved tree. The fruit is a similar colour.
Malus x purpurea has reddish pink flowers, coppery-red leaves and pinky-red fruits. Cultivar 'Lemoinei' has good reddish-purple flowers and purple leaves and fruit. Cultivar 'Crimson Cascade' is a popular compact, weeping form.