Crabapple (Malus species) trees can add beauty and interest to the landscape. They can also be messy, sickly and bothersome if care is not taken to select proper cultivars (named cultivars) to plant.

There are literally hundreds of cultivars of crabapples available. The following traits should be considered when purchasing one for your yard:

Disease Resistance

Plant breeders work hard to select crabapple cultivars resistant to the common diseases. Resistance does not mean immunity. Resistant plants may still become infected but generally not as easily as susceptible types. If they do develop the disease, it may not be as severe.

Apple scab, fireblight and apple-cedar rust are the most serious diseases of crabapples. They can defoliate, disfigure and possibly kill trees in advanced cases. Seek out cultivars that resist these diseases to avoid future problems.


Most crabapples have pinkish colored buds that open into white to pink blooms. A few red flowering cultivars are available but many of these are susceptible to apple scab.


Leaf color on crabapples may range from light to dark green to dark purple. Be sure the contrast between flower, leaf and fruit color is such that each trait is properly displayed.


Crabapples develop fruit in a wide range of colors, quantity, sizes and persistence (how long they hang on the tree). These factors are important to consider especially if the tree is located over a driveway or sidewalk where they would cause a mess.

Also, some cultivars are alternate bearing and produce a heavy crop one year and little the next. For consistent display, choose annual bearing types. sprays are available which will "thin" the fruit from the tree but this process is dependent on proper timing and the results can vary greatly from year to year. The best control for excessive fruiting is to plant a low producing cultivar.

Water Sprouts and Suckers

Water sprouts are vigorous shoots that grow straight up from branches often following heavy pruning the previous season. Suckers are those annoying stems that come up from the ground at the base of the tree. Both types of growth are undesirable and certain cultivars are more prone to produce them than others.

Check on these factors before purchasing that crabapple to cut the level of maintenance and increase the level of enjoyment for years to come.

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