better outdoor living at home spring

Flowering Crabapple Trees – Choose Disease-Resistant First, Flower Color Second


I used to have a flowering crabapple in my backyard, and it was gorgeous in bloom – its lovely dark pink blooms created a big colorful canopy. Those few weeks when it was in bloom it was simply fabulous.


But the rest of the summer months it was absolutely unsightly, just a tattered and gloomy mess. It was one of those crabapples that are susceptible to many problems. Crabapple trees can be susceptible to diseases including leaf spot, apple scab, cedar apple rust, fireblight, and powdery mildew, which affect the leaf.


I don’t have a photo of mine that I can share, but interspersed throughout this post are photos of healthy crabapple trees (ones we took from around town), so that you can see how beautiful a healthy one can be.





By its appearance, I would guess that mine had powdery mildew, and one of the other diseases that made its leaves droop and drop – all summer long!


I had it removed a couple of years after I bought the house. It was unfortunate since it was a good size tree, but it was just too awful looking to keep. I don’t know how the previous owners of the house could stand to look at it!


So having seen what some crabapple trees are susceptible to, if I buy another one for the yard, I will be very careful to buy one that has excellent disease-resistance to ALL of the problems, mentioned above, to reduce the chance of having any problems occur.




Some diseases that bother plants may not actually do them in, but just make them lose their beauty. A crabapple tree that has poor disease-resistance really won’t enhance the beauty of a yard or outdoor living space.


As I think most people do, I like a low-maintenance yard, and wouldn’t want a crabapple tree that needed several fungicide treatment sprayings every year. I wouldn’t want the cost of those sprayings, either! If you do want to buy a crabapple tree for your yard, just know that they do need to be looked after as with any tree, (some a little, some a lot), and any of them could need some attention from time to time during their life span.


If you are thinking about getting a crabapple for your yard, and seriously, healthy ones are gorgeous, disease-resistance should be your first concern when selecting a crabapple tree, not flower color. Your best choice would be to select one that has an excellent resistance track record to all of the main diseases of crabapple trees.




Keep in mind that ‘resistant’ doesn’t mean disease-proof, it means that a particular cultivar has a less likely chance of disease incidence. A crabapple cultivar has to be observed and studied (usually done at universities) for a number of years (some sources say even 12 years of observation isn’t enough time to tell) to see if they remain ‘resistant’ over time, before they are actually called ‘resistant’.



Start Planning For Spring Planting Now


This is a perfect time of year to be planning your spring and summer outdoor projects. This spring when you go to your local landscape center/nursery, go prepared with a list of disease resistant crabapple trees that have excellent resistance across the board to those problems.


We couldn’t possibly list all the crabapple cultivars and their varying resistance to diseases, or cover which ones may grow in a particular hardiness zone, but to help you get started, we are linking here to good resources for finding them.


As a side note, we know that on these listings some disease-resistant ratings for certain trees differ from one site’s list to another site’s list (yes, that can be infuriating when you are trying to make an educated decision), so it seems perhaps a best guess would be to look for ones that are in agreement. One thought occurred to me that perhaps where the listings disagree, it may have something to do with the region or hardiness zone where the tree lives…perhaps a certain cultivar does better in one area than another…just a thought.





Some cultivars listed as having excellent disease-resistance:

Prairifire (Malus ‘Prairifire), dark red flowers

Adirondack (Malus ‘Adirondack’), white flowers

Tina (Malus sargentii ‘Tina’), white flowers


These links contain helpful information on crabapples, but they don’t necessarily contain all of the crabapple cultivars out there, so it may be prudent to not limit your search to just these  –

Missouri Botanical Gardens  (scroll down to Malus and select cultivar, the individual page of a cultivar will have its disease-resistant info under the heading of ‘Problems’ )

The Morton Arboretum (scroll down the page to see the crabapple tree ratings concerning disease-resistance)

Colorado State University Extension (scroll down the page to see the crabapple tree ratings concerning disease-resistance)


Tip – Crabapple trees produce various sizes of fruit (up to 2″ in diameter), and the fruit drops, so it’s best to plant the crabapple tree in a lawn area, or other spot that doesn’t get foot traffic.





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