Crabapple Tree Planting


Crabapple trees are a small- to medium-sized flowering landscape tree with edible fruit. Depending on the cultivar, crabapples range in height from 8 feet to 40 feet with the average height between 15 to 25 feet tall. Crabapple flowers may be single, semi-double or double with colors of white, pink or red. Crabapple trees have six shapes: upright or columnar, weeping, vase, pyramidal, rounded or spreading. Crabapples thrive in moist soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5 but will tolerate pH up to 8.0. These low-maintenance trees are drought tolerant, and many cultivars will retain their fruit well into winter, providing needed food for wildlife.

Step 1

Select a well-drained spot that receives at least 10 to 12 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Step 2

Remove potted crabapple trees from their container, or unwrap burlap from balled saplings.

Step 3

Prune off broken or bent roots, making the cut just above the damaged area.

Step 4

Dig a hole that is twice as wide as the root ball (or roots in the case of bare-root trees) but just deep enough to place the top of the root ball level with the soil.

Step 5

Mix the removed soil with enough compost to form a 50/50 mix of compost and soil.

Step 6

Make several horizontal (from top to bottom) 1-inch deep cuts with a sharp knife in the root balls of container and burlap-wrapped crabapple saplings. Doing this helps spread roots and will prevent roots circling the root ball and girdling the tree.

Step 7

Center the crabapple in the hole, taking care to spread out the roots as much as possible.

Step 8

Backfill the hole with the 50/50 compost/soil mix until the hole is three-quarters full.

Step 9

Fill the hole with water. Allow the water to drain from the hole completely. This settles the compost/soil mix preventing air pockets. Continue backfilling the hole until the soil is level.

Step 10

Place 1 to 2 inches of mulch around the base of the tree to discourage weeds and retain soil moisture.

Tips and Warnings

  • Crabapple trees planted too deeply will not thrive and will die within five years. Remove the strings holding the burlap around crabapple root balls. Failure to do so will result in tree death, as the strings are not biodegradable and will strangle roots.

Things You'll Need

  • Bare-root or burlaped crabapple tree
  • Pruning shears
  • Shovel
  • Compost or well-rotted manure
  • Sharp knife
  • Mulch


  • Taylor's Master Guide to Gardening: Houghton Mifflin Company; 1994
  • Colorado State University Extension: information about crabapples

Who Can Help

  • Purdue Extension: Crabapples resistant to disease and pests
Keywords: crabapple, planting, tree