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Malus - Growing Guide

Malus Growing Guide

Crab apple

Crab apples are grown for their flowers, small spherical fruits and autumn colour. They are quite distinct from orchard apples or commercial apples (Malus domestica) which are grown for their fruit. Crabs do have edible fruit but some are bitter and unpalatable unless cooked and used in jams or relishes. Historically malus and Pyrus (pears) were thought to be part of the same genus but their fruits are never pear shaped. The flowers of Malus in April or May can be seen as exceptional ornamental flowers trees on a par with Prunus (cherries). However the female parts of malus flowers have five styles whereas Prunus have only one.

Crab apples are ideal small trees where space permits in a town garden and of great beauty in a wild or woodland garden. Since they flower best only on the new growth they can be hard pruned or shaped after flowering to reduce the size of the crowns of the tree and to improve the future flowering performance. They grow well in full sun or in dappled shade in any fertile well drained soil conditions. Those varieties with purple coloured leaves only perform properly in full sun.

The sight of a crab apple in autumn laden with red or yellow fruits and red, orange or yellow foliage can easily equal the spring flowering performance. The fruits (birds permitting) hold on the tree long after the leaves have fallen.

Malus can be grown from seed collected from the crabs but, in the vicinity of other apples or crabs, they may well not come true. Crabs are therefore normally propagated by grafting in the winter.

The varieties which we offer represent the very best from a huge range:

M. ‘Evelyn’ has fragrant single pink flowers and dark purple leaves which turn a stunning orange-red in the autumn. A spectacular North American variety.

M. ‘Golden Hornet’ is a small tree with white flowers followed by a massive crop of bright yellow crab apples which hang on the tree long after the leaves have fallen

M. hupehensis has pink flower buds opening white in great abundance and cherry red fruits

M. ‘John Downie’ is widely regarded as the best fruiting crab with white flowers and large conical orange-red fruits up to 1¼in long. The tree grows to about 30ft.

M. ‘Profusion’ has slightly fragrant wine red flowers in clusters and red young growth. The fruits are reddish-purple.

M. ‘Red Sentinel’ has white flowers and long lasting fruits which become yellow flushed red and, eventually, dark red.

M. ‘Royalty’ is a spreading tree which, in maturity, may be 25ft tall and wide. It has dark red-purple leaves, crimson purple flowers and dark red fruit. 


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