This is one of the best crabapples for form and flower, reaching 15 to 25 feet in height and creating a broad, rounded, densely-branched canopy. It is also disease resistant, an important attribute for crabapples. The profusion of fragrant, 1- to 1.5-inch-diameter blooms begin as beautiful deep pink to red buds, eventually fading to a glistening white as they open. From August to October, the yellow and red fruits appear, providing a popular food for wildlife or they can be harvested to make a delicious jelly. They can create a litter problem on hard surface beneath the canopy.
Scientific name: Malus floribunda
Pronunciation: MAY-lus flor-ih-BUN-duh
Common name(s): Japanese flowering crabapple
USDA hardiness zones: 4A through 7B (Fig. 2)
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Uses: deck or patio; specimen; container or planter; trained as a standard; espalier; parking lot island < 100 sq ft; parking lot island 100-200 sq ft; parking lot island > 200 sq ft; tree lawn 3-4 feet wide; tree lawn 4-6 feet wide; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; street without sidewalk; highway median; bonsai
Availability: not native to North America
Height: 15 to 25 feet
Spread: 15 to 25 feet
Crown uniformity: irregular
Crown shape: spreading, round
Crown density: moderate
Growth rate: moderate
Leaf arrangement: alternate (Fig. 3)
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: serrate, serrulate
Leaf shape: elliptic (oval)
Leaf venation: pinnate, brachidodrome
Leaf type and persistence: deciduous
Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: yellow
Fall characteristic: not showy
Flower color: pink, white/cream/gray
Flower characteristics: very showy
Fruit shape: round
Fruit length: less than .5 inch
Fruit covering: fleshy
Fruit color: yellow, red
Fruit characteristics: attracts squirrels/mammals; showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem
Trunk and Branches
Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically multi-trunked; thorns
Pruning requirement: little required
Current year twig color: brown
Current year twig thickness: thin, medium
Wood specific gravity: unknown
Light requirement: full sun
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; acidic; alkaline; well-drained; occasionally wet
Drought tolerance: moderate
Aerosol salt tolerance: low
Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: yes
Outstanding tree: yes
Ozone sensitivity: sensitive
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: resistant
Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases
Use and Management
Japanese flowering crabapple requires very little pruning but any that is needed should be completed before late spring, to ensure dormant flower buds are not removed. Trees used as street trees should be trained to develop a central trunk and should be occasionally thinned to eliminate water sprouts or crossed-branches, and to open up the crown. This allows for better air circulation through the crown and helps reduce disease.
Crabapples are also useful as median trees where the fruit will fall away from pedestrians. Placed in the lawn area as an accent so they receive occasional irrigation, crabapple will give you years of wonderful flowers and showy fruit. It is best to locate them away from a patio or other hard surface so the fruits will not fall and cause a mess. Set it back just far enough so the crown will not overhang the walk, but close enough so the flowers and fruit can be enjoyed.
Japanese flowering crabapple grows in moist, well-drained, acid soil in full sun locations for best flowering. They are not recommended for sandy soil due to their inability to tolerate drought, but any other soil is suitable, including clay. Crabapples grow well in the Texas panhandle but are not extremely drought tolerant and are not well suited for high pH soil.
Contact the Ornamental Crabapple Society, Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Illinois 60532 for more information on crabapples.
Aphids infest branch tips and suck plant juices.
Fall webworm makes nests on the branches and feeds inside the nest. Small nests can be pruned out or sprayed with Bacillus thuringiensis.
Scales of various types are usually controlled with horticultural oil.
Mites are too small to see easily so can cause much foliage discoloration before being detected. Mites are usually controlled with horticultural oil.
Tent caterpillar builds tents or nests in trees in early summer or late spring. Feeding occurs outside the nest. Small nests are pruned out or simply pulled from the tree and caterpillars destroyed. Do not burn nests while they are still in the tree since this injures the tree and could start an uncontrolled fire.
Although disease resistant, trees are slightly susceptible to scab and powdery mildew and have some susceptibility to fireblight.
Scab infection takes place early in the season and dark olive green spots appear on the leaves. In late summer the infected leaves fall off when they turn yellow. Infected fruits have black, slightly raised spots.
Fire blight susceptible trees have blighted branch tips. Leaves on infected branch tips turn brown or black, droop, and hang on the branches. The leaves look scorched as by a fire. The trunk and main branches become infected when the bacteria are washed down the branches. Cankers form and are separated from adjacent healthy bark by a crack. The infected bark may be shredded.
Powdery mildew is a fungus which coats leaves with mycelia resembling white powder.
Rust causes brown to rusty-orange spots on the leaves. Badly spotted leaves fall prematurely. Redcedars are the alternate host.
Crabapples are subject to several canker diseases. Prune out infected branches, avoid unnecessary wounding, and keep trees healthy.