Wild Crab Apple Hedge Plants
Malus sylvestrisHedge Plants
- Native tree, dense & bushy.
- Pink-white flowers & edible fruit.
- Pollinates orchard apple trees.
- Ideal country hedging.
- Max. Height: 10m
- Bareroot Delivery Only: Nov-Mar
Malus sylvestris: Bareroot Hedging
Delivered by Mail Order Direct from our Nursery with a Year Guarantee
The native, wild Crab apple tree, Malus sylvestris, is an excellent hedging plant, commonly planted in mixed country hedges, and pretty enough to make a decent ornamental tree for an average sized garden.
The glossy leaves have serrated edges and turn yellow in Autumn. The glorious white and pink blossom is sweetly scented.
To a varying degree depending on age and location, it has spines.
The plants on this page are young saplings, ideal for planting as hedging or in woodland projects. Browse our ornamental Crab apple trees here (these are sold in larger sizes), or view our selection of native hedging and our full range of hedging plants.
Wild Crab apple hedge plants are only delivered bareroot, during winter (Nov-March).
Choosing a size:
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 apple trees as pollination partners.
All our hedge plants are measured by their height in centimetres above the ground (the roots aren't measured).
- Sizes available: 40/60cm, 60/80cm, 90/120cm
- Almost any soil except very poor or waterlogged.
- Tolerates dappled shade.
- Edible fruit.
- Fragrant white blossom with hints of pink.
- Height: To 9m
- Pollinates orchard apple trees
- Bareroot Delivery Only: Nov-March
Growing Crab Apples
Native crab apples are very tough and will grow pretty much anywhere except in full shade or on very poor, sandy, dry soils.
These hardy 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 quality makes them such a great hedge plant), so focus on removing inward growing stems, and if you want to remove a large branch, consider doing it in chunks over two or three years if you can.
Spacing a Crab apple hedge:
Standard country hedging: plant at 3 per metre, 33cm apart in a single row, or 5 per metre in a staggered double row, which has a W shape viewed top-down.
Wild Crab Apple in your Garden
As a hedge, it is invariably mixed with Hawthorn to give it more strength, and because it will look even lovelier with the different blossom, leaf colour, and fruit. It is a classic component of mixed country hedging.
It makes a decent, if unevenly shaped, ornamental tree for an average sized garden.
Did You Know?
The origin of the name crab in this context is uncertain. It could be derived from Old Norse for wild apple, or it could be related to their taste being likened to a sour, unlikeable, crabby person. However, the most likely etymology was put forward by our neighbour's nine-year-old, a renowned apple scholar, whose extensive research shows that the mature tree's branches look like crab legs.
Malus sylvestris means "forest apple". Modern orchard apples (Malus domestica), with their big, sweet, juicy fruit are not naturally occurring plants; they were bred by humans over several millennia from wild apples such as these and the Asian apple 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.
This is the true wild European crab apple: 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 crab.
For the most part, crab apples are too hard and astringent to eat fresh, but make a splendid apple sauce or jelly, and cider brewers often add a bit of the juice to their brews to enhance the flavour, especially when the mix of apples is considered to be too sweet.
Growing Wild Crab apple plants:
Crab apples will grow well in almost any conditions, apart from deep shade and very thin, poor, dry soils. They love moist, heavy clay and tolerate winter waterlogging.
Prepare your site before planting:
Native hedge plants like Wild Crab apple are very tough. The only essential preparation is to kill the weeds in a strip a metre wide along the planting site: improving the soil should not be necessary. If your soil is exceptionally poor and dry, then digging in some well rotted manure and/or compost is worthwhile.
Watch our video on how to plant a country hedge for full details.
Remember to water establishing plants during dry weather for at least a year after planting.
Hedge Planting Accessories:
Prepare your site for planting by killing the weeds and grass with Neudorff WeedFree Plus.
You can buy a hedge planting pack with sheets of mulch fabric and pegs to hold it down.
If you are planting in an area with rabbit and/or deer, you will need to use a plastic spiral guard for each plant, supported by a bamboo cane.
If your soil quality is poor, we recommend using mycorrhizal "friendly fungi" on the roots of new trees and shrubs.
You can also improve your soil with bonemeal organic fertiliser and Growmore.
After you have planted your Wild Crab apple hedge, the most important thing to do is water it in dry weather. You will also need to weed around the plants. Watering should be thorough, so the ground is soaked. Let the soil almost dry out before watering again. Watering & weeding will be necessary for at least a year after planting.
Trimming Country hedge plants: Wild Crab apple is a vigorous, native hedging plant that benefits from being cut back hard right after planting, as shown in the country hedge planting video. In the following years, your young hedge should be trimmed lightly once in winter, until it is mature. When it is fully grown, you can clip it at anytime. A good time to clip Wild Crab apple hedging is after the plants bear fruit in autumn.
Special notes on caring for Wild Crab apple hedges:
Wild Crab apple is a very tough hedge plant that shouldn't need special attention once it has established. If you didn't use a mulch fabric, it is beneficial to mulch around the base of the hedge each year.
Hygiene & Diseases:
Dead, damaged or diseased wood can be pruned off as soon as it appears.
Disinfect your pruning tools between every cut if there is any sign of disease.
Burn or dispose of any diseased material, do not compost it.