Choosing a crab apple that won’t make you crabby

August 6, 2011 at 10:06 AM Leave a comment

Choosing a crab apple that won’t make you crabby

  • The Donald Wyman crab apple provides vibrant red berries well into the winter months and bright white blossoms in the spring.
The Donald Wyman crab apple provides vibrant red berries well into the winter… (Morton Arboretum photo)
April 28, 2011|By Laurie Casey, Special to Tribune Newspapers

Is your crab apple tree resplendent in delicate blossoms in spring … or does it develop ugly spots on fruits and leaves? When you spray fungicides, prune your tree well and keep it as healthy as possible, does that yuck-factor still return each year?

Don’t get crabby. Get a new, disease-resistant tree. Many newer crab apple cultivars have excellent or good resistance to common diseases, according to Kunso Kim, head of collections and curator at The Morton Arboretum.

“When you select the right crab apple, it will become a jewel in your landscape,” said Kim, who oversees 183 different types of crab apples, one of the largest collections in the nation.

Four diseases seriously affect crabapple:

–Apple scab damages aesthetics by spotting leaves and fruits and making leaves drop early.

–Cedar-apple rust blemishes leaves on native cultivars, especially those planted near certain junipers.

–Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that thrives in wet, humid weather and mars the beauty of leaves and fruit.

–Fire blight is the most harmful, because this bacterial disease can kill a tree if not treated.

Many disease-resistant crab apples have interesting forms, flowers and fruits.

“In fact, I’d say the fruits are the crab apple’s main feature. They can last for months, well into winter,” said Kim.

Some of his favorites for home landscapes include:

–Strawberry Parfait crab apple (Malus “Strawberry Parfait,” 20 feet tall, 25 feet wide) has a spreading vase shape with pink spring flowers and yellow fall fruits.

–Tina crab apple (Malus sargentii “Tina,” 5 feet tall, 6 feet wide) is a shrub with white flowers and red fruits.

–“Molazam” crab apple (Molten Lava, 12 feet tall, 15 feet wide) has a broad, weeping form with white flowers and orange-red fruits.

–Donald Wyman crab apple (Malus “Donald Wyman,” 20 feet tall, 20 feet wide) is an old-time favorite with white flowers and red fruits that remain through winter.

For a free list of more than 60 recommended crab apples, contact The Morton Arboretum Plant Clinic at plantclinic@mortonarb.org, call 630-719-2424 or visit mortonarb.org/tree-plant-advice. Laurie Casey is a staff writer at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle.

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Entry filed under: Green Information.

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