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Which Crabapple Varieties are Best?

By Jim Klett, Professor and Cooperative Extension Landscape Horticulturist, Colorado State University Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture

Selecting a crabapple tree for your yard can make you -- well, crabby.

Between fireblight, yellowing of leaves and too much fruit falling in your yard, crabapple selection can be a problem.

Ten years ago, Colorado State University began participating in a national study to evaluate more than 60 different crabapple varieties. Sixty different trees were planted in a test plot near the Colorado State campus. Every year since 1986, data has been recorded about the trees' performance.

Following are seven trees which, over seven years of research, appear to have desirable ornamental characteristics and fairly good disease resistance.

  • Malus `Adams' - This plant has single flowers that open to a pink color; the tree has a more of a rounded, dense growth habit. Fruit is red, about one-half inch in size and persistent. Only very slight fireblight has been seen on this clone.
  • Malus baccata var, jackii - This plant is pinkish in bud, but opens to a single white flower. The abundant fruit is purplish or a maroon red about one-inch in diameter. The tree grows more upright with good green color to the leaves; no fireblight has been observed to date.
  • Malus `Centurian' - Buds on this plant are red; they open to a rose-red and bear persistent glossy red fruit about one-half inch in size. The tree has a distinct columnar growth habit. The variety appears to be fairly fireblight resistant and, aesthetically, is quite pleasing. A little leaf chlorosis was seen in 1993.
  • Malus `Henning' - This plant has a single white flower with smaller orange-red fruit that was abundant in 1993. The tree shows more of an upright spreading growth habit and has good disease-resistance, but is showing slight leaf chlorosis.
  • Malus `Indian Summer' - This tree is characterized with rose-red flowers, bright red three-fourths-inch diameter fruit (lots of it in 1993) and good fall foliage color. The tree had less suckering, only slight fireblight and a little chlorosis.
  • Malus `Ralph Shay' - This tree has a dense growth habit, abundant flowering and a lot of fruit set. Some slight fireblight has been noticed, along with some basal suckering.
  • Malus `Zelkirk' - Here's a plant with good summer rating and fairly abundant fruit set. Growth habit is more roundish with abundant pinkish flowers. A very slight amount of fireblight has been observed.

Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010