Malus

Apple and
Crabapple

Bonsai care and maintenance

The Malus genus consists of approximately 50 species and a large number of cultivars. For bonsai, crabapple species are preferred, with nice small fruit in different colours and shapes. Often the crabapple is simply referred to as 'Apple'. In spring they produce beautiful white or pinkish flowers with five petals and in autumn the beautiful fruit decorate the tree.

Malus or Apple Bonsai video
APPLE INSPIRATION

Apple and Crabapple Bonsai Care guidelines

Placement

The crabapple needs much sunlight and aeration, so place the tree outside in full sun. On the other hand it does not like strong heat, so don't place it in front of a wall which heats up during the day, for example. The tree is frost hardy but crabapples planted in bonsai containers should be protected from strong frosts for safety. We also have a Bonsai fruit tree top 10.

Watering

The crabapple needs a lot of water during the growing season and must not dry out, especially when it flowers or produces fruit. Those will be dropped if sufficient water is not provided in time. In winter the apple must be kept slightly moist. Apples don't like acidic water and soil, so in most cases tap water is just fine for watering. Continue reading about watering Bonsai trees.

Watering

Free lecture from the Beginners Course
Fertilizing

Apply solid organic fertilizer every four weeks or use a balanced liquid fertilizer every week during the growing season. Take care not to use a very nitrogen-rich fertilizer while the tree flowers or develops fruit because this would encourage the tree to grow strongly instead of producing fruit. Always apply the liquid fertilizer on moist soil.

Pruning and wiring

Prune the crab apple in late autumn, after the leaves have fallen. Then flower buds and leaf buds are easily identified and you can take care not to cut off all flower buds. During the growing season trim back new shoots to one or two leaves when they grow overly long and thicken too much. If the tree produces a great number of fruit, remove all but one from each cluster in order not to weaken the tree. Younger branches and twigs can be wired but older ones are quite brittle and you better shape them with guy wires. Continue reading about pruning Bonsai trees.

Repotting

Young crabapple trees should be repotted annually in spring, older ones every two or three years. When the trees get weaker it is important to repot and prune the roots. As the apple bonsai tree needs a lot of water and nutrients, choose a slightly larger pot and use a soil mix which can retain enough water but is still well-draining. Continue reading about repotting Bonsai trees.

Propagation

The crabapple can easily be propagated from seed and cuttings. Air-layering is also possible.

Pests and diseases

Unfortunately the crabapple, like most members of the Rosaceae family, is attacked by a wide range of pests and diseases. Aphids, scale, mealybugs and caterpillars can be removed manually and / or controlled with a specific insecticide. Red spider mites require an acaricide. If mildew or rust occurs, a special fungicide is needed. Apple bonsai trees are also often infected by canker. The tree parts with ulcerations should be cut off, wounds must be sealed carefully and tools disinfected. Use a copper fungicide for prevention. For more detailed information on these techniques, check out our Bonsai tree care section.

Malus, Apple Bonsai
Crabapple Bonsai (Malus)

General information about the Apple Bonsai tree

Crabapples are small deciduous trees or shrubs with oval or elliptic leaves which can also be lobed in some cases and grow in an alternating pattern. They are native to the northern temperate zones and are frost tolerant. The most popular crabapple species for bonsai are Malus halliana, Malus x zumi, Malus toringo, Malus sylvestris, Malus floribunda, Malus baccata and Malus cerasifera, but there are several more which can be used. If you need help identifying your tree, take a look at our Bonsai tree identification guide.

Master the art of Bonsai

Master the art of Bonsai
Overview of our courses

Master the art of Bonsai

Online Bonsai Courses Learn from leading Bonsai experts at your own pace, from the comfort of your living room!

Continue exploring

Fertilizing

Fertilizing

Learn how to fertilize your tree

Fertilizing Bonsai
Tree species

Tree species

Find species-specific information on your tree

Popular tree species
Repotting

Repotting

How to repot your tree

Repotting Bonsai