Selecting the Best Crabapple

small tree at Reiman Gardens in spring with small pink blooms with green grass

Spring is full of blooming trees and one of the most popular for the upper Midwest is the flowering crabapple (Malus spp.). These ornamental trees are reliably winter hardy and often have multi-season appeal with white, pink to red flowers in spring and often colorful red, yellow, to orange fruit in the fall. These trees support an abundance of wildlife supporting pollinators in bloom and birds in fruit.

With hundreds of cultivars available, selecting a crabapple cultivar can be overwhelming. Below are some of the factors you should consider when selecting the best crabapple for your yard.

Size.  Plants range from 10’ to 30’ tall depending on cultivar. This is most important for homes near or under powerlines.

Form. Cultivars can be spreading, columnar, rounded, vase-shaped and even weeping. Consider ‘Adirondack’ for a good vase-shaped cultivar or ‘Louisa’ for a good weeping type.

Flower Color. While white is common, plants can bloom in just about every shade of pink all the way to nearly red.

Disease Resistance. One of the most important factors to selecting a crabapple is its resistant to diseases like apple scab, powdery mildew, cedar apple rust, and fire blight can defoliate trees by late summer. Be sure to select disease resistant cultivars.

Foliage Color. While most crabapples do not have great fall color, some varieties have ornamental leaves that range from dark green to burgundy. Consider ‘Cardinal’ for great red foliage.

Ornamental Fruit. Officially a crabapple is any apple with fruit 2” or less in diameter. Most ornamental flowering crabapples have fruit ¼” to ½” in diameter. Select varieties with persistent fruit to avoid messy fruit drop.

These crabapples are great options for Iowa and most of them can be seen at Reiman Gardens.

  • ‘Adirondack’
  • Camelot® (‘Camzam’)
  • Cinderella (‘Cinzam’)
  • Firebird® (‘Select A’)
  • Harvest Gold® (‘Hargozam’)
  • Lollipop® (‘Lollizam’)
  • ‘Louisa’
  • Red Jewel™ (‘Jewelcole’)
  • Sugar Tyme® (‘Sutyzam’)

photo caption: Malus ‘Camzam’