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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Selecting Crabapples for the Desert

Q. I am hoping to plant two semi -Dwarf Crabapple trees on the west side of my house. Could you please tell me which cultivars will do well here? I am looking for crabapples that are good for raw eating, jelly, and apple butter. I also need to know which are good for cross pollinating each other.  Also, does our local nursery stock these in the fall and spring for planting, or will I need to order them off line?

A. I don't like the idea of putting a crab apple in a Western exposure in our hot desert environment. You run a very big risk of sunburn on the limbs and borer infestations due to the sunburn.

I have never done any trials with crabapple here so Information is limited. I did contact Tom Spellman at Dave Wilson Nursery in California and he confirmed that Dolgo has done well under desert conditions and the fruit has performed well under our conditions. It is an old variety with good fruit and is self-fruitful so you don’t need a pollinator. 
Dolgo crabapple is a good pollinator for crabs that need pollinators. I would start with this one. There are some crabs at Gilcrease but I don’t think they know the variety. It is very possible that some or all are Dolgo. Try to choose varieties that have fruit which mature during cooler times of the year for best flavor.


  1. I'd try a Wickson as the second choice.

    Wickson Crabapple - A big taste in an itty-bitty package. People think it is cute until they bite into it, and then find out that this little apple has a big-apple flavor. It has a crisp white flesh with a clean, powerful sweet-tart taste. The tree is prolific and has showy white blossoms. Purported to make killer cider, but we enjoyed it for fresh eating. We've tried this in different parts of the country, and ours are by far the best we've tasted. Outstanding.

    Wickson Crabapple California, 1930's An Albert Etters hybrid named after Edward J. Wickson, who was called the "Father of California Agriculture" and a mentor to Etters and Luther Burbank. Originally bred for cider, the crisp, yellow-fleshed golf ball-sized apples pack a lot of flavor into a small package, and excel in making flavorful cider, both sweet and hard. They're also good for eating out of hand, and like most sweet crabapples, bear heavily and do quite well in our Southern California climate and ripen from Thanksgiving to New Years.


    Etter 16-32 Crab California, 1944 This crab has a translucent pink skin and pink, fruity-flavored flesh. Has striking pink blossoms in the spring. It has the odd property of producing large amounts of sap at pruning wounds, leaning one to believe that it may be somewhat borer-resistant. A very vigorous tree, early training pulling branches horizontal will help it enter fruiting mode. Ripens late November.

    Hewe's Crab Virginia, 1717 Also known as Virginia Crab, the small but vigorous tree produces small round red and yellow apples with a high astringency. Thomas Jefferson likened crushing them to "wringing out a sponge". It makes a high-quality cinnamon-flavored cider that slowly ferments and was one of Thomas Jefferson's favorite cider apples. The tree has strong biannual tendencies and ripens in late September

    Kerr Crab A flowering crabapple that produces excellent fruit for fresh-eating. As it typical with crabapples, the tree puts on a huge long-lasting display of fragrant blossoms that are self-fertile and will pollinate any other variety of apples. The fruit is a beautiful red and hang on the tree well after ripening. Like the blooms, the harvest is extended over a long season. The fruit has a yellow flesh that is sweet-tart and crisp, good for fresh-eating, cooking, and cider. Tested good in Southern California.

    Rescue Crab Small greenish-yellow fruit with striped dull red over top with a cream-colored flesh. A profusion of white long-lasting blossoms will pollinate any apple. Very sweet for eating fresh and good for preserves. Ripens early to mid August. A reliable annual bearer and tested good for Southern California.