Crabapple trees (Malus species) are highly desirable for their ornamental value in a landscape or home garden. These attractive trees feature pink, purple, red or white spring blooms, followed by glossy green leaves in the summer and brightly colored fall fruit and foliage. In the winter, the attractive branching habits of the tree form a pleasing silhouette. Depending on the species and cultivar, the trees can range in size from only 10 feet to over 25 feet tall, according to Debbie Shaughnessy, a horticulturist with Clemson University. Crabapple trees require only basic culture to reward you with year-round interest.
Crabapple trees are hardy trees that can adapt to almost any kind of soil, but they thrive in loamy, well-draining soil rich in organic matter. Overly wet or boggy soil will cause root rot. Crabapples also prefer slightly acidic soil, with a pH of 5.0 to 6.5. Amend your soil with organic compost for nutrients and peat moss for drainage and acidity.
Crabapple trees grow best in temperate zones, although some cultivars can tolerate heat and cold better than others. In general, crabapple trees are hardy to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) growing zone 4, according to information published by Ohio State University.
These trees should be planted in a location where they will receive full sunlight. Eight to 12 hours of sunlight per day is necessary for maximum flower and fruit production. Some crabapple cultivars that have strong displays of color in the fall, such as "Molten Lava," also need full sun exposure to produce their distinctive, fiery red and golden autumn leaves.
Crabapples have a naturally pleasing shape. Some species have a weeping form, where the branches droop gracefully towards the ground. Others have a rounded or spreading canopy. In general, these trees require little pruning. Each spring, remove watersprouts (vertical shoots that grow from the trunk and branches) or any dead, broken or diseased branches. Any branches that cross and rub against each other should also be removed.
The soil around newly planted crabapple trees should be kept moist through the first growing season. The frequency of watering will vary depending on your climate. Established trees need little watering save during periods of extended drought. In such weather, deeply water your crabapple every two weeks by applying 2 to 6 inches of water to the area around the tree with a soaker hose or with a slow drip from a standard garden hose.