How to Grow and Care for 'Sugar Tyme' Crabapple

Sugar tyme crabapple tree with sprawling curved branches and small red fruit hanging

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Often referred to as a crabapple for all seasons, the 'Sugar Tyme' cultivar is a beautiful yet compact tree with an oval canopy that makes a striking addition to your garden or landscaping. Its care needs are much like those of any of the many crabapple cultivars, but 'Sugar Tyme' is notable for having good resistance to the many pests and diseases that can afflict apple trees. And it is notable as a crabapple with excellent year-round appeal. This cultivar has full green foliage, and each spring it produces an abundance of beautiful pink buds that open to reveal white blossoms for a week or so. Small, bright red apples, about 1/2 inch in diameter, appear in the fall and provide ornamental interest on the tree through the winter. In the fall, the leaves turn a golden yellow that strikes a natural contrast with the fruit. 'Sugar Tyme' is normally planted as a potted nursery specimen in the fall, or sometimes as a bare root tree. Compared to other crabapple cultivars, it is relatively fast-growing but short-lived. Sugar Tyme reaches flowering and fruiting maturity within three to five years, but the lifespan is rarely more than a couple of decades.

Like all apple trees, the seeds of this cultivar's fruit contain small amounts of amygdalin, which can break down into toxic cyanide. Health risks are minimal, however, since crabapples are sour and not very tasty. And the fruit itself is not toxic—only the seeds inside, and only if they are crushed and ingested. Swallowed whole, apple seeds generally pass through the digestive system without incident.

Common Name 'Sugar Tyme' crabapple
Common Name Malus 'Sutyzam' 
Family Rosaceae
Plant Type Deciduous tree
Mature Size 14–18 ft. tall, 12–15 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Well-drained, loamy
Soil pH Slightly acidic to neutral (5.5 to 6.5)
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Pink buds, white flowers
Hardiness Zones 4–8 (USDA)
Native Area North America, Europe, Asia
Toxicity Seeds are potentially toxic if crushed and ingested

'Sugar Tyme' Crabapple Care

The 'Sugar Tyme' cultivar has a reputation for being easier to grow than most crabapples, though this is a relative judgment, as all apple trees have some susceptibility to potentially serious problems, such as fireblight and scab.'But 'Sugar Tyme' demands less than other apple trees in the way of regular care and attention, and it rewards you with beautiful foliage and abundant fruit.

Monitor the tree for sufficient moisture levels throughout the first year after planting. Pruning is best done in winter or spring to remove excess growth or damaged limbs but should be done sparingly to avoid opening the tree up to fungal diseases and insect damage. This variety is considered among the very best of the crabapple cultivars for disease resistance.

Sugar tyme crabapple tree branch with small red fruit and leaves hanging

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Sugar tyme crabapple tree with small reddish-yellow fruit clustered under leaves

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Sugar tyme crabapple tree with gray-brown ridged tree trunk with sprawling branches and green-yellow leaves

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Light

Like other varieties of crabapple trees, the Sugar Tyme tree will have maximum foliage and fruit production if it is planted in full sun. While eight or more hours of sunlight are preferable, the tree can survive in partial shade—but be prepared for less abundant blossoms and more sparse fruit.

Soil

The main soil requirement for a 'Sugar Tyme' crabapple is that it be well-draining. Rich, loamy soil is the best choice for these trees, but they have proven to be adaptable to other sites where the soil provides adequate drainage. Ideally, this tree should be planted in slightly acidic soil with a pH level between 5.5 and 6.5.

Soil that retains too much moisture can cause root rot and have an adverse effect on the tree’s health.

Water

A mature crabapple tree has only moderate water needs and exhibits a measure of drought resistance. However, these trees should be watered deeply every two weeks or so for the first year after planting, and thereafter during periods of little or no rainfall. Doing so minimizes the stress on the tree, and also prevents an established tree from using its reserve energy supplies for survival at the expense of flower and fruit production.

Temperature and Humidity

This variety of crabapple is considered to be highly adaptable. Hardy to USDA zone 4, these trees weather winter well but also thrive during warm summer spells, thanks to their drought tolerance. Crabapple trees benefit from the temperature swings common to temperate areas of the United States. Cold winter weather followed by a seasonal uptick in temperature allows this tree to flower and fruit abundantly. They do not perform well in regions where winter temperatures stay above 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

As with all apple trees, high humidity paired with high temperatures can invite a variety of fungal diseases to affect the 'Suger Tyme' crabapple.

Fertilizer

'Sugar Tyme' crabapple trees often produce abundant blooms and fruit without any additional fertilization at all, provided the soil is decent. However, if you have subpar soil conditions—and notice that your tree is growing slowly or underproducing fruit—then fertilizer may be in order. A balanced fertilizer formula, like 10-10-10, is generally recommended. Spread the fertilizer in a radius around the tree extending about 20 feet from the trunk to ensure the nutrients reach the roots

Types of Crabapple

'Sugar Tyme' is a very popular crabapple cultivar. Others with similar small size and good performance include:

  • 'Prairifire' has a rounded, upright habit, dark pink flowers, reddish-brown leaves, and fruit that persists well into the winter. They typically grow to around 15 to 20 feet tall.
  • 'Beverly' has a rounded, dense canopy, white blooms, glossy red fruit, and yellow fall foliage. It has excellent disease resistance, particularly for apple scab.'
  • 'Amerispirzam' is an 18-foot tree with deep rosy red flowers and clusters of glossy red crabapples.
  • 'Adironkak' is an 18-foot cultivar that features pure white flowers and orange-red fruits. It grows with an upright, columnar shape that is ideal for narrow spaces.

Pruning

The 'Sugar Tyme' crabapple tree generally requires very little pruning to maintain its shape and appearance, but it does need pruning to remove damaged or diseased branches and suckers. Some annual pruning is unavoidable with any crabapple tree.

There are two times of the year ecommended for pruning crabapple trees: immediately after the tree has blossomed, but before it bears fruit, or in mid-to-late winter. Pruning the tree too close to blossom production or to the fruit-bearing season can have an adverse effect.

Propagating 'Sugar Tyme' Crabapple

Like many crabapple cultivars, 'Sugar Tyme' is a grafted tree, produced by artificially attaching branches of ornamental cultivars to a native species root-stock known for hardy performance. Grafting is difficult for amateur gardeners, so propagation is usually left to professionals.

It is possible to root branch cuttings, but the resulting tree will not be an exact match for the parent tree.

How to Grow 'Sugar Tyme' Crabapple From Seed

'Sugar Tyme' is a grafted cultivar, so propagating by seeds does not produce a tree with the same performance or appearance as the parent tree. Further, it takes quite some time for a seedling to grow into a viable fruit-bearing tree. Thus, seed propagation is rarely done if the goal is to reproduce the mother tree exactly.

That said, growing trees from seeds is not hard to do, and you can certainly try it as an experiment. Collect some seeds from apples that are fully ripened on the tree. If you collect seeds in the fall, it's best to store them through the first part of the winter, then start them indoors in late winter. Plant the seeds in pots filled with a mixture of potting soil, peat moss, and perlite or vermiculite. Barely cover the seeds with potting mix, moisten, and set them in a bright, warm spot. Cover the pots with plastic until the seeds germinate and sprout, then remove the plastic and continue growing the seedlings until they are about 6 inches tall, when you can transplant them into larger containers filled with commercial potting mix. When the seedlings are about 18 inches tall, they are ready to plant in the garden.

Overwintering

A 'Sugar Tyme' crabapple tree generally requires no winter protection once mature. Young trees should have their trunks shielded with metal hardware cloth or fencing to guard against animal damage. A young tree can also be protected with tree wrap for the first few years to guard against winter sunburn.

In late fall, rake the ground clear of leaf and fruit debris to prevent fungi and insects from overwintering.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Though 'Sugar Tyme' has unusually good resistance to the diseases and pest problems that plague many types of apple trees, it is still somewhat susceptible to scab, fire blight, rusts, leaf spot, and powdery mildew. Fungal diseases can often be prevented with timely spray with a fungicide, but there is no cure for fire blight, a bacterial disease that causes leaves to blacken. Keeping your tree healthy and avoiding high-nitrogen fertilizers will help prevent fire blight.

Possible insect pests include tent caterpillars, aphids, Japanese beetles, borers, scale, and spider mites. Mild infestations are usually no cause for worry, but a serious attack can be treated with horticultural oils or chemical pesticides.

How to Get 'Sugar Tyme' Crabapple to Bloom

Like other crabapple cultivars, 'Sugar Tyme' may withhold blossoms for a number of reasons:

  • The tree is too young. 'Sugar Tyme' may take three or four years before it is mature enough to bloom and bear fruit. This is especially true of specimens planted as bare roots.
  • Weather patterns: An especially dry fall and winter, a late spring frost, or an overly mild winter can all cause 'Sugar Tyme' to respond with few or no blooms. When weather patterns normalize, your tree should return to copious flowering.
  • Not enough sun: Over time, surrounding trees grow up to place your crabapple in the shade. This will often cause the tree to reduce its flowering.
  • Disease: Sickly trees that are struggling with fireblight or fungal diseases do not flower very much. Keeping your tree healthy will maximize flowering.
  • Excessive, badly time pruning: Hard pruning, such as is sometimes necessary with a neglected tree, may cause a tree to flower poorly the following spring. The tree usually returns to normal blooming after a year.

Common Problems With 'Sugar Tyme' Crabapple

'Sugar Tyme' can have many of the same issues found with other crabapples. Some common complaints include:

Tree Is Messy

While 'Sugar Tyme' holds its fruit better than most crabapples, it produces plentiful fruit and inevitably a lot of those apples will wind up on the ground, where they will rot and attract wasps and other insects. There's no getting around this drawback if you want the spectacle of a flowering crabapple. Thorough raking during key periods of the fall is needed to remove fallen fruit.

Lots of Dead Branches

Apple trees are fairly high-maintenance trees, and 'Sugar Tyme' is not exempt. All apple trees will require some annual pruning to remove branches that die naturally or as a result of fungal disease or pest damage. Keeping on top of this duty is critical to keeping your tree healthy.

FAQ
  • How can I use this tree in the landscape?

    Like all crabapples, 'Sugar Tyme' is normally planted as a specimen tree for its spring display. But its nicely shaped canopy and relatively small size also make this cultivar a viable shade tree for confined spaces. 'Sugar Tyme' has exceptionally good year-round appeal, so it should be positioned in a highly visible location.

  • Is the fruit of 'Sugar Tyme' edible?

    The small red apples on 'Sugar Tyme' are notable for their appeal to migrating birds and because they remain on the tree well into winter for seasonal appeal. This tree is not the best choice if your goal is crabapples for cooking, but the fruit can certainly be used in a variety of jelly and cider recipes.

  • How long does a 'Sugar Tyme' Crabapple Live?

    This cultivar grows fairly quickly but it is not a long-lived tree. About 20 years is a typical lifespan.