Ornamental or flowering crabapple trees provide early spring flowers and ornamental as well as edible fruit. Though not native to the United States, the trees grow throughout most of the country. Gardeners looking for a spring flowering tree with visual interest at other times of the year will find several types of flowering crabapple to choose from.
Flowering crabapple trees are hardy in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zones 4 to 7. Some cultivars can be grown in zone 3, notes North Dakota State University.
Flowering crabapples vary greatly in size, with dwarf cultivars available for small gardens. Most trees range from 15 to 25 feet in height and spread. The trees also vary in shape: some sprawl, having a greater width than height, while others grow upright with a narrower shape. Before you purchase an ornamental crabapple tree, ensure the mature tree will develop into a good shape for your landscaping needs.
As with tree size and shape, flower color and style varies in ornamental crabapple trees. Ohio State University Extension notes that these trees may have single (five-petaled) flowers, semi-double (six to 10 petals) or double (more than 10 petals). Double flowers last longer on the tree, but lead to fewer fruits. Flowers may be white, pink, red or salmon colored.
To be technically classified a crabapple, the fruit must be smaller than 2 inches. Crabapples from ornamental trees may be eaten by humans, but their chief consumers are birds, squirrels and other woodland critters. The fruits are generally smaller than 1 inch in diameter and range in hue from bright red to pale green or even yellow.
Ornamental crabapple trees enjoy an acidic soil with a pH of 5 to 6.5, notes Ohio State University Extension. They do best in full sun and need a well-draining soil. While they can grow in other types of soil, they prefer a rich loam, which is a combination of clay, silt and sand. Some types of ornamental crabapple are drought tolerant while others suffer.