Crab apple trees, from the Malus family, are a sight to behold and a welcome addition to any garden. With their dark red or bright yellow fruits, dense clusters of white, pink and crimson blossom, and changing leaves in the autumn, they are fantastic ornamental trees. But that's not the only reason our crab apples are best-sellers. The ornamental crab apple can be as small as 2 metres in height and spread when mature, so they are a popular choice for very small gardens. And even with the smallest crab apple trees, you may still be able to turn the tiny scarlet persistent fruits into a delicious crab apple jam or jelly. At Gardeners Dream, we have a vast range of crab apple trees to explore and numerous other tasty fruit trees and flowering trees. After nurturing our crab apple trees in our UK nurseries, we send them across the UK to any address for free!
Crab apple trees are a species of tree from the Malus family. One group of species from this family, Malus domestica, refers to common apple trees. But the Malus trees on this page are all known as crab apples.
The traditional crab apple is native to the northern hemisphere, with species growing everywhere from Japan to the UK. These trees are characterised by cherry-like fruitlets that are visually similar to apples but much smaller and typically grow in clusters like cherries. Colours range from attractive dark pink fruits to golden orange fruitlets, often with a white fruit colour on the inside. These fruits are commonly used for making crab apple jelly, although most trees are grown as ornamental trees due to the sour flavour of the fruit when it is fresh.
Crab apple trees are part of our deciduous tree collection at Gardeners Dream. The bronze-green leaves fade to orange or even fiery red in the autumn before dropping over winter. When spring hits, crab apple trees put on a floral display with pink-red spring blossom, white star-like flowers, or even purple or deep pink flowers.
Crab apple trees often require cross-pollination, so if you are growing these trees for their fruits, you will want to plant multiple crab apple trees. There are a few select self-pollinating apple tree varieties - reach out to our horticulturalists at Gardeners Dream for advice on which apple trees to purchase.
The following crab apple trees are some of our best-selling varieties to explore. Whichever you pick, you can enjoy free UK delivery on your order with no minimum price threshold!
The Japanese crab apple tree is fully hardy, and exceptionally cold hardy, so it's fantastic for planting across the UK. Native to Japan, this tree grows with dusky pink blossom, starting with pink buds and deep pink flowers that brighten to ivory-white blossom as the spring season progresses.
Once the white flowers have fallen, this tree produces orange-red fruits, and then a good autumn colour with fiery red leaves. With a maximum spread of 5 metres, it is a good size for medium-small gardens. Another option that our customers love is the Malus Pink Glow - it delivers the same white blossom but has a larger size and larger fruits to boot.
The ever-popular weeping crab apple combines the attractive blossom, small dark red fruitlets, and dark green bronze leaves of a crab apple tree with the grace and arching branches of a willow tree.
At Gardeners Dream, our new weeping crab apple varieties range from Malus x purpurea (a slender tree with bright purple-red blossom and dark red fruits) to Malus red jade (pink and white flowers with red maroon fruits).
Weeping crab apple trees are typically popular with gardeners who want to enjoy the pretty blossom and russet fruit colour but don't have much space to spare. These crab apple trees tend to have a much narrower spread.
The Siberian crabapple tree is a well-proportioned crab apple with dense clusters of profuse white blossom that develops into yellow fruits from late summer into autumn. These small orange fruits are why this popular crab apple is referred to as the 'Yellow Siberian'.
As an ornamental crab apple, the early season white flowers come into their own by mid-spring. If you have a cherry tree with a dusky pink blossom, this crab apple tree will provide a nice contrast. Just keep in mind that this ornamental variety has inedible fruits!
If you are looking for a more classic crab apple variety, we recommend the Butterball for its orange fruit colour and generous spread, or the Jelly King for a traditional crab apple featuring white flowers. These two species are great for the UK and a much more vibrant alternative to the native British Malus sylvestris.
If you are short on space, a compact upright crab apple will also suffice. At Gardeners Dream, we only select crab apple trees that are suited to the UK climate and are particularly hardy. In general, a bronze-leaved crab apple will resist our cold frosts, wet winters and array of insects and wildlife pests.
As a crab apple tree seller, Malus Prairie Fire had to be included in our range! This upright dwarf crab apple has beautiful dark pink flowers in the spring, developing into tiny scarlet persistent fruits in the summer.
The deep pink blossom can also have notes of purple that compliment the purple notes in the fresh spring leaves - as the months pass, the leaves change to dark lush green before falling in the autumn,
The small persistent red fruits produced by this tree can grow quite large, especially when the tree is mature and the branches have grown into a more rounded shape overall. Unfortunately, the glossy red fruits aren't edible so you cannot make jam with your harvest!
The improved Golden Hornet is another excellent choice if you want yellow crab apples! The persistent yellow fruitlets that grow between the attractive bronze leaves emerge in autumn, a little later than most other crab apple trees. Furthermore, those leaves have a good autumn colour before they drop.
In the spring, however, this tree has pink-budded white flowers, with a pale pink blossom that fades to white as the flowers open fully. Like the fruits, these white flowers tend to emerge later in the season than other crab apple trees, with blooming months from May to June.
Along with the Golden Hornet, we have plenty of crab apple trees to explore. From pink red spring blossom to dark red fruits, you can find some beautiful trees in our selection. Whichever tree (or trees) you select, you'll get free UK delivery. There's no minimum or maximum order amount, and no need to drag a tree home from the gardening centre either!
From profuse white blossom and bronze-green leaves to red-yellow fruits, traditional crab apple trees have some eye-catching features. As well as being notoriously hardy and easy to grow (perfect for beginners), the russet fruit colour isn't just for show - making crab apple jelly is a popular pasttime for many.
If you want to know exactly why we love crab apple trees here at Gardeners Dream, here are the key features to take note of.
If you aren't a fan of the traditional maroon fruits or dark red fruitlets that grow on crab apple trees, that's no problem. At Gardeners Dream, we have numerous crap apple trees that grow persistent yellow fruitlets instead. Trees like the improved Golden Hornet can grow hundreds of golden orange fruitlets that look more like small apricots!
You also have an abundance of shapes and sizes to select from when it comes to crab apple trees. There's so much more variety between Malus fruits compared to traditional apples, pears, plums and cherries.
One thing to keep in mind is that crab apple trees will require maintenance when they fruit - even if you aren't keen on making jelly. Raking up the fallen fruits in the autumn is important, as they will begin to rot otherwise. You can place a good many of these crab apples on the compost heap, so long as you are balancing the nitrogen correctly.
If you would prefer a flowering tree that doesn't come with the hassle of fruits, our horticulturalists recommend taking a look at our Syringa Lilac Trees.
Making crab apple jelly with the fruits of your tree is a wonderful pasttime. The jelly and jam that you make can be a great gift or just a smart way to make your harvest last longer in the kitchen. Crab apple jelly can be made with the fruits of an edible crab apple tree. These are typically orange-red fruits, but some yellow fruits are also edible.
Some popular crab apple trees that we recommend for making jams and jellies include:
Malus 'Pink Glow' - a classic crab apple variety with large pink fruits that grow like plums in the autumn.
Malus purpurea 'Neville Copeman' - purple-tinged green leaves and bright red-orange fruits with a high pectin content, so they're ideal for making jam.
Malus 'Gorgeous' - produces shiny apple-shaped fruits that are sour to eat fresh but delightful when stewed into dessert or simmered into jelly.
Malus 'John Downie' - a classic culinary crab apple that produces pear-shaped fruits that are good for all recipes in the kitchen.
To make jelly, harvest the fruits when they are ripe. Around 1kg will make 800ml of jelly, so make sure you pick all those fruits! You can make crab apple jelly with just caster sugar, lemon juice, and water, thanks to the high pectin content of crab apples.
Most crab apple trees won't produce blossoms and fruits until they are at least 4 years old. Buying your bareroot crab apple trees from Gardeners Dream gives you a head start!
As a crab apple trees seller, Malus prairie fire and various other ornamental fruit trees are available to buy from our range. But while the small dark red fruitlets look tasty, they are inedible. Furthermore, even if you choose a tree with edible yellow crab apples (Malus Butterball, for example) birds may simply be uninterested.
While it is true that in general, crab apples are avoided by most wildlife for tasting too sour, the tree itself can be a great way to support various bird and insect species. The pale pink blossom and bright yellow fruits draw the attention of insects that birds can feast on. Furthermore, the branches of the crab apple trees can support small birds (sparrows, chaffinches, etc.) as they search for a snack.
If your garden is too small for a large fruit tree, any of our crab apple trees will be a great way to attract more life into your outdoor area without taking up too much space.
Whether you opt for a popular weeping crab apple or an upright dwarf crab apple, the pink buds are usually the star of the show. Ranging from white flowers to pink flowers, you can choose from a wide range of shades.
The bright purple-red blossom of some crab apples gives the tree an exotic or oriental feel, while the dark pink flowers of other varieties appear more similar to the blossom of cherry trees. Other popular flowering trees at Gardeners Dream include the Californian Lilac Tree and Robinia False Acacia Tree.
As well as the flowers, the leaves of crab apple trees can be eye-catching too. Bronze-leaved crab apple varieties are common, as well as burgundy shades or a more classic dark green colour. As crab apple trees are deciduous, many also provide fiery shades in the autumn after the fruit has dropped.
Besides having attractive blossoms and cherry-like fruitlets, most modern English crab apple trees are ideal for small gardens. Well-proportioned crab apple trees are usually either the same in height and spread or slightly taller than they are wide. Furthermore, most crab apples have either a canopy-style spread or are a compact upright crab apple - either style leaves plenty of space around the trunk for picnic blankets, bird tables, or just a grassy lawn.
Our favourite crab apple trees for small gardens include:
Japanese Crab Apple - produces a nice umbrella-shaped canopy of dense branches. Growing 20 to 40cm each year, you can prune the branches of Malus floribunda a little to enhance the rounded shape.
Siberian Crab Apple - a slightly larger option, Malus 'Yellow Siberian' has a height and spread of 3-6 metres. Even when mature, it is on the small side of medium! This is a traditional crab apple featuring golden yellow fruits.
New Weeping Crab Apple - there are several weeping crab apple varieties, but one of our favourites is the Malus Sun Rival. This weeping variety is hardy, and exceptionally cold hardy, with a height and spread of just 3 metres. As the name suggests, the branches droop down like a weeping willow.
The smallest of our crab apple trees at Gardeners Dream is the Malus Royal Beauty, which grows to just 2.5 metres in all directions over 20 years. Our narrowest crab apple is the Malus toringo 'Aros' which is an upright tree with a spread of just 1.5 metres!
The attractive dark pink fruits of crab apple trees don't always allow you to create crab apple jelly. In fact, the most beautiful crab apples with orange fruit colour may actually be ornamental! So, let's take a look at other fruit tree varieties that produce bright yellow fruits and tasty treats that you can eat straight off the branches.
There are many varieties of apple trees, pear trees, plum trees, and other plants that have dwarf sizes that are comparable to crab apple trees. If you need help choosing a fruit tree for your garden, don't hesitate to reach out to our expert horticulturalists!
Crab apples are, in some respects, just small apple trees. But if you are eager to sink your teeth into fresh and flavoursome red fruits, then a traditional apple tree may be a better choice. Our top option for you is the Pixie Apple Tree. Malus domestica 'Pixie' blooms with a dusky pink blossom that fades into white flowers, and provides a crop of delicious eating apples in late autumn.
Similarly to crab apple trees, this apple tree is very small - the semi-dwarfing variety reaches a height of 4 metres, and the dwarfing variety reaches a height of 3 metres. If you need a fruit tree for a very small garden, the Pixie is a wonderful choice. Supplied in a 12-litre pot by Gardeners Dream, you can plant it in just the same way as our crab apples.
With early season white flowers and dark red fruitlets with purple shades, the Victoria Plum Tree is another British fruit tree that our customers love at Gardeners Dream. Prunus domestica has the same white blossom as a crab apple, but a slightly later flowering season from April to May. Once the ivory-white blossom has passed, this plum tree is known for growing large fruits with juicy golden flesh.
Again, like crab apple trees, this plum tree is very hardy. It can survive most soils, except excessively chalky or waterlogged soil, and enjoys full sun exposure. At Gardeners Dream, we have this tree available in dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties, and it is self-pollinating so you'll always receive a harvest of fruits after the white flowers in spring.
If it is the attractive bronze leaves and white star-like flowers of some crab apple trees that draw your attention, then the Beurre Hardy Pear Tree is a good alternative. This pear tree has many other things in common with crab apple trees: it is hardy, enjoys full sun or partial shade, and has a maximum height and spread of just 5 metres.
Plant this pear tree, Pyris communis, in slightly sandy yet fertile soil and enjoy bright yellow fruits with a gold rust effect - these delicious pears can be eaten straight from the tree or used in desserts, unlike many yellow crab apples that need to be made into jelly.
One thing that all crab apple trees have in common is beautiful floral displays, from dark pink flowers to white flowers. You also have a wide range of choices when it comes to fruits - from small orange fruits to red-yellow fruits - and leaves that range from light green to red to dark green bronze leaves.
If the gorgeous blossoms are most important to you, we recommend a Japanese crab apple variety - Malus floribunda is a huge people pleaser. At Gardeners Dream, you won't have any trouble finding a crab apple tree that catches your eye.
Modern English crab apple varieties are notoriously hardy. They don't need much to thrive and produce small persistent red fruits! Crab apples can be planted in any soil type so long as it is adequately moist and well-draining (avoid very dry and waterlogged soils), and do well in full sun or partial shade. A good example of a fully hardy crab apple that's perfect for the UK climate at Gardeners Dream is Pink Glow, a flowering crab apple.
In the UK, crab apple trees generally reach maturity within 20 years. You won't typically see the beautiful dark pink flowers or white flowers for 4-5 years after planting them - so you'll be waiting a while to harvest those yellow crab apples! Depending on the variety of crab apple that you choose, you can expect around 15 inches of growth each year. Compared to some fast-growing varieties of Salix Willow and Acer Sycamore Maple, the crab apple is quite slow-growing.
Not all crab apple trees provide edible red yellow fruits, with many ornamental varieties producing hard and inedible red fruits after the white blossom fades. But regardless of whether your red yellow crab apples are edible or not, they aren't a favourite with birds.
Robins and blackbirds may take a nibble of the inner white fruit colour of a standard apple tree, but they aren't interested in crab apples. Nonetheless, the white flowers of the crab apple are great for pollinators and other insects, which can be food for birds. Furthermore, any tree in your garden can provide a place for birds to shelter from the summer sun and in general will support the micro-ecosystem in your outdoor space.
As a general rule, you don't strictly need to plant multiple crab apple trees. You can plant a single crab apple in your garden and enjoy deep pink blossom and red fruits in a handful of years. The advantage of planting multiple crab apples - or any apple trees - nearby, is for pollination, as most crab apples are not self-pollinating. But if your garden is full of garden plants, you needn't worry!
The best time of year to plant crab apple trees is between November and March, after the leaves have dropped but before the white blossom or dusky pink blossom has a chance to bloom. Waiting until mid to late February is often preferable, as the ground will be thawed and a little easier to dig up.
Most fruit trees, from our apple trees to peach trees, are best planted in this window. Make sure you order your fruit trees from Gardeners Dream in the early spring before it's too late!
Crab apple trees are naturally small, with many crab apples reaching mature heights that other trees surpass in a few seasons! The largest crab apple tree at Gardeners Dream is Malus Royalty, a tree that has rich purple and deep pink flowers, rather than white flowers. The red fruits turn a very dark black colour when they are ripe, and the dark red leaves put on a show in autumn - almost like a second wave of crimson blossom. This tree can reach a maximum height of 8 metres and a spread that's roughly the same. On average, most crab apple trees reach the 5-metre mark when mature.