Crab apple tree maintenance and care is minimal, which adds to the tree’s benefits. These include hardiness; an attractive form; an early season blossom display; in addition to fruit, used either for home canning or for wildlife provender.
Adhering to a crab apple’s cultural requirements when planting a new tree can result in reduced care and maintenance and increased beauty and fruit yield. As a flowering and fruiting tree, the crab apple welcomes a well-drained, slightly acidic soil which receives 8 to 12 hours of direct sunlight each day. Planting a new tree on a slope can increase the soil’s ability to drain water.
When planting a new crab apple, backfill using about half organic matter (such as compost, peat moss, or manure) and half soil. Rather than tamping in the backfill material around the roots, use water at the halfway stage to settle this material before continuing to backfill. Water in well when you’ve finished planting the tree.
New trees should receive about 1 inch of water a week.
Once established, crab apples will only need occasional pruning. Watch for shoots that spring up from the base of the tree, called suckers, and trim those off. Any diseased, damaged, or dead branches should be pruned out, too, preferably in the dormant season. Avoid creating stubs when removing limbs or branches, as these can be the site of water shoots, or weak growth, which cause later problems for the tree. An older tree’s canopy may be pruned to expose interior branches to sunlight and air. Take care to prune by early June, as the tree’s cycle of creating new blossoms and fruit occurs in late June and early July.
Fertilizing and Watering
Only fertilize or water if the tree’s leaves are pale green and small, or if you notice less than 5 or 6 inches of growth per year.