Crabapple trees are a popular choice for home landscaping because of the variety of sizes, shapes and flower colors. Crabapple trees require little pruning to maintain their health and beauty. Done annually, pruning helps prevent disease and pests. Depending on the size of the tree, you may not need all the usual tools, such as a ladder and pole pruners. After pruning is completed, your tree should have a scaffold appearance, with a main trunk or leader and branches that are perpendicular to the trunk.
Evaluate the size and shape of the tree and determine the shape you want after pruning: round, flat-topped, vase-shaped or pyramidic.
Trim from the ends, stepping back every so often to evaluate the progress of your shaping.
Use a ladder to reach the upper sections, if necessary. Pinch off new growth at the tips to control the size of the tree.
Eliminate any dead branches, along with those showing signs of breakage or disease. Use hand shears on branches with a diameter of less than 1 inch and lopping shears or a pruning saw for larger branches.
Remove branches that crisscross or rub against each other. Use the pole pruners for parts of the tree you cannot reach safely from the ladder.
Create smooth, clean cuts that leave no stub. Use a pruning saw to remove jagged or stepped cuts, which allow insects and disease to gain access to the tree. Leave the collars of branches intact to avoid cutting too close to the trunk.
Stand about 10 to 15 feet back from the tree to determine if branches have approximately two feet of vertical space between them, which permits adequate sunlight penetration and air circulation to lower limbs. Make any "heading back" or trimming cuts about a quarter-inch above a bud or lateral branch.