Crab apple trees

Crab apples (Ornamental malus) are very closely related to apples, being part of the same genus Malus. The only difference between an apple and a crabapple is the size of the fruit, and it is usually considered that any apple variety with a fruit size of less than 2" is a crabapple.

Crab apple trees are grown primarily for their ornamental value. This starts in spring with a profusion of attractive blossom, which is often scented. The brightly coloured ornamental fruits hang attractively on the tree throughout autumn, providing colour in the garden and a source of food for birds. Some varieties also have attractive bronze leaves.

Most crab apples are edible - although rather unpalatable for eating fresh. However many varieties are valuable for cooking - crab apples contain large amounts of pectin, and are useful in the kitchen for making fruit jellies. Several varieties are also useful for hard cider blends.

The prolific blossom also makes most crab apples excellent pollinators for all other apple and cider-apple varieties - they typically produce five to ten times more pollen than a typical apple tree. The blossom is also usually more long-lasting than that of normal apples, and spans several of the mainstream apple flowering groups. Crab apples are naturally precocious and will often start producing blossom and fruit in their 2nd or 3rd years.


  • A large-fruited cold-hardy crab-apple.

    • Picking seasonMid
    • UsesEating fresh
    • UsesCooking
    • Gardening skillSuitable for beginners
    • Self-fertilityNot self-fertile
    • Pollination group3
  • Malus Dolgo, also known as Pink Glow, offers early-season white flowers and dark pink fruits.

    • Picking seasonEarly
    • UsesCooking
    • Gardening skillSuitable for beginners
    • Self-fertilitySelf-fertile
    • Pollination group2

  • A large-fruited red-fleshed crab apple, useful for cider blends.

    • Picking seasonEarly
    • UsesCooking
    • UsesHard cider
    • Gardening skillAverage
    • Self-fertilityPartially self-fertile
    • Pollination group3

  • Malus Golden Hornet has pink / white blossom then small yellow crab apples which hang on late in the year.

    • Picking seasonVery late
    • UsesCooking
    • Gardening skillAverage
    • Self-fertilitySelf-fertile
    • Pollination group5
  • Also known as Virginia Crab, Hewe's Crab is considered one of the best varieties for cider.

    • Picking seasonLate
    • UsesCooking
    • UsesJuice
    • UsesHard cider
    • Gardening skillAverage
    • Self-fertilitySelf-fertile
    • Pollination group3
  • A cold-hardy crab-apple, primarily used for cider and cooking.

    • Picking seasonMid
    • UsesEating fresh
    • UsesCooking
    • UsesJuice
    • Gardening skillSuitable for beginners
    • Self-fertilityPartially self-fertile
    • Pollination group2
  • Malus sieversii is thought to be the ancestor of modern apples. Grafted from specimens obtained from Kazakhstan.

    • Picking seasonMid
    • UsesEating fresh
    • UsesCooking
    • UsesJuice
    • Gardening skillSuitable for beginners
    • Self-fertilitySelf-fertile
    • Pollination group3

  • An unusual crab-apple, related to two mainstream apples, and best considered a bittersharp cider apple.

    • Picking seasonMid
    • UsesCooking
    • UsesJuice
    • UsesHard cider
    • Pollination group3
  • Wickson crab is a popular crab apple variety which is also useful in cider blends.

    • Picking seasonLate
    • UsesJuice
    • UsesHard cider
    • Gardening skillAverage
    • Self-fertilityNot self-fertile
    • Pollination group2