The native, wild Crabapple tree, Malus sylvestris, is an excellent hedging plant, commonly planted in mixed country hedges. It makes a decent, if unevenly shaped, ornamental tree for an average sized garden and it will also pollinate orchard apples. Native crabapples are very tough and will grow pretty much anywhere except full in shade or on very poor, sandy, dry soils.
Malus sylvestris can reach 9 metres if it grows freely as a tree.
The plants on this page are young saplings, ideal for planting as hedging or in woodland projects. Browse all of our other varieties of ornamental Crabapple trees here; these are sold in larger sizes.
Wild Crabapple hedge plants are only delivered bareroot, during winter (Nov-March).
Choosing a size:
When you are ordering Wild Crabapple plants for a hedge, we generally recommend that you use plants that are graded at 40/60cms or 60/80cms. They are cheaper than large plants, easier to handle and they will establish well in poor conditions. Use the larger, 90/120cms tall plants if you want a high hedge quickly or if you are planting them near to apple tree maidens as pollination partners.
All our hedge plants are measured by their height in centimetres above the ground (the roots aren't measured).
Spacing a Wild Crabapple hedge:
Plant Wild Crabapple hedging at 3 plants per metre, 33cms apart.
You can also plant Wild Crabapple at 5 plants per metre in a staggered double row, with 33 cms between each plant along the row and 40cms between the rows.
General description of Wild Crabapple plants:
These hardy native plants have a shrubby habit when grown as a tree, with densely packed, twiggy branches. They tend not to grow into an even form without a guiding hand to shape them, but be selective with your pruning cuts; too much trimming will just cause the tree to produce loads of new stems. This same quality makes them a great hedge plant, along with their ability to grow almost anywhere. Crabapple is usually planted as country hedging, mixed with hawthorn.
Wild crabapples will pollinate orchard apple trees very well. If you want to start with larger plants for this purpose, we recommend John Downie or Golden Hornet.
History & uses of Malus sylvestris
Malus sylvestris means "forest apple". Modern orchard apples (Malus domestica), with their big, sweet, juicy fruit are not "natural" plants; they were bred by humans over several millennia from wild apples such as Malus sylvestris and the Asian tree, Malus sieversii. Recent genetic research has shown that modern apples are mostly derived from Malus sieversii, with a dash of genes from Malus sylvestris in the mix.
Malus sylvestris is the true wild European crabapple: in general terms, a crab apple is any apple tree with small, hard fruit. Orchard apple varieties do not come true from seed, so their offspring are almost always classed as a crabapple.
Cider brewers often add a bit of crab apple juice to their brews to enhance the flavour, especially when the mix of apples is considered to be too sweet.