Crabapple, Flowering –
A lovely small tree with dark foliage, ‘Prairiefire’ fills its branches with red buds and deep reddish pink flowers in spring, then dark-red fruits in fall. This hybrid, disease-resistant deciduous tree has an upright and spreading shape with dark green oval leaves. In mid-spring red flower buds arise all along the bare branches and open to magenta-pink flowers before the leaves emerge. The flowers are fragrant and attract bees, then give way to a crop of pea-sized, dark red apples. In autumn the leaves turn mottled green, yellow, orange and orange-red. Birds eat the fruits steadily and can strip the tree by the end of winter.
Plant ‘Prairiefire’ in full sun in any moderately fertile, deep, well-drained soil that is moist throughout the growing season. Although it tolerates some drought, this tree will look stressed, even shabby, unless watered during prolonged dry periods. It is not well-suited to long, humid, wet summers or the heat and aridity of low deserts. It needs a long period of cold in winter to flower fully in spring. Use this small tree as a specimen in the lawn, by the street, as an espalier, or to soften a corner.
Select a site with full sun and well-drained soil.
Plant in spring or fall. Space plants 10 to 20 feet apart, depending on the expected mature size of the variety. Dig a hole only as deep as the rootball and two to three times as wide. If your soil is in very poor condition, amend the soil you’ve removed from the hole with a small amount of compost. Otherwise don’t amend it at all. Carefully remove the tree from the container and set it in the hole. Fill the hole half full with soil, then water it well to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets. Let the water drain, then fill the remainder of hole with soil and water thoroughly.
Apply a layer of compost under the tree each spring, spreading it out to the dripline (the area under the outermost branches). Add a 2-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds, keeping mulch a few inches away from the tree trunk. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. Crab apples require little pruning once established. In late winter, prune dead, diseased, and broken branches and trim off any sprouts that arise at the base of the tree.
Winchester Gardens generally stocks this item.