How to Prune a Prairie Fire Crabtree


'Prairiefire' crabapple tree, known botanically as (Malus 'Prairiefire') is a medium-size flowering and fruiting, ornamental tree that can be grown widely in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 4 through 8, according to Washington State University. The tree is coated in spring flowers that are a rich, cerise pink and the foliage, in an unusual change in coloration, ages from deep purple to green with a red cast and then back to purple or orange before being shed. The small red crabapples hold onto the branches through fall and into winter and are prized by birds, but can also be consumed by humans. Crabapple trees do not require regular pruning for performance, though light grooming pruning can be done as warranted.

Step 1

Prune your 'Prairiefire' crabapple tree in the late spring or early summer after bloom has finished for the season to preserve the following season's bloom as a priority, advises Purdue University Extension. Alternatively, prune in the late fall or early spring to preserve the crabapple fruits on the tree as a decorative element or food source for birds and you.

Step 2

Remove any broken, cracked, abrading, dead, diseased or drooping branches that mar the appearance or health of the canopy. Cut down to the point of healthy woody tissue just above a leaf node or bud or all the way back to the parent branch just outside of the slightly swollen branch collar where the two branches join.

Step 3

Thin an overgrown or congested canopy by selectively removing up to a third of the oldest branches on the tree. Cut the branch down to the parent branch from which it emanates, just outside of the swollen branch collar. Spread the thinning cuts throughout the canopy to preserve a natural and roughly symmetrical branch architecture.

Things You'll Need

  • Loppers Fine-toothed pruning saw Pruning shears


  • Purdue University Extension: Pruning Ornamental Trees and Shrubs
  • Washington State University: Malus 'Prairiefire'
Keywords: Prairie Fire Crabtree, pruning Malus prairiefire, pruning crabapple trees

About this Author

An omni-curious communications professional, Dena Kane has more than 17 years of experience writing and editing content for online publications, corporate communications, business clients, industry journals, as well as film and broadcast media. Kane studied political science at the University of California, San Diego.