If you've always wanted beautiful pink clouds of cherry blossoms but haven't had the patience to deal with the temperamental care and upkeep, meet the flowering crabapple tree. Like cherry blossoms, crabapple flowers have five petals and a central cluster of stamens, but they unfurl from vibrant magenta buds, only to fade into a softer pink by the end of the flowering season. Watching these brightly colorful buds emerge even before the first green sprouts of spring is a magnificent sight, and so too is looking out upon over-winter birds on crabapple boughs in the autumn, feasting on its colorful fruit. Here are a few tips on planting and caring for your own crabapple tree.
Crabapple trees can adapt to a diverse range of acidities and textures of soil, but to assure that they thrive and flower to their full potential, plant them in a loam type of soil, which is made up of clay, silt, and sand. It helps if the soil is slightly acidic and moist, but avoid planting in deep shade or excessively moist areas. Create good drainage for crabapple trees by planting it on a slope or in raised beds. As for most flowering plants, full sun exposure, which translates to approximately 8 to 12 hours of sunlight, is needed for crabapple trees to flower and develop fruit to the fullest extent. As for climate, crabapple trees can grow even in cold temperature extremes. Due to its high tolerance of temperature and soil texture, those to the north and midwest with harsher winters and heavy soil find crabapple trees to thrive better than other spring bloomers.
Though crabapple trees are shown to be hardy in general, it is important to plant with care so well-established roots can form before the growing season ends. If your crabapple is containerized, you can plant it any time between spring frosts and three weeks prior to the winter freeze. Fill the planting holes with equal portions of the original soil and organic matter, such as leaf mulch or compost. Be careful not to pack this forcefully around the root ball, and instead use water to settle the soil. This will give it room to establish the dense and deep roots needed for a successful flowering season in the spring. About one inch of water per week is required for young trees, and these weekly waterings are most important in the first year of planting.
Relatively low-maintenance after the first year, crabapple trees require little pruning, watering, or fertilizing. For older crabapple trees, consider pruning the center of the plant if it has become too dense for easy air circulation and sun exposure for all parts of the tree. Any pruning should be done by early June because if done later, you may be at risk of chopping off potential flower buds of the following season and severely decrease the flower and fruit count of the tree. Fertilizer and additional watering is only needed if the the leaves are small and pale green and the annual growth is stunted (less than 5 or 6 inches per year).
With a little care, you can nurture your crabapple tree into a lovely, blooming focal point of your yard.