English Hawthorn Tree Profile

Hawthorn tree in Devon, Great Britain

Nigel Hicks / Getty Images 

The English hawthorn is a prolific flower producer in spring. Covered with an abundant array of small flowers in shades of white, pink, or red, it can grow in difficult environments that most trees will not tolerate, such as poor air and soil conditions, as well as locations where the roots are confined to small spaces. That's why it's a popular choice as street trees as well as in urban landscapes, and they are also grown as bonsai or espalier trees.

Related to the apple, pear, and crabapple trees, the English hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata) is a small to medium-sized tree that's native to Europe and North Africa. It's known for its lobed, green leaves and attractive bark (much like an apple tree), and the branches of most varieties are thorny. After flowers in colors like white, pink, lavender, and red appear in the spring, small red or orange fruit will grow in the summer and often persist into late winter--a single tree can produce more than 2,000 berries. The English hawthorn's flowers are clustered in broad, dense, flat-topped groups that resemble cherry or apple blossoms.

Sometimes referred to as common, one-seed, or single-seed hawthorn, it's a small, introduced tree that has naturalized in the Pacific Northwest. Somewhat tolerant of both shade and drought, the English hawthorn has invaded open fields and woodlands in states including Washington, Oregon, and California.

Botanical Name Crataegus monogyna
Common Name English Hawthorn
Plant Type Deciduous tree
Mature Size 6 to 30 feet tall
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Well-drained
Soil pH 6-7
Bloom Time Spring/Early Summer
Flower Color White, pink, red
Hardiness Zones 3-9
Native Area Europe, North Africa

How to Grow the English Hawthorn Tree

When choosing a location for your English Hawthorn Tree, be sure it's a place where fallen fruit isn't a nuisance. You should also keep in mind that though these trees can live anywhere from 50 to 150 years, they grow relatively slowly. Though its flowers are beautiful, they tend to emit a musky scent that some may find unpleasant.

English hawthorn trees are susceptible to a few issues, including leaf blight and leaf spot. They can also develop fire blight and certain other diseases that affect apples. Their foliage tends to attract pesky insects such as aphids and lace bugs.

However, the tree's rich fruit and seeds will attract an array of wildlife--in its natural environment, they are an importance source of sustenance for birds, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, and deer. In a home garden, they attract butterflies as well as songbirds such as cedar waxwings, bluejays, and northern flickers.

Light

The English hawthorn will thrive in sun to light shade.

Soil

The English hawthorne grows in a variety of soil types in lowland areas, but it does seem to prefer moist, disturbed places as well as areas with high precipitation. Soil should always be well-drained.

Water

You'll want to water a young English hawthorn tree during dry weather; after the first year or two of growth, natural rainfall will be adequate. Try to avoid watering these trees while they're blooming. Established trees can tolerate dry conditions.

Temperature and Humidity

The English hawthorne blooms in the spring and early summer, so it thrives in moderately warm temperatures.

Fertilizer

Fertilizer isn't required to promote the growth of the English hawthorn, but if your tree's growth appears sparse, you can try applying a slow-release fertilizer in autumn. 

Propagating

You can propagate a new hawthorn tree by taking softwood cuttings in mid-summer. Be sure to start with several four- to six-inch softwood stems from a healthy hawthorn tree. The tree easily spreads by seed into woodlands and open fields, and can often create a dense and thorny thicket. Since its red berries are attractive to birds and other wildlife, animals can also help spread this tree far beyond where it was originally planted.

Related Varieties of Hawthorne Trees

  • Washington Hawthorn: Bright white flowers; leaves change color; disease resistant
  •  Indian Hawthorn: Compact evergreen shrub, white to pink or red flowers
  • Chinese Hawthorn: Grown for its berries

Pruning

Damaged or broken branches should be removed in the late winter.