Flowering crabapple trees (Malus hybrids) have over 35 species available and are related to the apple tree, but produce a smaller, edible fruit in the fall. These low-maintenance ornamental trees grow well in USDA zones 4 through 8 and, depending on the type of cultivator, crabapple trees average 15 to 25 feet tall, making them a perfect home landscaping tree. Spring flowers start off pink and, as they open, turn white, creating a spectacular display. Caring for a crabapple tree requires a few basic steps.
Plant a crabapple tree in an area of the yard that gets full sun daily. Some afternoon shade, especially in warmer climates, is tolerated. The soil needs to be well-draining, and you can add peat moss or compost before planting to ensure the soil is not heavy, creating soggy soil.
Water infrequently, about every two weeks. Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation system to water deeply, supplying about 2 to 4 inches of water each time you water. Crabapple trees need little water except during drought conditions, during which time you can water once a week.
Fertilize a crabapple once a year in late spring using a balanced fertilizer such as 20-20-20. Use 2 lbs. of fertilizer for every 1,000 square feet, and spread evenly underneath the tree, being careful not to let it touch the trunk of the tree. Water in well after fertilizing.
Apply a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch, such as straw, compost, sawdust or shredded bark, underneath the tree. Keep the mulch about 1 to 2 inches away from the base of the tree. Mulch helps to reduce weeds and conserve water by reducing water evaporating from the soil.
Prune in the early spring to keep the crabapple shaped. Cut off any dead, diseased or crossed branches. Remove suckers, which grow rapidly from the roots or base of the tree, and water sprouts, which grow from the branches. Always prune by early June, since the crabapple tree sets its buds for the following season on the old growth; pruning after June will result in fewer flowers the next spring.