Apple/Crabapple - Malus
Apples and Crabapples are best grown in a sunny location with good air
circulation and have no particular soil preferences, except soil should be
well-drained. Root pruned trees transplant most easily. Tree size, flower
color, fruit color, and growth and branching habit vary considerably with
the cultivar grown but many grow about 20 feet tall and wide. A few
Crabapples have good fall color and double-flowered types hold blossoms
longer than single-flowered cultivars. Some Crabapples are alternate
bearers, blooming heavily only every other year. Crabapples are grown for
their showy flowers and attractive, brightly-colored fruit.
Apples and crabapples come in a profusion of
varieties, most bearing lovely flowers and attractive, sometimes edible,
fruit. They have alternate, toothed leaves, bear flowers in early to mid
spring, and set fruit in late summer to early fall.
Malus is a very popular traditional bonsai due to its
flowers of seemingly infinite variety and lovliness. Crabapple is much
loved for its attractive fruit and small leaves. Apples make excellent, if
rarely seen, bonsai, but are only suitable for large sized
Lighting: Full sun or
semi-shade; needs protection from full summer sun.
Temperature: Very hardy fruit tree - will tolerate freezing conditions.
Watering: Moderate - do
not allow the soil to dry out completely. Requires plenty of water when
fruiting, or the apples will shrivel and drop. Do not mist, as this
Feeding: At 20-30 day intervals for M. halliana and every 15-20 days for M. pumila.
A good sprinkling of bonemeal in the fall promotes fruiting.
Pruning and wiring: Prune sub-branches by mid-August, if you wish to encourage
flower bud formation instead of leaf and stem growth. Tips can be pruned
as needed, reducing new shoots to two buds. In general, wiring can be done
from spring to autumn, protecting the bark. It is wise to wait
a few months to wire crabapples after repotting. Suitable for all sizes,
but for shohin, pick varieties with especially small fruit. Does not work
well styled as cascade or broom.
Fruiting puts stress on crabapple bonsai. Fruit should
be thinned out considerably, and allow the bonsai to
rest one year in three, removing all the fruit.
Propagation: From seed
(requires cold pre-treatment) or air- layering. Crabapples are commonly
propagated by grafting, but for bonsai use, care must be taken that a
specimen does not exhibit an ugly graft scar. Crabapples can be grown from
root cuttings. Many crabapples also sucker up from
the roots, and the suckers may be seperated from the roots in the fall or
in the following spring from their formation. Brent provides extensive
information on cuttings from young crabapple growth, which is quote
Most crabapples are very easy to propagate from
cuttings given the right conditions. This depends very much on the
cultivar and species. Juvenile plants are pretty much essential for
vigorous cuttings. Older plants can be induced to sprout juvenile type
growth through hard pruning the previous winter. Malus coronaria species
and cultivars are quite difficult from cuttings. Other difficult
cultivars are 'Royalty', 'Dolgo', and 'Cardinal'. The last two have
intermediate sized fruit, about two inches, so it is unfortunate that
they don't root easily.
Most of the smaller fruited cultivars seem to root
with little difficulty. Cuttings are taken at the semi-hardwood stage
from May to August depending on your climate and the weather. Take six
inch cuttings with three nodes or more, wounding is beneficial for most,
and treat with a medium strength hormone.
Reduce the leaf surface by cutting each leaf by one half to two thirds.
I find that this works better than removing entire leaves.
Keep the leaves moist with automatic mist or with a
poly tent or put them in an area that stays cool and moist. The greatest
danger is drying out. Some will root in a few weeks, but it is more
likely the majority will root over he winter. Your can tell when they
are rooted when they throw a vigorous new shoot. You may have to remove
the rooted cuttings from the flat as they root or they roots will
completely colonize the flat or pot and restrict the root growth of the
Repotting: In early
spring after flowering, or in early autumn. Repot every 1-2 years; M.
halliana may require yearly repotting. Crabapples need root space, so a
deep pot should be used. Likes well-drained, slightly alkaline
Pests and diseases:
Pests: Aphids infest branch tips and suck plant juices, and are
quite common. They can deform newly emerging foliage and secret honey dew
creating a sticky mess beneath the tree, but will not kill the
tree.Scales of various types are controlled with
Borers can be a problem on stressed trees.
Mites are too small to see easily so they can cause
much foliage discoloration before being detected. Mites can be controlled
to a degree with horticultural oil, but other chemicals are often required
by the time mites are detected. The mite infestation can also be severe by
the time foliage chlorosis or bronzing is evident.
Eastern tent caterpillar builds tents or nests in
trees in early summer or late spring. Feeding occurs on foliage outside
the nest. Defoliation can be extensive if infestation is severe, and
repeated defoliations for several years can weaken trees. Small nests can
be removed by pruning them from the tree. Spray with Bacillus
thuringiensis or other approved chemical. Do not burn nests while they are
still in the tree.
selections are fairly susceptible to disease. Select from the
Scab infection takes place early in the season and
dark olive green spots appear on the leaves. In late summer the infected
leaves fall off when they turn yellow. Infected fruits have black,
slightly raised spots. Use resistant varieties to help avoid this severe
Fire blight susceptible trees have blighted branch
tips, particularly when the tree is growing rapidly. Leaves on infected
branch tips turn brown or black, droop, and hang on the branches. The
leaves look scorched as by a fire. The trunk and main branches become
infected when the bacteria are washed down the branches. Cankers form and
are separated from adjacent healthy bark by a crack. The infected bark may
be shredded. Use resistant cultivars when available since severe
infections on susceptible trees can kill the tree.
Powdery mildew coats leaves with white fungal growth
Cedar apple rust causes brown to rusty-orange spots on
the leaves. Badly spotted leaves fall prematurely, and defoliation can be
heavy. Redcedars (Juniperus virginiana) are the alternate host. Crabapples
are subject to several canker diseases. Prune out infected branches, avoid
unnecessary wounding, and keep trees healthy.
Some species suitable for bonsai:
- Malus 'Dorothea': yellow crabapple
- Malus floribunda: Japanese crabapple, showy
crabapple, Japanese flowering crabapple, purple chokeberry - a
magnificent garden tree with flowers of white or pink, the flowering
crabapple is used profusely in landscaping on the east coast of the US
and in California. Hardy to zone 5. Its 1/3 inch red fruit makes it a
good small bonsai.
- Malus 'Golden Hornet': Golden Hornet crabapple -
bears a generous crop of fruits which stay on the tree after leaf
- Malus halliana: Hall's crabapple, Suishi-kaido -
pinkish-white or bright rose flowers and purple fruits. It is hardy to
zone 6 and grows to 16 feet. The fruit is edible and only 1/3 inch,
making this a good choice for small bonsai.
- Malus himekokoh - this Japanese native is reputed
to have delicious fruit.
- Malus x 'Hime Ringo': Nagasaki crabapple - double
light pink flowers, 1/2 inch or smaller fruit. "Hime" means delicate or
feminine, and many different cvs. of crabapple are sold under this name.
Iris Cohen believes, in fact, that the name is sometimes used
interchangeably with M. halliana.
- Malus 'Lizet' - Purple buds opening to red-pink
flowers, purple- red fruit.
- Malus 'Louisa' - Weeps profusely - a large bonsai
may not even need the branches to be wired down.
- Malus 'Mary Potter': Mary crabbaple - Excellent
bonsai potential due to its twiggy branch ramification, and profuse
number of pink flowers.
- Malus x micromalus: Kaido crabapple, dwarf
crabapple - Hardy to zone 5, this crabapple has deep pink flowers and
especially tiny yellow fruit.
- Malus 'Oekonomiera': pink crabapple
- Malus 'Profusion': purple crabapple - deep red
fruit, wine-red flowers, purple leaves.
- Malus pumila: crabapple - hardy to zone 4. It has
five-petalled flowers of pink or white, and the fruit vareis in color:
red, green or yellow.
- Malus x purpurea: Lemoine crabapple, purple crab -
a French hybrid with purple color in all parts - leaves, flowers, fruit.
Does well in cold areas.
- Malus 'Radient': red crabapple
- Malus 'Red Jade': weeping crabapple, Red Jade
crabapple - a weeping form with white flowers. Hardy in zones 5-7, it
has 1/2 inch red, egg-shaped flowers and grows to 12 feet.
- Malus 'Royalty' - Flowers, fruit and leaves are
intensely purple. I have one of these, and it is lovely.
- Malus sargentii: Sargent's crabapple, dwarf
crabapple White flowers and 1/2 inch red fruit, it is hardy to zone 2.
Brent says that this is the crabapple with the smallest leaves.
- Malus sargentii 'Tina' - a superior cv. with lovely
dark pink buds.Malus scheideckeri - This tree bears tasty fruits
which are two inch replicas of tiny red delicious apples.
- Malus 'Snowdrift': Snowdrift crabapple - small deep
pink buds opening to pure white flowers, many persistent orange-red
- Malus 'Sugar Tyme' - pinkish white flowers, and
profuse quantities of small, intensely red fruit.
- Malus sylvestris: common crabapple - toothed
leaves, sometimes bears thorns in the wild. It has yellow-green fruit
with traces of red.
- Malus toringo (also called Malus sieboldii):
Toringo crabapple, Zumi - Red, pale oragne or yellowish brown-fruit, and
bright pink flowers whichfade to white. It is a relitively tall crabapple, growing from 23-33 feet in the
- Malus toringoides - Green lobed foliage, creamy
white flowers, red and yellow fruit.
- Malus transitoria: cut-leaf crabapple - White
flowers and red fruit. One of the most delicate crabapples.
- Malus 'Weeping Candied Apple' - reddish leaves, red
fruit, red new growth, purple-pink flowers. Its weeping characteristic
will not be self-evident in bonsai.
- Malus 'White Angel': white crabapple - Bright red
fruit, white flowers.Grows to 20 feet.
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