A diminutive tree, Sargent crabapple (Malus sargentii) grows just 6 to 10 feet tall with horizontal branches stretching 8 feet across. In spring, dark pink buds open to pure white blossoms. Later the showy, fragrant flowers develop into bright red, 1/2-inch crabapples that stay on the tree into winter.
While the tiny crabapples are not good for cooking, they attract birds and other wildlife. When planted in a group of three or more, Sargent crabapples create a natural screen with their dense horizontal branching. The tree adapts well to large containers in warmer climates where roots won't freeze in winter.
Common name: Sargent crabapple
Botanical name: Malus sargentii
Plant type: Deciduous tree
Height: 6 to 10 feet tall
Zones: 4 to 8
Family: Rosaceae (rose family)
- Sun: Full sun for best flowering.
- Soil: Moderately fertile, well-drained.
- Moisture: Water regularly the first season to establish a deep root system. Average moisture is adequate in following years.
- Mulch: Apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch such as wood chips or pine needles in a wide circle around the trunk. Leave a few inches between the bark and mulch to prevent excess moisture from damaging the bark.
- Fertilizer: Feed with a general-purpose fertilizer before new growth appears in early spring.
- Pruning: Yearly, prune back suckers growing from the root zone close the graft. Prune out broken or crossing branches when dormant.
- ‘Tina' (pictured above) grows just 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide. A Great Plant Pick winner, it bears white flowers in April and May and attractive, dark red fruit in summer. Zones 4 to 8.
- ‘Candymint' has rose-colored flowers and purple fruit. It grows 10 feet tall and 15 feet wide. Zones 4 to 8.
- Firebird has white flowers and dark red fruit. Grows 5 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Zones 5 to 8.
- Locate the crabapple near a window where you can enjoy its springtime flowers from inside the house.
- When choosing a site for this crabapple, allow plenty of room for its horizontal branching.
- Avoid locations where late-season crabapples falling to the ground may become a nuisance.
- Plant this small tree near other wildlife-attracting trees and shrubs such as the compact European viburnum (Viburnum opulus ‘Compactum') and chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia).
- Sargent crabapple tends to bloom more profusely every other year.
Pests and diseases
- Apple scab, cedar apple rust, fireblight, canker, and Japanese beetles are common on crabapple trees, but Sargent shows good disease resistance to them. To encourage healthy plants, locate crabapples in full sun and well-drained soil, and avoid damaging the tree trunk.
- Bud in late summer.
- Start seed in fall.
- Graft in midwinter.
All in the family
- Two other small crabapple trees are ‘Cotton Candy' (10 feet tall, Zones 5 to 8), with pink flowers and yellow fruit, and Cinderella (8 feet tall, Zones 4 to 8), with white flowers and gold fruit.
- Other members of the rose family include serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.), hawthorns (Crataegus spp.), roses, and eating apples.
Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of Monrovia Growers