How to Plant a Crabapple Tree. Although the fruit of crabapples (Malus spp.) are less than 2 inches wide and sour, the trees are widely planted for their colorful springtime blossoms -- and they’re also good for pollinating edible apple species. Planting a crabapple tree is not greatly different than planting other fruit trees except that...
Although the fruit of crabapples (Malus spp.) are less than 2 inches wide and sour, the trees are widely planted for their colorful springtime blossoms -- and theyíre also good for pollinating edible apple species. Planting a crabapple tree is not greatly different than planting other fruit trees except that they are closer to their wild ancestors than edible apples so itís not good to enrich planting soil.
Sun and Soil
Plant crabapple saplings in a location where they can get eight to 12 hours of direct sun a day. They will grow in almost any type of soil but like rich loam best and a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5; loam is a combination of clay, silt and sand. Unless your soil is almost pure sand, donít amend it. If it is sand, work compost into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil to aid in water retention. Itís not good to plant crabapple trees surrounded by lawn because they tend to get more fertilizer than they need.
Planting Time and Climate
You can plant a crabapple tree with balled roots any time of year -- although summer weather is most stressful. Early fall and spring are both good, but if you have harsh winters in your area, plant in spring. Plant trees with bare roots only in spring. Crabapples will grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4a through 8a.
Crabapple trees range from 5 to 25 feet high, depending on species; canopy spread ranges between 10 and 25 feet. Depending on their mature size, space crabapple trees from 10 to 20 feet apart. Dig the planting hole two to three times as wide as the rootball and the same depth. Plant a sapling at the same depth as it was grown in the nursery or not more than 1 to 2 inches higher. Place the tree into the hole and fill it half full of soil. To settle the soil and eliminate air pockets, water it well. After it drains, fill the rest of the hole with soil and water it again.
Water and Fertilizer
A good way to water your crabapple tree without overdoing it is to drill 2 holes 1/8-inch wide near the bottom of a 5-gallon plastic bucket. Fill the bucket with 2 gallons of water per cubic foot of root zone. For example, a crab apple nursery sapling in a 5-gallon container has a root zone of about 1/2 cubic foot, requiring 1 gallon of water in the bucket. Face the holes near the crabapple roots and let water trickle until the bucket is empty. Do this two to three times a week the first few months after planting to keep the soil properly moist but not soggy. There is no need to fertilize a crabapple the first year.
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