Profusely flowering crab apple trees add immense value to garden landscape designs–unless they fall victim to a crab apple fruit tree disease. Dealing with Frogeye leaf spot and fire blight.
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Ornamental crab apples will grow in every part of the U.S. except the deep south where they won’t get enough chilling hours to bloom well.
There are dozens of hybrids, many of which will grow no taller than 15 feet. Very few cultivars rise above 30 feet.
All are showy spring bloomers. Most display a decorative crop of brightly colored fruit throughout the fall and winter months.
Flowering Crab Apple Tree describes the various types of Malus species and provides instructions for caring for them.
Pink Spires Crabapple
The various varieties bloom at slightly different times in the spring. Some trees bear a heavy crop of exceptionally ornamental fruit which will persist well into the winter months.
This makes choosing a time to prune them a very individual decision.
Crabapples can be pruned any time from fall through very early spring.
If you trim them too early in the winter, you will be removing branches laden with beautiful fruit. Too late in the spring and there go some of your precious flower buds.
It may console you to know that the fruiting branches can be used in fall flower arrangements.
Crab Apple Leaf Disease
Sugar Tyme® Crabapple
Frogeye leaf spot is a fungal disease that dots the leaves with dark brown spots. Each spot is outlined in purple which is how the disease acquired its common name.
Very vulnerable cultivars can be completely defoliated while nearby resistant cultivars remain nearly unaffected.
When purchasing new trees, stick with the newer varieties as they have been bred to be more disease resistant.
S.E. Wild Crabapple
Fire Blight is a highly contagious bacterial disease. It is rare for an entire tree to become infected all at once. You will see shoots that look as if they have been scorched.
The leaves will still be attached but the branch will be black. The tip of the shoot will typically curve downward in a hook shape.
Treating fire blight:
Cut blighted shoots off and bag–do not compost or chip them.
Make your cuts well back into healthy wood and disinfect your loppers with a bleach and water solution between cuts and after you finish so that you don’t spread the disease to the next plant you prune.
Be a little stingy with the food (especially nitrogen) and water. Over watering and over feeding make trees more vulnerable to fire blight.