Flowering Crab Apple Trees or Other Flowering Trees

diannpFebruary 25, 2004

We are planning on taking out two established apple trees in the back yard and replacing them with flowering crabs or some other flowering tree. Altho, I hate to take out the established apple trees, I hate the mess from fallen apples even more. I resent being out there every nice day in the summer picking up fallen apples when I could be spending it weeding or dividing or planting perennials. :) So they must go. What are some of the better flowering crab apple trees for our area? I would prefer white. Not sure if we want dwarf or standard. If not crabs, what would you suggest? We had a nice Cherry tree back there, but it died out in '93 with the rains. Fallen cherries were never a problem. :) Anyway, those types of trees are what I'm wanting to replace the apple trees that are currently there. Thanks!


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Jennifer_Ruth(Z 10, Sunset Z 23)

If fallen fruit is the problem, you'll want to select a crabapple cultivar that retains its fruit. Some do and some don't. I have one a white one called Sugar Tyme. At the moment it's still covered with fruit. The term some descriptions use is "persistent" fruit. There are actually a number of varieties around that have this characteristic. I have two others that do--they might be Royalty and Profusion, but I'm not sure, so better check on that.

Since you aren't really happy with the idea of taking out those established apple trees, maybe you could find a way around the problem. How about a dark green tarp under the trees at harvest season, to make it easier to pick up the apples all at once? If you ask the question on the fruit and orchard forum, they might have some ideas.


    Bookmark   February 25, 2004 at 3:15PM
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Asking in the fruit and orchard forum is a good idea. ;) Thanks!

A good friend of mine has lovely crab apple trees. Lovely smell, and with a slight breeze it looks like it's snowing in May. :)


    Bookmark   February 25, 2004 at 3:38PM
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perennialprincess(z4 MN)

One of my favorites is 'Donald Wyman' - the red buds open to pure white flowers, and the fruit is small and persistent - not messy at all. The habit is rather upright.

You should check with Iowa State University. Dr Jeff Isles is probably one of the best flowering crabapple experts in the Midwest and I'll bet you could find some good info from some of his research. There is also an International Ornamental Crabapple Society - IOCS - I think they have a website, and perhaps that might help you as well.

And, thinking outside the genus Malus, would you consider any other small trees, such as Amelanchier, Magnolia, Chionanthus??? Food for thought.


    Bookmark   February 25, 2004 at 7:47PM
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I'm basically open to most anything at this point. We still have the existing apple trees to remove, and ground to rennovate a bit before we plant something new in their place. I'll check out ISU as you suggest. Thanks!


    Bookmark   February 26, 2004 at 9:44AM
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I'd suggest Donald Wyman too--the birds get the fruit before they get a chance to fall. Red Jade, a weeping crab, is beautiful--white blossoms, but the name refers to the fruit, which attracts hordes of cedar waxwings to eat its fruit. Chionanthus is a stunning small tree, but very slow growing. If you pick a crab, be sure to ask about resistance to various crab ailments! Other ideas: cornus mas (Cornelian cherry--yellow blossoms), cornus alternifolia (pagoda dogwood) (both of these are natives, so very hardy and disease-free). Or how about a dwarf sour cherry--you will race the birds to the tree--absolutely no fall-out!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2004 at 9:46PM
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jansblooms(z4 IA)

Often Earl May has brochure information on various plants. They often describe, in chart form, disease resistance, color, fruit size, "staying power," etc. If you want the birds to eat the fruit, choose a variety with smaller fruits. I planted a 'Prairiefire' in 1999, and its fruits have remained on the tree or been eaten. I deliberately put it away from the house, in case it was messy, but I haven't found that to be a problem. The foliage of this tree has some reddish purple in it.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2004 at 12:17PM
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ISU puts out an excellent booklet about trees.

Community Trees: Low-growing Trees for Urban and Rural Iowa
(Publication Number PM-1429d which may be downloadable from the ISU site; I picked mine up at the county extension office.)

The booklet describes good smaller trees for our state. It includes a list of 18 crabapples that are well-suited to Iowa and are disease-resistant; these include 'Donald Wyman,' 'PrairieFire,' and Sugar Time. Also, the booklet lists 14 cultivars that shouldn't be grown. It says, "Few good fruitless selections exist."

Of course, the troublesome crabapple in my yard ('Spring Snow') is on the list of cultivars NOT to grow. LOL


    Bookmark   February 28, 2004 at 7:11PM
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I have an "every-other-year" ornamental crabapple in my back yard. I'm sorry I can't tell you the variety name. It was here when I bought the house.

I call it an "every-other-year" tree because every other year it contracts crabapple rust, and all the leaves fall off of it by the end of June. Alternating years, it does fine and holds its leaves until autumn.

I mention this just as a precaution because I think you want to be sure to get a variety with excellent disease resistance unless you, too, want an every-other-year tree.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2004 at 4:24PM
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How about other trees in the same height category:

paperbark maple Acer griseum

corkscrew willow

'twisty baby' locust

Redbud.....maybe a great native choice for you!!!

or slower growing trees with outstanding foliage like some beech cultivars...

or some wonderful conifers that put on unbelievable spring shows like:

Pinus contorta 'taylors sunburst' 3-4 WEEKS!!!of yellow new growth. See Photo.

I could go on forever...

red leaf japanese maple...bloodgood, atropurpureum, emperor(supposed to be the hardiest of all, emperor I or II)

the debate with crabapples will always be...ARE THE WONDERFUL FLOWERS WORTH THE TROUBLE OF THE UNATTRACTIVE DISEASE RIDDEN FOLIAGE...AND IS ANYTHING WORTH SPRAYING IN MY GARDEN TO CONTROL DISEASE?...my honest opinion, there's plenty of wonderful plants that have outstanding characteristics that NEVER need to be sprayed.


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 21, 2004 at 3:11AM
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Cornus mas is NOT a native. It is native to Europe and western Asia.

I would add Manchurian apricot to your list of trees to consider, and I definitely second the vote for amelanchiers and magnolias.

ALso, the recommendation to use Iowa State and U of Iowa agricultural resources is EXCELLENT--i don't know which university administers the cooperative extension program, but whomever does will have performance reports on trees and have cultivar and other growing recommendations/caveats.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2004 at 11:40PM
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The advice early in this thread from Perennialprincess is on target. "You should check with Iowa State University. Dr Jeff Isles is probably one of the best flowering crabapple experts in the Midwest." In fact, Dr. Isles is perhaps the most recognized crabapple expert in the world. Check with your county extension office because he published a recent booklet (last year?) on recommended crabapple trees. I have seen it and it is excellent.


Here is a link that might be useful: Flowering Crabapple photos & info

    Bookmark   March 22, 2004 at 12:09AM
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perennialprincess(z4 MN)

Ironbelly: what a great link! Thanks for posting it.

I haven't had a chance to get to the Shade Tree Short Course at Iowa State in recent years, but we have worked with Dr Isles here at the nursery and he is an invaluable source of information for us. Actually, my boss is active on the board of the International Ornamental Crabapple Society, and I should have known that JEff Isles was the premier crabapple expert - not a surprise.

Blacklab - you make some interesting suggestions as alternatives to crabs. But, I do believe, with careful research, there are newer, disease resistant crabapples for northern gardens. Yes, that spring bloom is short, but wow! it is incredible. I wish gardeners would take into account the fall berry display as much as the spring flower display when making cultivar selections. That added season of color with fall fruit, makes Malus well worth selecting.


    Bookmark   March 22, 2004 at 11:17AM
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They do feed the animals and I'm all for it...

As far as more disease resistant varieties go...well, I haven't seen them being sold yet. And am gonna be a believer when I see a somewhat mature to mature specimen w/o SEVERE scab...

I've never seen a good looking crabapple and I've been to 1000's and 1000's of landscapes having worked in the industry. Half-way through the summer they lose a significant amount of leaves and look like the bubonic plague!!!LOL...

Best Regards,

they are nice bloomers and have wonderful fragrance!!!


p.s. a little mouse once told me that the foliage of plants should always be highly considered...LOL!!!

Say it like it is, I say.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2004 at 1:38AM
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Although I am sure Dr. Isles has a more recent publication, this is a listing from 4 years ago.


Here is a link that might be useful: Recommendations

    Bookmark   March 24, 2004 at 10:17AM
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I live in east central Kansas and am trying to find a grower offering the red jade flowering crab for sale. So far no luck. Any suggestions?

    Bookmark   April 30, 2006 at 11:16AM
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dirtdoctortoo(z4b/5a IA)

I love my dwarf cherry trees. They bloom like crazy and I get fruit if I want it but if I don't get out there the birds clean it right off the tree so no mess.

What about a mountain ash? Or hawthorns are pretty. The haws hang on all winter. Gorgeous with snow on them. Be warned hawthorns blossoms stink and yes they have thorns. The waxwings like them a lot though.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2006 at 6:49PM
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I bought a Royalty on sale and planted it last fall. Every link and thread is proclaiming this specie the one to avoid.
The Apple Scab seceptability is high according the Iowa Univ Hort Dept. Wondering if anyone has seen this disease with the Royalty and knows what fungicide to treat it with if it's worth it.
Actually, I might transplant this one to start an espalier feature. In which case I'd need two more similar Royalties to
go the length of the fence. Is it worth the trouble? Thanks

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 9:26PM
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