This flowering crabapple was left alone for 3 years with no pruning. Regular crabapple pruning is required to have a great looking tree. When pruning an overgrown tree like this after years of neglect, it is best to proceed one step at a time and address one type of defect at a time.
CRABAPPLE PRUNING: ONE STEP AT A TIME
When crabapples are neglected they tend to develop specific types of defects. These defects include:
2) water sprouts,
3) branches growing in odd and incorrect directions, and
4) overgrown terminal branches.
Crabapple pruning requires fixing these defects. This can be a multiyear process if the tree is a real mess. When pruning a neglected tree like this for the 1st time, I address the most important defects first.
CRABAPPLE PRUNING: SUCKER REMOVAL
The 1st step to crabapple pruning is to remove the suckers from the base of the tree. Suckers are shoots that grow from a bud at the base of a tree from its roots or lower trunk. Suckers often grow a lot more than other shoots on the tree. After the 1st year, they start to branch and can quickly take over a tree.
Suckers are often from the rootstock of grafted ornamental trees. If left to grow they can often cause the graft to fail. When this happens, your pretty red leaved crabapple can turn into a nasty regular old apple tree. The kind with big green disease-ridden leaves.
This 1st round of pruning resulted in a substantial amount of wood and leaves being removed from the tree. It also assured that the attractive tree that was planted would be there in the future instead of an overgrown rootstock. As you can see, just doing this step was a big job. It also resulted in a much nicer looking tree.
Pruning off these suckers is as easy as using hand pruners or a pruning saw to cut them off as low to the ground as possible.
On my next post, I’ll continue onto water sprouts and more.
If you have a tree that needs some pruning, you might want to take a look at my Recommended Tools page for some tools to make the job easier.