Malus ‘Sugar Thyme’ will knock your socks off with its winter berries!

Crabapples (Malus) are very popular small trees, especially grown, with good reason, for their beautiful spring flowers, but most do have additional attractions, such as colorful foliage or fruits large enough to be used in cooking.

My favorites, though, are the crabapples extend their interest beyond the growing season with fruits that persist well into the winter, quite often until March. Usually these are small-berried varieties, but even if the fruits are small, that doesn’t mean they can’t create a super showing during the winter… or attract fruit-eating birds!

Before presenting my list of crabapples with winter interest, please note that I have subtracted from the list below varieties that are overly susceptible to apple diseases, such as scab and bacterial blight. After all, who wants to treat an ornamental tree with fungicides to keep it in good condition? At least, that’s my attitude as a laidback gardener. All the varieties presented below have a good to excellent resistance to most common crabapple diseases, such as scab, bacterial blight, powdery mildew, and cedar-apple rust. (“Good resistance” means that the disease is present, but the symptoms are so minor there is no need to treat them.)

Crabapples are easy to grow trees, adapting to sunny locations in any well-drained soil and most are also very cold hardy. Their fairly small size means you can grow many of them under power lines without having to prune them.

11 Crabapples with Winter Interest

Unknown cultivar of small-fruited crabapple in snow.

M. ‘Adams’: Rounded habit. Red buds open to semi-double pink flowers. Very small red berries. Oddly, the birds don’t seem to like its fruit. Dimensions: 20 ft x 20 ft (6 m x 6 m). Zone 4.

M. ‘Adirondack’: narrow erect habit. Dark pink buds, white flowers with dark pink margin. Fruits orange red. Dimensions: 18 ft x 10 ft (5.5 m x 3 m). Zone 4.

M. baccata ‘Jacki’: fairly upright habit. Pinkish white buds, very fragrant white flowers. Purple fruit. Dimensions: 30 ft x 18 feet (9 m x 5.5 m). Zone 3.

M. ‘Guinevere’: rounded habit. Mauve and white flowers. Bright red fruit. Dimensions: 8 ft x 15 ft (2.5 m x 4.5 m). Zone 4.

M. ‘Jewelberry’: rounded habit. Pink flowers. Small red fruits. Dimensions: 18 ft x 12 ft (4,5 m x 3,5 m). Zone 4.

Malus ‘Molten Lava’. Photo Dawes Arboretum

M. ‘Molten Lava’: weeping habit. Cherry red buds, white flowers. Fruits reddish orange. Dimensions: 18 ft x 12 ft (4,5 m x 3,5 m). Zone 4.

M. Perpetu ‘Evereste’: rounded habit. Dark green leaves. Red buds, white flowers. Orange-yellow fruits. 6 m x 5 m. Zone 4

M. ‘Prairifire’: upright spreading habit, eventually rounded. Bright pink flowers. Purple foliage in spring turning reddish-green in summer. Reddish bark. Dark red fruits. Dimensions: 20 ft x 20 ft (6 mx 6 m).

M. sargentii: Low and spreading. Abundant small white flowers. Small bright red fruits. Dimensions: 8 ft x 12 ft (2.5 m x 3.5 m). Zone 4.

M. sargentii ‘Tina’: Very small rounded tree grafted on an upright stem. Red buds, small white flowers. Red berries. Dimensions: 5 ft x 6 ft (1.5 m x 2 m). Zone 4.

M. ‘Sugar Tyme’: oval spreading habit. Pale pink buttons, fragrant white flowers. Red fruits. Dimensions: 18 ft x 15 ft (5.5 m x 4.5 m). Zone 4.

Malus x zumi ‘Calocarpa’

M. x zumi ‘Calocarpa’: broad, rounded habit. Pink buds, small fragrant white flowers. Small bright red berries. 25 ft x 30 ft (6 m x 7.3 m). Zone 5.

Good gardening!20161203bsugar

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. After studies at the University of Toronto and Laval University where he obtained his B.A. in modern languages in 1978, he succeeded in combining his language skills with his passion for gardening in a novel career as a garden writer and lecturer. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He is a regular contributor to and horticultural consultant for Fleurs, Plantes, Jardins garden magazine and has written for many other garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Rebecca’s Garden and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 50 other titles in English and French. He can be seen in Quebec on French-language television and was notably a regular collaborator for 7 years on the TV shows Fleurs et Jardins and Salut Bonjour Weekend. He is the President of the Garden Writers Association Foundation and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. An avid proponent of garden tourism, he has lead garden tours throughout Canada and to the gardens of over 30 countries over the last 30 years. He presently resides in Quebec City, Quebec.

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