Garden Views: Flowering crab apple trees

A flowering crab apple is one of the most beautiful trees in the spring, and comes in many different habits, heights and leaf, bud, and flower colors. The fragrance of apple blossoms is a sure sign of spring. The blossoms also provide necessary food for bees. It can serve as a pollinator for other apple trees. Their smaller size makes them perfect for our landscapes and most fit nicely under power lines.

However, some varieties have less-desirable attributes. The hopa variety, widely planted in Minnesota a generation ago, is susceptible apple scab and many other diseases. It also drops its 1-inch fruit in summer, which creates the mess so many people remember. The majority of newer varieties are grafted onto dwarf root stock, to limit their size, and have persistent fruit, which means the apples stay on the tree all winter. By spring, the tiny remaining apples have shriveled to the size of a raisin and are not a problem when they drop to the ground. The examples described below have half-inch or smaller persistent fruit and are resistant to apple scab, fire blight, cedar-apple rust and powdery mildew. Mature size is given as height by width.

• Coralburst has a compact rounded habit; is 12-feet by 15-feet; has pink flowers and sparse fruit.

• David has a compact rounded habit; is 12-feet by 12-feet; has pink flower buds, white flowers and red fruit; it blooms and fruits heavily in alternate years.

• Indian Magic has an upright, spreading habit; is 15-feet by 15-feet; has deep pink flowers and red-orange fruit.

• Indian Summer has a rounded habit; is 18-feet by 18-feet; has rose red flower, bright red fruit, bronze-green leaves in spring, and good orange-red fall color.

• Louisa has an umbrella-shaped weeping habit; is 12-feet by 12-feet; has a pink flower; yellow 0.375-inch fruit.

• Molten Lava has a weeping habit; is 12-feet by 15-feet; has white flowers, abundant bright red fruit, and yellow bark.

• Prairiefire has a spreading rounded habit; is 20-feet by 20-feet; has red flower buds, purple red flowers, purple-red fruit, and good orange-red fall color.

• Robinson has an upright-spreading habit; is 25-feet by 25-feet; has deep pink flowers, dark red fruit, fast growth, and bronze-green leaves. It is not suitable under power lines.

• Sargent has spreading shrubby habit; is 8-feet by 12-feet; has white flowers, dark red quarter-inch fruit, and profuse fragrant flowers and fruit, often in alternate years. Its fruit is especially attractive to birds.

These are only a sample of what is available. Pick your desired size, habit, flower color and other attributes. You will have an attractive addition to your landscape, winter hardy and suitable for most any soil. For more information, see “Flowering Crab Apple Trees” from Colorado Extension and “Managing Apple Scab” from Minnesota Extension

The Anoka County Master Gardeners invite you to visit our web page for information about Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinics, a free service for Anoka County residents. The clinics are open Wednesday evenings from 6-8 p.m. from mid-May through August at Bunker Hills Activities Center 550 Bunker Lake Blvd. NW, Andover. Also check out the Walk in the Garden Education Series.

Lynda Ellis is an Extension Master Gardener in Anoka County.

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