The genus Malus has over 25 hardy species of relatively small deciduous trees known as flowering crabapples. They are native to Northern temperate regions of the world and are widely grown as ornamentals in gardens and parks. Their flowers are similar to cherry blossoms and are profuse in the spring and followed by small edible fruit.
The Prairie Crabapple grows wild from Indiana to Wisconsin, south to Oklahoma and Arkansas, with semi double pink flowers that fade to white on low bushy trees. A charming variety of the Sweet Crabapple is ‘Charlottae’, which has double violet scented flowers.
Some of our most popular crabs have been imported from Japan. ‘Pillar Apple’ is one Japanese import with a slender shape that is hardy in zones 4-8. It grows well in impoverished soils and is a good urban tree as it sets little fruit. Naturally the birds don’t appreciate it as much as the humans who dislike raking. “Pillar Crab’ also has lovely fall leaf color, purple brown bark and white flowers tinged with pink.
But there are so many different varieties now that can be purchased at garden centers. Ask about disease resistant ones for your area, as some of the older varieties are susceptible to diseases like ‘Apple Scab’. Plant Crabapple trees in full sun for maximum bloom and you will be amply rewarded.