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Flowering Crabapples Cause Springtime Snow Flurries

Flowering Crabapples Cause Springtime Snow Flurries

By Nancy Buley, Director of Communications, J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co.
Photographs courtesy of J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co.

April can be a wild-weather month – a time when snow flurries are unwelcome unless caused by our beautiful white-flowering crabapples. Sure as springtime, their fluffy clouds of fragrant white blooms burst forth in gardens and landscapes and are welcomed by people and pollinators alike.

Last year, I described six white-flowering crabapples in the April edition of In the Dirt: Flowering crabapples file bountiful blooms in lieu of tax returns. Sparkling Sprite®, Spring Snow, Sugar Tyme®, Red Jewel, Adirondack and Sargent Tina are recommended as top performers. This year, I recommend six more white bloomers that add up to a dozen excellent cultivars that deliver good to excellent disease resistance along with their all-season beauty.

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Golden Raindrops® Crabapple (Malus ‘Schmidtcutleaf’)

Elegant and unique among the flowering crabapples, this late-season bloomer is a springtime showstopper. Masses of delicate, long-lasting, fragrant, star-like white flowers smother its strong and slender branches late in the crabapple bloom sequence timeline. Blooms are followed by deeply lobed, disease-resistant, deep green foliage that turns golden-yellow in autumn, often with red and orange highlights. Clusters of tiny golden yellow fruits attract birds and persist into winter, when they sparkle like golden raindrops along its bare branches.

A favorite of mine, the unusual cutleaf foliage of Golden Raindrops® crabapple is exceptionally resistant to scab, making it a great choice for Pacific Northwest gardens west of the Cascades and other regions where apple scab is especially problematic. Susceptibility to fireblight limits its use in areas where weather conditions are favorable for spreading the fungus that causes the disease. USDA Zone 3 hardiness recommends it as a top performer in cold climates.

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Firebird® Crabapple (Malus sargentii ‘Select A’)

Plump, red to pink buds open to fragrant white blooms. Selected as an outstanding performer among Sargent crabapples in the mid-1980’s at Johnson’s Nursery of Wisconsin, this compact cultivar has proven over time to be among the best crabapples for overall disease resistance. A profuse crop of white flowers is followed by crisp, dark green leaves that shine through the summer months. Small, bright red fruits crowd its branches in autumn and well into the winter months, even in cold-winter climates.

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Harvest Gold® Crabapple (Malus ‘Hargozam’)

Recognized as one of the best of the yellow-fruited crabapples, this 1979 introduction of Lake County Nursery (Ohio) features crisp, dark green foliage and an upright branch habit that forms an upright oval canopy. Leaves turn to bright yellow in autumn. Fall display is impressive when its bare branches are laden with bright golden yellow, 1/2” diameter fruits that persist into winter.

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Snowdrift® Crabapple (Malus ‘Snowdrift’)

White flowers crown the dense, rounded canopy of this popular cultivar in springtime. They’re followed by glossy green foliage that has good resistance to scab, fair resistance to fireblight and excellent resistance to cedar-apple rust and mildew. Persistent fruits are orange and about 3/8” in diameter. Introduced by the Cole Nursery Company of Ohio in 1965, this upright spreading tree continues to be widely planted. It is one of the more formal-looking cultivars due to its uniform and symmetrical canopy.

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Donald Wyman Crabapple (Malus ‘Donald Wyman’)

Clouds of white blooms deliver an outstanding springtime display on this tree that grows slightly wider than tall at maturity. First noticed as a spontaneous seedling on the grounds of the Arnold Arboretum prior to 1950, it was remarkable for its unusually persistent red fruit. According to an article in Arnoldia, the journal of the Arnold Arboretum, observers noted that the bright red fruits appeared to ripen throughout the winter months and served “as a source of ‘slow-release’ bird food.” Named for Donald Wyman, prolific author and head horticulturist at the Arnold Arboretum for 35 years, it remains a popular choice among white-flowering crabs.

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Zumi Calocarpa Crabapple (Malus x zumi ‘Calocarpa’)

A top performer for more than a century, this 1905 introduction from Japan is considered by many crabapple experts to be a standard for comparison for white flowered crabapples. Flowering is profuse even on very young trees.

Known by many as Redbud Crabapple, its bright white flowers emerge in spring from fat red buds that are highly ornamental in their own right. Fragrant blooms give way to clean green foliage that stays fresh throughout the summer months. Persistent red fruits cause it to stand out in the landscape through the fall and into winter. Excellent resistance to scab, cedar-apple rust and fireblight, and good resistance to mildew make it widely adaptable and a dependable performer in many climates. 

Regional plant selection guides, arboretums and university extension services are useful in helping you choose the best crabapples for your climate and growing conditions. Our handy Crabapple Information Chart describes nearly 40 disease-resistant ornamental crabapples that offer overall excellent performance. Disease resistance ratings are gleaned from arboretum, university and ornamental crabapple testing sites across the continent, and from our own observations and nationwide trial and evaluation efforts.


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