How to Grow Weeping Crabapple Trees

weeping crabapple tree

Lee Wright / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

A weeping crabapple is part of the Malus genus, which also includes the more iconic apple tree known for its sweet, juicy fruit. On the other hand, a weeping crabapple tree is mostly planted as an ornamental addition to small yards or landscapes.

These trees are characterized by downward growing branches that display beautiful white or pink blossoms each spring. The blooming season is short-lived—often lasting just a few days up to two weeks. However, the lush, green foliage and small red, yellow, or orange fruits that the tree produces provide visual interest into the fall and even early winter.

The fruit of a weeping crabapple tree is largely ornamental. Many times, the crabapples produced are less than 1/2-inch in diameter and too sour to be useful for any edible use—though the birds will likely enjoy them. 

Botanical Name Malus
Common Name Weeping Crabapple
Plant Type Tree
Mature Size 10 to 15 feet tall and 8 to 15 feet wide
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Well-draining
Soil pH Slightly acidic
Bloom Time Early spring
Flower Color White or pink
Hardiness Zones 4 to 8
Native Area North America, Europe, Asia

How to Grow Weeping Crabapple Trees

Growing a weeping crabapple is easy enough for beginning landscapers and beautiful enough to make a worthy addition to any yard or garden. These trees are hardy enough to produce blooms even in cold weather climates that other flowering trees—like magnolia and dogwood—wouldn’t survive.

They grow up to 6 inches annually, and depending on the variety, reach a height of about 15 feet. Each spring, you’ll enjoy the fleeting flowering stage, followed by lush green foliage all summer long. In the fall, the trees produce crabapples—which are apples that measure than less than 2 inches in diameter. Weeping crabapple trees typically only produce fruit 1/2-inch or less in diameter. Even still, you’ll enjoy watching this tree through the seasons.

Weeping crabapples require only basic care and attention. They’re fairly drought-resistant once established, and often don’t need any additional watering unless drought persists. The weeping canopy of the tree generally doesn’t need pruning, unless you have a specific shape in mind. If so, prune outside of the growing season to avoid damaging the tree or reducing its resistance to disease. Common diseases include scab (a leaf spot disease caused by fungus) and fire-blight (which kills blossoms and branches and is caused by bacteria).

Keep in mind that fruit-producing trees will drop crabapples in the fall and early winter. The decaying flesh of the fruit may stain driveways, sidewalks, and patios, so keep this in mind when choosing where to plant your weeping crabapple. Additionally, the small, sour fruit is not in itself toxic, but can cause digestive upset to children or animals that indulge in one too many crabapples. 

Light

For maximum flower and fruit production, the weeping crabapple demands full sun. Ideally, this tree should receive 8 to 12 hours of direct light each day. However, if you have a spot that is partly shady, the tree can tolerate such conditions—it just may not have as many abundant blooms or a bumper crop of crabapples. 

Soil

The crabapple tree is not fussy about the type of soil it’s planted in—as long as it’s well-draining. Otherwise, the roots of the tree can become soggy and subject to rot. Soil should be friable for the health and longevity of the tree. In addition, these trees do best in soil with a pH level of 5.0 to 6.5; slightly acidic is best. 

Water

Once established, rainfall generally produces sufficient amounts of water for the crabapple tree.

These trees are considered to be drought-tolerant, and therefore a good choice even if rainfall can be spotty. However, you should plan to supplement this tree with additional watering if drought stretches on for an extended period. Otherwise, the tree is likely to deplete its energy reserves to maintain vitality and have a shortage of beautiful blooms and fruit in the following year. 

Temperature and Humidity

Weeping crabapple trees are rather hardy and make a great ornamental choice even in colder weather climates. They’re generally considered hardy to USDA zone 4. At the other end of the spectrum, these trees can handle the heat and humidity up to zone 8—or sometimes even zone 9, depending on specific growing conditions.

Fertilizer

The first question regarding fertilizing a crabapple tree is whether or not you need to. Generally speaking, these trees should grow 5 to 6 incher per year until maturity. If your tree is growing more slowly than this, it may be a soil nutrient deficiency.

The second question you need to ask is what type of fertilizer will be best. For soils lacking in general nutrients, you can often use organic fertilizer that is spread around the tree, over top of the root system. This can be done in the fall and in the early spring, before the growing season commences.

For soils with a serious deficiency in nitrogen, inorganic (chemical) fertilizers might be the best option for a quick change in soil nutrients. However, too much nitrogen can weaken the tree’s defense against disease, so be careful about how much and how often you add inorganic fertilizer. 

Varieties of Weeping Crabapple Trees

  • Malus ‘Louisa’: One of the most popular types of weeping crabapple trees is the Malus ‘Louisa.’ This cultivar grows about 10-feet tall and has graceful, long limbs—accented by pink blossoms in the spring, rich green foliage in the summer, and small yellow crabapples in the autumn.
  • Malus ‘Royal Beauty’: The ‘Royal Beauty’ weeping crabapple tree is unique for its purple foliage and deep red crabapples. These trees reach a mature height of about 10-feet and are typically taller than they are wide—though they do broaden with age. This type of crabapple tree produces fruit late into the season.
  • Malus ‘Red Jade’: With a spread of about 15-feet, the ‘Red Jade’ variety of the weeping crabapple tree has a beautiful canopy with long branches. Springtime brings pink flower blossoms that open to reveal white flowers. The fruit of the ‘Red Jade’ is a bright, cherry red color and enjoys a long growing season.

Toxicity of Weeping Crabapple Trees

Like the full-fledged apple tree, the fleshy fruit of a crabapple tree is not toxic and is generally considered edible—though not always tasty, depending on the size and variety of the crabapples. 

However, the seeds, stems, and leaves do contain trace amounts of cyanide. When consumed in sufficient quantity by humans or animals, the fruit can prove to be toxic. However, the easiest way to avoid toxicity is to refrain from eating the seeds or stem of the fruit. 

Pruning

In most cases, the weeping crabapple tree will grow into a beautiful, downward crown without much pruning or interference. However, if you do feel the need to shape your tree or it becomes necessary to trim it back, then you should plan to prune it during a time of dormancy.

Generally, the best time to prune is in late winter (after the coldest weather has passed) or early spring before the growing season begins. If you prune the tree as it begins the growing season, you risk hindering the flower and fruit development for next season. 

Weeping Crabapple Trees Vs. Apple Trees

If you’re wondering how to tell the difference between a weeping crabapple and an apple tree, the differences center around the fruit produced, along with the growth of the tree’s canopy.

In general, the only difference between crabapple trees and apple trees—which both are members of the Malus genus—is the size of the fruit produced. Standard apple trees produce fruit larger than 2-inches in diameter, while crabapple trees produce apples that are smaller than this benchmark. Weeping crabapples are further differentiated by the downward growth pattern of branches and their diminutive size.