How to grow crab apples

How to grow crab apples

Find out all you need to know about growing crab apples, in this detailed Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Plant
Plant

Do Plant in January

Do Plant in February

Do Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do not Plant in May

Do not Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do not Plant in September

Do not Plant in October

Do Plant in November

Do Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does flower in April

Plant does flower in May

Plant does not flower in June

Plant does not flower in July

Plant does not flower in August

Plant does not flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Fruits
Fruits

Plant does not fruit in January

Plant does not fruit in February

Plant does not fruit in March

Plant does not fruit in April

Plant does not fruit in May

Plant does not fruit in June

Plant does not fruit in July

Plant does fruit in August

Plant does fruit in September

Plant does not fruit in October

Plant does not fruit in November

Plant does not fruit in December

Prune
Prune

Do Prune in January

Do not Prune in February

Do not Prune in March

Do not Prune in April

Do not Prune in May

Do not Prune in June

Do not Prune in July

Do not Prune in August

Do not Prune in September

Do not Prune in October

Do not Prune in November

Do Prune in December

Crab apples are great garden trees. They look good all year round, with pretty blossom in spring, followed by small, ornamental apples, red or yellow in colour, and the autumn foliage also puts on a good show. The tiny apple fruits are edible, although not in their raw state, but make good jellies and sauces. Crab apple trees are also quite compact in size, which makes them a good choice for smaller gardens. They are hard-working trees: attractive, productive and good for wildlife.

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Where to plant crab apples

How to grow crab apples - crab apples on the tree
How to grow crab apples – crab apples on the tree

Crab apples are hardy trees and tolerant of a range of soils, but will grow best in moist, well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade.


How to plant crab apples

How to grow crab apples - planting a bare-root crab apple
How to grow crab apples – planting a bare-root crab apple

Crab apples are best planted as bare-root trees in autumn and winter.


How to propagate crab apples

It’s possible to propagate crab apple trees by taking softwood cuttings in late spring or early summer. Start crab apple cuttings after the flowers have fallen. More commonly crab apples are propagated by grafting.


Crab apples – problem solving

Like larger apple trees, crab apples can be affected by woolly aphid, fruit tree red spider mite, caterpillars and diseases such as apple scab, apple canker, powdery mildews, fireblight and honey fungus.


How to care for crab apples

For the first few years, make sure your newly planted crab apple tree is well watered in dry periods. Always give a mulch of well-rotted manure or compost in spring and prune in late winter to remove any dead, dying, diseased or crossing branches.


Crab apple varieties to try

How to grow crab apples - Crab apple 'Winter Gold'
How to grow crab apples – Crab apple ‘Winter Gold’
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  • Malus ‘Evereste’ – red buds open to reveal white flowers in spring, followed by reddish, orange-yellow fruits in autumn. This colourful crab apple has a good conical shape.
  • Malus ‘Winter Gold’ – with white spring flowers and yellow fruit; the dark green leaves have good autumn colouring.
  • Malus x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’ – a highly ornamental crab apple with pink-white flowers in late spring, followed by glossy, red crab apples stay on the branches longer than usual, well into winter.
  • Malus ‘Pink Glow’ – this crab apple produces single, white flowers in spring, followed by larger-than-average dark pink fruits in summer.
  • Malus ‘Comtesse de Paris’ – this crab apple has pink buds, followed by white flowers, then very attractive, bright yellow, slightly oval-shaped fruits, that stay on the branches well into winter.
  • Malus ‘Wisley Crab’ – the leaves emerge bronze-red, turning dark green as the season progresses. Delicately scented, reddish-purple flowers appear in spring followed by dark red fruits that are larger than average.