Problem with Crabapple Tree Suckers

themirouxtreeOctober 16, 2008


I have what I believe to be a beautiful flowering crabapple tree in the side yard.

The past two springs I have been awe struck by the beauty of the "tree" while it is covered in bright pink blooms.

The main problem is that the entire original tree seems to be overrun with suckers growing from ground.

I did not get a good picture of it while it was blooming, but I took the second picture this morning to show how truly overrun it is.

I am wondering if there is any hope for this beautiful tree.

I was thinking about trying to cut off all but the three or four "trunks" that look like they may have been the original tree.

Is this a horrible idea?

Also, if pruning off all of the suckers is the way to go, when is the best time to do this?

I have read many conflicting reports on the subject, but I still have no idea what to do.

Any help on the subject will be greatly appreciated.


Here is a link that might be useful: Overrun Crabapple

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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

I couldn't quite tell, but am I correct in assuming the sucker growth has leaves which are slightly different than the main body of the tree? And that its the main body that you find desireable?

Someone here will for sure point you towards fall or spring cutting being preferable in general for crabapples. I have the additional question of "Is this a multi-step process, is that too much pruning to do at one time?"

I try not to cut too many branches on my smaller trees at once. Figure they don't like to lose much moisture that way.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 3:30AM
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Thanks for replying.
The leaves (and flowers for that matter) on the sucker growth are identical to that of what I assume to be the main tree.
The only things I find desirable are the amazingly beautiful blooms in the spring and that fact that I grew up loving flowering crabapple trees.
This specimen obviously was not well cared for by the previous owners and I am trying to save what I hope could someday be a beautiful tree.
Now that the leaves have fallen off for the winter I can see what I assume may be the original "trunk" of the tree.
There are 3-4 large "trunks" and the rest are what I assume to be scraggly, long, twiggy sucker branches.
I was hoping someone would be able to tell me whether or not this tree could be salvaged and nursed back to help and if so, exactly how I could do this.
Thanks again!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2008 at 10:11AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

here is the key: 'This specimen obviously was not well cared for by the previous owners and I am trying to save '

FIRST .... why are you going to invest so heavily [emotionally] in a plant that the prior owner ruined ....

for about $25 bucks... you can buy a new one... and in a few years... be sooooo happy with it ...

crabs are notorious for suckering.... and now that you have multiple trunks.. you are going to have hundreds of suckers ... FOREVER ... you will spend many hours every summer trying to prune them out .. its a nightmare ...

and... if the original plant was grafted... then you may have 2 different trees there ...

listen ... when i bought my first house... i tried to save everything in the yard.. for the history of it all ... and frankly.. spent 10 years... living a nightmare of trying to make bad plants do good things ... the day i finally removed the last nightmare... was the day that my garden became a joy to be in ...

get rid of other peoples problems.. and create your own... lol ...

crabs mail order rather cheaply.. and easily ... bare root in very early spring... i cant be more precise.. since you dont tell us where you are ....

i doubt i will convince you... based on your prose .... but in 5 years... you might just be saying.. man.. i wish i had put in a new one 5 years ago .... lol..

good luck


    Bookmark   November 12, 2008 at 1:27PM
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Thank you for your post. You may be surprised (based on your assessment of my "prose" lol), but I have been thinking along those same lines recently. I think I will let it bloom one more time this spring and then take it out. There is also a horrible looking shrub that is possibly a "Mock orange" that I have tried (for three years now) to prune into some semblance of order. I think I will take your advice and rip that one out as well. I will definitely look into the mail order thing. Thanks again for your advice. Hopefully in five years I will be saying, "Damn, that Ken guy was right!" :)

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 5:45PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Disclaimer first - I am not a tree expert and I don't know anything about gardening in your area and I may be on totally the so track but.....

You say "I have what I believe to be a beautiful flowering crabapple tree..." but you only mention flowers not fruit. I am wondering if this IS a crabapple. It is a funny looking one if it is. I can't see the picture very clearly but is it possible that it is something else? Maybe something on the lines of a Deutzia or Kolkwitzia? Could you give us a close up of the twigs/buds/bark? That should be enough to id a crab, even in Winter.

My second point is that both this and the shrub to its right appear to be leaning towards the left of the photo. Is there something, eg a tree or building, which is causing them to seek the light in this way? If so before you put another plant there might want to think about its light requirements.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 6:16AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

mock orange is a wonderfully fragrant.. incredible plant for about 2 weeks per year ....

the rest of the year.. it is one of the ugliest .... i wont mention which party of the body ugly ... plant in the garden ... it will never submit to pruning in any shape but that which it wants to grow ...

i have 5 acres.. i have room to keep such ... simply for those 2 weeks ..

when i lived in suburbia .. based on what i know now... it would be a waste of precious space ...

a smallish daphne .. if zone appropriate would be much more manageable ...


    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 9:03AM
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After all that.... I'm pretty sure that you are right, flora. After some more researching on the internet, I think I have finally solved the puzzle. This is most likely not a crabapple at all, but a flowering quince. I'm not sure how I originally got the idea that this is was a crabapple (maybe I just want one in my garden). All along I thought it was not producing fruit because it was in decline. The shape of the plant is still a little odd for a flowering quince, but at least now I know that all the "extra" trunks are meant to be ther and are not suckers.
Thanks for your help!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 5:25PM
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