Crab apple trees dazzle people in springtime, when blossoms color their branches red, white and pink.
But it's the fruit, not the flowers, that captivates Robert Simpson, a Vincennes, Ind., crab apple authority, according to Midwest Living magazine."The flowers only last a week or two," Simpson says, "but the fruit adds color and attracts birds all winter."
But newer flowering trees solve both problems: Healthy leaves and smaller fruit stay on all summer with the 40 choice varieties Simpson grows.
He offers these tips to help choose the best crab apple tree:
- Look for varieties with small fruit. Birds love tiny crab apples and will devour them before they fall. Different varieties soften at different times, prolonging the show of colorful fruit and birds throughout the winter.
- Pick the proper size and shape of tree for the area it is to be planted in. All crab apple trees are small compared to most other trees, making "crabs" a perfect choice for home landscapes. New varieties are especially compact. A Red Barron, for example, is superb for a tight space because of its tall, slender shape.
- Shop at a garden center that stocks new disease-resistant varieties.
Some of Simpson's favorite crab apple varieties include:
Prairiefire: A new disease-resistant tree from the University of Illinois. It has fruit "as near red as crab apples come," Simpson says.
White Ingliss: Very resistant to scab and blight.
Zumi var. calocarpa: Beautiful white blossoms, small fruit and resistant to disease.