How to Prune a Crab Apple Tree

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Find out how to prune a crab apple tree in this blog post. You’ll learn when is the best time to prune and how to properly cut the tree.

Checkout this video:

Crab apple trees generally don’t require pruning, but if you want to, here’s how

Early spring is the best time to prune your crab apple tree. You should prune while the tree is dormant, before new growth begins.

Start by removing any dead, diseased, or damaged branches. Cut these back to the main trunk or to a healthy side branch.

Next, cut back any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other. These can cause damage and leave the tree vulnerable to disease.

Finally, thin out the canopy of the tree by cutting some of the branches back to the trunk or to a side branch. This will increase air circulation and allow sunlight to reach the lower leaves and branches. It will also make the tree less susceptible to wind damage.

Don’t remove more than one-third of the tree’s branches in any one year. If you do, it can stress the tree and cause new growth that is weak and vulnerable to breakage.

Pruning in late winter or early spring is best

Pruning in late winter or early spring is best.

Before pruning, take a good look at the crab apple tree and consider its natural shape. You may want to prune to remove any dead, diseased or damaged branches. You may also want to prune to thin out the canopy to allow more light and air to reach the inner branches and fruit. Or you may want to prune for size control.

When pruning, make sure to use sharp, clean pruning shears. Make cuts at a 45-degree angle just above an outward-facing bud or branch. Avoid leaving stubs, as these can invite disease.

Cut away any dead, diseased, or damaged wood

Cut away any dead, diseased, or damaged wood, as well as any branches that are rubbing together. Also remove any branches that are growing in toward the center of the tree (these are called “included bark” branches). These types of branches can weaken the tree and make it more susceptible to breakage.

Cut away any crossing, rubbing, or crowded branches

Topping crab apple trees is not recommended, as it promotes suckering. Suckers are fast-growing shoots that come up from the roots and are difficult to remove. Instead, prune your crab apple tree each year to remove any crossing, rubbing, or crowded branches.

When pruning, always make your cuts just above a bud that is pointing in the desired direction of new growth. Crab apple trees produce fruit on last year’s growth, so be sure to leave enough of last year’s branches to produce a good crop of fruit.

Cut away any branches growing toward the center of the tree

One of the most important crab apple tree pruning tips is to remove any branches that are growing toward the center of the tree. These are called “inward-growing” or “crowding” branches, and they can eventually cause the tree to become misshapen or even choked off at the center.

Inward-growing branches should be cut back to the point where they join another branch or the trunk of the tree. It’s important not to leave a stub, which can lead to disease or insect problems.

Cut away any suckers growing from the roots

Suckers are fast-growing, vertical shoots that develop from the roots of a crab apple tree. If left unchecked, suckers can rapidly rob the tree of valuable nutrients, water and sunlight, potentially stunting its growth or even killing it. For this reason, it’s important to remove suckers as soon as they appear.

The best time to prune suckers is in late winter or early spring, before new growth begins. Cut suckers off at their point of origin using a sharp pair of pruning shears. Make sure to sterilize the shears with rubbing alcohol or a household disinfectant before and after use to prevent the spread of disease.

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books

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