Fine Gardening Project Guides


Guide Home

How to Prune a Crabapple Tree

Follow these steps for a healthier, better-shaped tree

Gary Junken, edited by Cari Delahanty


Steve Aitken visits Joann Vieira from Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts, who explains how these spring-blooming trees are pruned. Learn how to prune a crabapple tree with this step-by-step guide.

1. Begin pruning before the crabapple tree has its leaves. This ensures that you can actually see what you are doing, so that you know which branches should be pruned. It also allows you to see the shape of the tree as it will appear for essentially half the year. And don’t worry about leaving the tree vulnerable to the cold. A crabapple tree pruned before it leafs out is poised to heal.

2. Start at the base. Prune any small suckers or sprouts near the bottom of the tree before they have a chance to disrupt the base.

3. Prune away water sprouts. Clear up interior clutter by getting rid of small branches that have started to grow upright from larger branches. Cut small branches all the way to their origin next to the closest main stem. If a branch is too large to cut easily with pruners, use a folding saw.

4. Keep your eyes out for any branches that are diseased or damaged. Prune away these branches, making sure to make your cuts as close to the main branch as possible. Clean up any ragged edges or bark that was damaged during the cuts so that pests and diseases don’t have a point of entry.

5. Don’t forget to prune higher up too! There are tools that allow you to prune hard-to-reach branches without climbing onto a ladder, such as extension loppers. Crabapples are susceptible to fungal diseases, so the better air circulation that results from a thorough pruning will help to prevent those diseases.

6. Don’t remove more than one-third of the branches while pruning. You don’t want to put too much stress on the tree, because pruning will take recovery time.

7. Enjoy your freshly pruned crabapple tree! 


Previous: Pruning Crape Myrtles the Right Way Next: How to Prune a Japanese Maple
View Comments


Log in or create an account to post a comment.



Expert advice on where, when, and why to trim your plants

View Project Guide

View All Project Guides »

Become a member and get unlimited site access, including the Pruning Project Guide.

Start Free Trial