How to prune this overgrown flowering crab apple

listener(4)April 12, 2011

I bought an acre and a half in Vermont and in front of my house sits a crotchety flowering crab apple tree with shooters and crooked limbs all over. Attached you will find a photo that I took last week before the snow melted. I don't know how much you can see in the photo, but if you notice something that I should attend to while pruning this tree in the upcoming days, please let me know.

Here is a link that might be useful: Photo of flowering crab apple

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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

My mature vision would need a better pic of the branch structure.


    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 9:37PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Sorry, but that photo is pretty much useless for pruning advice.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 12:31AM
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terrene(5b MA)

The photo is too difficult to see, especially with snow on the branches, however there is some basic pruning you can get started on. You can prune any broken, diseased, dead, or crossing branches; also prune the water sprouts and suckers, which are those skinny branches that shoot straight up from a branch or from the trunk. I also tended to thin out a larger branch if there were 2 of them about equally sized growing close together. After that, you will probably have a better look at what's left (and can take a better picture).

I had half a dozen fruit trees at my previous house and late winter/early Spring is the perfect time to prune them.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 8:27AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


you are not going take make grandpa look like a 20 something stud ... thru judicious pruning ...

i would have no problem removing anything crossing or injured ....

anything drooping ...

and otherwise.. i might consider planting some replacement trees ... if necessary ... so that in the next few years.. you can get rid of this old man.. IF THAT IS WHAT YOU WANT ...

otherwise.. leave it alone.. forcing your expectation on a geriatric tree.. most likely is not going to work out in the long run ...

seriously.. on an acre and a half .... you need to make this one a project ???? .... hmmm ... i am sure there are a lot of other things that need to be done ....

whatever you decide.. have a great time doing it ... this would be great tree to learn how to prune on ...


    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 9:19AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

I've noticed that most people prune a flowering Crabapple tree as if it were a fruit tree in a orchard. It's an ornamental! Prune it with a little artistry. You're not trying to go for a maximum crop. Go for the 'look' instead.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 11:50AM
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Sorry for the fuzzy, snowy photo before. I'm attaching some better photos from different angles. My goal with this tree, since it's directly in front of my dining room window, is to improve it as much as is possible without devoting too much work, since the tree isn't worth much.

So I know that I should prune shooters and prefer horizontal limbs over vertical ones, but what other advice could you share?

Here is a link that might be useful: Better photos of the crab apple.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 2:50PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

There appears to be a lot of water sprouts on it. I think if you just remove them you may be near the 1/3 max of green you'd want to cut off for this year.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 7:52PM
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How do I distinguish water sprouts from desirable branches? If I cut off the water sprouts and have reached the 1/3 point, can I still cut off dead branches, or would those have to wait until a later year?

Thanks for the advice!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 8:43PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Like terrene mentioned above, water sprouts are the thin branches that shoot straight up. On your second pic, the lower branches arcing to the left and right appear to have many (although looking again some of that may be background stuff) and the main upright on the left side looks to have many coming out of it. The 1/3 rule applies to green branches, cut all the dead branches you see.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 10:04PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Google/google-image water sprouts. That should give you a visual identification. Remove dead, diseased, or rubbing branches when you see them. Don't worry about the amount you remove for these types. For normal pruning, you may want to go even less than 1/3 of the foliage (depending on the circumstances). The more you prune, the more water sprouts you will have to deal with. If you remove a significant amount of the foliage, the tree will often compensate for what you removed by quickly sending up water sprouts in an attempt to replace the lost foliage.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 10:33PM
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