Crabapple Tree Problems: Common Issues That Might Arise

Crabapple trees are a beloved addition to many landscapes, celebrated for their stunning spring blossoms and colorful fall fruit. However, like all living things, they can sometimes encounter problems.

From leaf discoloration to pest infestations, various issues can affect the health and appearance of a crabapple tree.

In the following, we will explore some of the most common problems that might arise with crabapple trees, their possible causes, and how to resolve them.

Troubleshooting and remedying problems is just one aspect of cherry tree care. Discover the best varieties and pro care tips, learn about routine maintenance and propagation techniques, and much more in my detailed Crabapple Tree Guide.

Crabapple Leaves Turning Brown

One common issue that you might encounter with a crabapple tree is the leaves turning brown.

This can occur for several reasons, including drought stress, scorch from hot, dry weather, or a fungal disease such as apple scab or fire blight.

How To Resolve

If the browning is due to drought stress or scorch, the solution is to ensure the tree is receiving adequate water, especially during dry periods. A layer of mulch around the base of the tree can help conserve moisture.

If a fungal disease is the cause, you may need to apply a fungicide and prune out any infected branches to prevent the disease from spreading.

Yellow Leaves on Crabapple Trees

Yellow leaves on a crabapple tree can be a sign of several issues, including nutrient deficiencies, overwatering, or poor drainage.

Iron deficiency, in particular, can cause a condition known as chlorosis, which results in yellow leaves with green veins.

A branch of a crabapple tree with red fruit in fall.

How To Resolve

If a nutrient deficiency is the cause, applying a balanced fertilizer or a specific nutrient supplement can help.

If overwatering or poor drainage is the issue, adjust your watering schedule, and ensure the tree is planted in well-draining soil.

Red Spots on Crabapple Tree Leaves

Red spots on crabapple tree leaves can be a symptom of a fungal disease called cedar-apple rust. This disease requires two hosts to complete its life cycle: a cedar (or junipe) and an apple or crabapple tree.

How To Resolve

To manage cedar-apple rust, remove any nearby cedar trees if possible, or at least prune them to reduce the amount of fungal spores.

Fungicide sprays can also be used when the tree is flowering to protect it from infection.

Black Spots on Crabapple Tree Leaves

Black spots on crabapple tree leaves are often a sign of a common fungal disease known as apple scab. This disease is most prevalent in wet, humid conditions.

How To Resolve

To control apple scab, rake and dispose of fallen leaves in the autumn to reduce the number of fungal spores that can infect the tree the following spring.

Fungicide sprays can also be used starting when the buds begin to open and continuing until the leaves are fully expanded.

Holes in Crabapple Tree Leaves

Holes in crabapple tree leaves are typically caused by insects. Several types of insects can feed on crabapple leaves, including apple maggots, codling moths, and Japanese beetles.

How To Resolve

To manage insect pests, consider using an integrated pest management (IPM) approach that includes monitoring for pests, promoting beneficial insects, and using targeted pesticides as necessary.

Fungal Infections

Crabapple trees can be susceptible to several fungal infections, including apple scab, cedar-apple rust, and powdery mildew.

These diseases can cause a variety of symptoms, including spots on the leaves, a powdery white coating on the leaves and buds, and distorted or stunted growth.

How To Resolve

To manage fungal diseases, keep the area around the tree clean of fallen leaves and other debris, prune the tree to improve air circulation, and use targeted fungicides as necessary.

Bacterial Infections

Crabapple trees can also be affected by bacterial infections, such as fire blight. This disease causes branches to appear as if they’ve been scorched by fire with dark, wilted leaves and branches.

A man preparing to prune off branches of tree damaged by fire blight.

How To Resolve

To control fire blight, prune out infected branches during the dormant season, making cuts well below the infected area.

Be sure to sterilize pruning tools between cuts to avoid spreading the disease. In severe cases, antibacterial sprays may be necessary.

Pest Infestations

Pests such as aphids, apple maggots, and Japanese beetles can infest crabapple trees, causing a range of damage from leaf holes to reduced fruit production.

How To Resolve

Monitor your tree regularly for signs of pests, and use an integrated pest management approach, which includes promoting beneficial insects, using barriers or traps, and applying pesticides as necessary.

Poor Flowering

Poor flowering in crabapple trees can be caused by several factors, including inadequate sunlight, improper pruning, or a lack of necessary nutrients.

How To Resolve

Ensure your crabapple tree is planted in a location that receives full sun. Prune the tree properly, removing only dead, diseased, or crossing branches, and avoid heavy pruning that can reduce flowering.

Apply a balanced fertilizer, like this one, in the spring to provide the necessary nutrients.

Poor Fruit Production

Poor fruit production can be due to a lack of pollinators, inadequate sunlight, or poor nutrition.

It can also be a natural response to a heavy fruiting year; many apple trees, including crabapples, naturally have “off” years where they produce less fruit.

Crabapples growing on a Dolgo crabapple tree.

How To Resolve

Encourage pollinators in your yard with a variety of flowering plants. Ensure your tree is getting full sun, and provide a balanced fertilizer in the spring.

If your tree has had a heavy fruiting year, it may simply need a rest and will likely return to normal production the following year.

Early Leaf Drop

Early leaf drop in crabapple trees can be a sign of several problems, including fungal diseases like apple scab or stress from drought or other environmental factors.

How To Resolve

If a fungal disease is the cause, use a fungicide, and practice good sanitation by cleaning up fallen leaves.

If environmental stress is the issue, ensure the tree is getting adequate water, and consider mulching to conserve soil moisture.

Slow Growth or No Growth

Slow growth or no growth in a crabapple tree can be due to a variety of factors, including poor soil conditions, inadequate sunlight, or a lack of water or nutrients.

How To Resolve

Ensure your crabapple tree is planted in well-draining soil and is receiving full sun.

Provide regular water and apply a balanced fertilizer in the spring to provide all necessary nutrients.

Closing Thoughts

While crabapple trees can encounter a range of problems, many of these can be resolved with proper care and attention.

Regular monitoring, proper watering and feeding, and timely pruning can help keep your crabapple tree healthy and vibrant. The beauty and benefits of crabapple trees are well worth the effort.