Family: Rosaceae
Common Name: Crab Apple

This genus comprises around 35 species of hardy, deciduous, small trees or large shrubs grown mainly for their lovely, spring blossom. There is a great range of cultivars grown purely for their blossom, though they also colour well in autumn. The showy, decorative fruit is mostly edible and is used for making jams and jellies. Many varieties grown for their fruit are descendants of .Mains purrrila, the wild or original apple, one of the earliest known fruits. Extensively hybridized to achieve better flavor and larger fruit, they are best grown in cool, temperate climates. Crab apples make pretty specimen trees and are ideal for small gardens.


M. x arnoldiana, zone 4, is an elegant New Zealand hybrid, growing to about 2 m (6 ft) high, with lovely pink flowers and yellow autumn fruit.

M. baccata, zone 2, from Asia, grows to 5 m (16 ft), with white flowers. Var. mandsclrurica has sweetly fragrant, white flowers and red, cherry-like fruit.

M. floribunda, zone 4, grows 5-8 m (16-26 ft) high, acquiring a broad, umbrella shape with maturity. Bright red buds open to pale pink flowers. The fruits are small. This species does well in warmer areas. At. x zurrni var. calocarpa, zone 5, grows to 7m and has a pyramidal habit, white flowers and shiny, bright red fruits held into winter.

M. ioensis, prairie crab, zone 2, is a leafy tree, with a shrubby growth habit. A native of North America, it looks beautiful in late spring with masses of delightfully fragrant, pinkish flowers. It produces one of the finest crab apples, yellowish in colour. Cultivar 'Plena', Bechtel's crab, has double pink flowers.

M. x matideburgensis, zone 4, is a small hybrid, with dense clusters of semi-double, rose-coloured flowers.

M. x purpurea 'Eleyi', zone 4, grows 6-8 m (20-26 ft) tall, with pinky purple flowers followed by cherry-sized, purple-red fruits. It does quite well in warmer areas.

M. spectabilis, Chinese apple, zone 4, grows to 8 m (26 ft), with pink, semi-double flowers and yellow fruit. Cultivar 'Fiore Pleno' has clusters of rose-coloured, double flowers.

M. tschon­oskii, zone 6, from Japan, is a pyramidal tree, to 12 m (40 ft), with pinkish white flowers, brownish yellow fruit and brilliant autumn foliage. At. vunnanensis, zone 6, to 9 m (30 ft), has white to pale pink flowers and small, red fruit. Among the hybrids, M. 'Dorothea', zone 4, to 7m, has rose-pink, semi-double flowers followed by small yellow fruits. M. 'John Downie', zone 2, to 6m, bears white flowers followed by large red fruits.


Malus likes well-drained soil, reasonably rich in humus. It is best grown in full sun with shelter from very strong wind. Species can be raised from seed but generally plants are grafted or budded onto seedling understocks. Most home gardeners do not bother raising their own plants but prefer to buy four-year-old trees from a garden centre or nursery which will generally produce some flowers and fruits in the first year from planting. Best planting time is autumn or winter. Ornamental Malus do not require pruning, except for the removal of any dead or diseased wood.


There are species suited to various climatic zones but all are very hardy to moderately hardy.

Click to view map of zones
Climate zone map
Malpighia      Malva