Crabapples are popular ornamental trees in Colorado especially along the Front Range of Colorado and their flowering announces the arrival of spring.
Their blossoms appear generally from April to May depending on variety but this season they have appeared one to three weeks earlier than normal. Crabapple flowers may be single (5 petal), semi-double (6 to 10 petals) or double (more than 10 petals). Single-flowered crabapple varieties tend to bloom earlier and currently many are in full bloom. Semi-double and double flowered varieties tend to bloom later in the spring season. Actual dates of blossoming can vary each year depending on weather conditions and this spring they seem to be earlier than normal. Also, the length of blooming period can range from 1 to 2 weeks depending on variety and weather conditions. Cooler weather will prolong their bloom period.
Crabapple flower buds are even attractive before they are fully open, developing color as they swell – called the balloon or bud stage. The balloon may be a different color than the later mature flowers.
Crabapple flowers are a welcome sign of spring and this year’s flower abundance along the Front Range seems exceptionally outstanding.
Colorado State University has been evaluating crabapple varieties for over 30 years for ornamental features and for disease and pest resistance.
A few single flowered forms that have done exceptionally well in our trials include:
- Cardinal – with pink to white single flowers with reddish new leaves and good disease resistance
- Spring Snow – single white very early fragrant flowers with bright green leaves and very popular because it produces no fruit
- Royal Raindrops – with single pink to red flowers with cutleaf purple leaves turning orange red in fall
- Sentinel – red balloon to white early flowers with upright growth habit and good for narrower spaces
Semi Double Types:
- Coral burst – has pink to rose semi-double flowers and available in both tree or shrub form and an excellent patio plant
- Brandywine – has double pink rose flowers that are later to bloom, but has many larger fruits and exfoliating bark. It is one of the better double flowered forms.
By choosing to plant some crabapples of all three types you can enjoy the flowers of crabapples over almost a six to eight week period of time given favorable weather conditions.