Crabapple (Malus floribunda) is a tall, spreading tree much loved for its clusters of white and pink spring flowers. They have a spicy fragrance. This deciduous tree, which can grow 4.5-6m high and 3-4m wide, is native to Japan. The leaves colour yellow in autumn. Crabapples can be used as pollinators for productive apple trees but also produce edible fruit, known as crabs, used to make crabapple jelly or for pectin. The fruit is also appealing to birds.

As well as the tall M. floribunda, there are many other smaller species grown in gardens. Check out your local hardware or garden centre for advice and varieties for your area. Here are a few to look out for:

  • ‘Crimson Knight’ has deep red to pink flowers and purply bronze new leaves that gradually deepen to green in summer before turning orange in autumn.
  • Golden Hornet’ has small yellow fruit which ripen from autumn to early winter. In spring it produces white flowers, it is a stunning small tree for any garden.
  • M. ioensis ‘Plena’ which has pink buds opening to double white flowers followed by green fruit. It grows to around 3-4m high and 2-3m wide. Leaves can colour to deep red and gold in autumn.
  • Malus ‘Sutyzam’ Sugar Tyme, an easy to maintain small tree with its white showy flowers. It is a vigorous crab apple that looks good throughout the year.

Growing conditions

Aspect Crabapples need a bright, sunny location. As flowers can be blown off in strong spring winds, select a sheltered location for long flowering.

Soil These trees grow in a wide range of soils with reliable moisture but good drainage. They prefer a slightly acidic soil. Before planting add home-made compost and organic matter and/or Seasol Super Compost.

Climate Subtropical to cold zones. They thrive in full sun, but are not a fan of hot weather, preferring temperate summers and cold winter.

Easy guide to looking after your crab apple trees (malus) including plant varieties

General care

Watering Water when young and during dry spells, trees are drought hardy once established.

Feeding Feed throughout the seasons using a complete fertiliser for flowering plants such as Seasol plus Nutrients Roses & Flowers. Supplement feeding with a liquid fertiliser such as PowerFeed PRO SERIES for Roses & Flowers every 2 to 4 weeks. Plants in containers can be liquid fed every 2 to 4 weeks while they are growing and flowering. Apply PowerFeed PRO SERIES Roses & Flowers or PowerFeed All Purpose including Natives. Regular applications of Seasol also assist drought hardiness and disease resistance.

Pruning Pruning is unnecessary except to remove damaged growth or to control height and spread. If pruning is required, prune in winter.

Watch out These trees may be attacked by possums. As apple relatives they are also prone to woolly aphid, which may be seen on the branches and shoots but also infests the root area. Hose off the aphid or control with EarthCare White Oil insect spray.