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Malus ‘Dorothea’
Malus ‘Dorothea’

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Zone
Zones A2, A3, 1-21, 29-43
Full Sun
Full
Regular Water
Moderate

Malus

Flowering crabapple
Rosaceae
Deciduous, Trees, Decorative fruit or berries

More widely adapted than other flowering trees, flowering crabapple is valued for lavish clouds of white, pink, red, or purplish red flowers and for fruit that is showy, edible, or both. (Those listed here are primarily ornamental. For crabapples used chiefly in cooking, see Crabapple.) All are native to North America, Europe, or Asia. Hundreds of varieties are in cultivation, most about 20 ft. tall, though sizes range from 4 to 35 ft. Leaves are usually pointed ovals, often fuzzy, varying from light green to purple. Fall foliage is rarely noteworthy; exceptions are noted.

Bloom comes in spring, usually before leaves unfurl, but it is as brief as it is spectacular: early varieties go from first flower to 50 percent petal drop in less than 10 days; later varieties are faster. Masses of single, semidouble, or double flowers sometimes have a musky, sweet scent. Small red, orange, or yellow apples, ranging from under 3/4 in. to almost 2 in. wide, ripen from midsummer into autumn; in some varieties, the fruit makes a brilliant display that continues well after the leaves drop. Some varieties flower and fruit more heavily in alternate years; some don’t fruit at all.

Plant bare-root trees in winter or early spring; set out container plants anytime. Best in fertile, well-drained, deep soils, these will also grow in rocky or gravelly ones. They take acidic to slightly alkaline soil. Flowering crabapples are hardier, more tolerant of wet soil, and longer-lived than flowering cherries and other flowering stone fruits. Take heat but are not at their best in low desert areas. For optimal growth and productivity, plants need winter chill—about 600 hours at 45°F/7°C or lower.

Flowering crabapple varieties differ widely in disease resistance. Many of the most popular varieties of years past are highly prone to one or more of the diseases that can plague these trees: apple scab, cedar-apple rust, fireblight, powdery mildew. Today, the nursery trade places great emphasis on promoting disease-resistant varieties—thus displacing many of the old favorites. In the Pacific Northwest, it’s imperative to choose trees that resist cedar-apple rust, scab, and powdery mildew. Fireblight may afflict susceptible trees anywhere when conditions are favorable.


Flowering crabapples are subject to attack from the same pests that affect apple. Scale, aphids, spider mites, and tent caterpillars may require control; codling moths and apple maggots should be controlled if you intend to harvest the fruit. These are fine lawn trees, but their bark can easily be nicked by mowers, creating an entry point for diseases. Protect them by creating a sod-free, mulched area around the trunk. Or underplant with primroses, spring-blooming bulbs, or shade-loving bedding plants. Plant them near fences to heighten the screening effect. Prune only to build a good framework, remove any suckers, and correct the shape. Crabapple trees can be trained as espaliers.

Malus toringo sargentii

This broad, densely branched tree grows to 10 ft. tall and 20 ft. wide, producing a profusion of small, fragrant, single white flowers followed by tiny, red, long-lasting fruits. Good disease resistance.

Malus ‘Prairifire’

This round-headed hybrid grows to 20 ft. tall and wide. Deep rose pink buds open to single flowers in a lighter rose pink; they’re followed by reddish purple fruit that hangs on well. Leaves emerge reddish maroon and turn dark green. High disease resistance.

Malus ‘Red Jade’

Grows to 15 ft. tall and wide and has an irregular, weeping form. Small, single white flowers are followed by a heavy crop of bright red berries that hold well into fall. Moderate disease resistance. Named for the color of its heavy crop of berries, not for the rose-tinted buds that precede its white flowers.

Malus ‘Weeping Candied Apple’ (photo courtesy of Laura Dunkin-Hubby)
Malus ‘Weeping Candied Apple’ (photo courtesy of Laura Dunkin-Hubby)

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Malus ‘Weeping Candied Apple’

Weeping form grows to 10–15 tall and 20 ft. wide. Outer petals are deep pink, inner petals whitish edged in pink, opening from reddish buds. Fruit is bright red and small; persists all winter. Moderate scab susceptibility.

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