How to Trim a Flowering Crab Tree


The flowering crab apple tree (Malus floribunda) has more than 35 species and grows best in USDA zones 4 to 7. This spring flowering tree grows an average of 15 to 25 feet with a broad, rounded canopy that holds clusters of fragrant 1-inch blooms from late spring through the summer. The flower buds begin as deep red, slowly fading to white as they open and giving way to yellow and red crab apple fruit from August through October. To keep a flowering crab apple tree looking well-shaped, it is important to trim it in early spring before the flowers begin to open.

Step 1

Cut off any dead or diseased branches. Trim the branches so there is no more than a 1-inch stump.

Step 2

Trim off all broken branches. Cut back to the trunk of the tree leaving no more than a 1-inch stump.

Step 3

Trim off any suckers growing out from the base or roots of the tree. Also remove all water sprouts that grow off of the branches, usually straight up or outward. Cut flush with the base of the tree or the branch.

Step 4

Prune the center of the tree to create an openness that allows for more sunlight to penetrate to the middle and for better air circulation. Trim off any branches in the center that grow straight up, and cut out all crossing branches.

Step 5

Trim the tree lightly to help maintain its shape and clean it up. Cut off several inches all the way around to give it shape, cut above buds.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not prune a flowering crab apple tree after July or the number of blooms and fruit the next season will be reduced.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Garden gloves


  • Landscape America: Flowering Crabapple
  • Kansas State University Cooperative Extension Service: Flowering Crabapples
Keywords: trim crab apple, crab apple trees, crab apple pruning

About this Author

Amy Madtson resides in southern Oregon and has been writing for Demand Studios since 2008, focusing on health and gardening for websites such as eHow and GardenGuides. Madtson has an Associate of Arts in business from Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Washington. She holds a childbirth educator certification and a one-year midwifery completion certificate.