Gardeners value Prairie Fire crabapple trees for their showy, dark pink flowers, disease resistance and colourful foliage. This versatile tree adapts to a wide range of soils and situations, making it suitable for most home landscapes. Use this tree as a street or specimen tree, prune it as a standard or use it for espalier. Well-suited to wildlife gardens, Prairie Fire attracts songbirds.
These deciduous fruit trees grow 15 to 20 feet tall with a similar spread. The colourful foliage starts out purple, changing to reddish-green as it matures, and then to a coppery colour in fall. Abundant, 1-1/2-inch-diameter dark pink flowers bloom in spring. The 5-inch-diameter, red, fleshy fruit that follows the flowers hangs on the tree into winter, providing a valuable food source for birds. Prairie Fire Crabapple trees usually have multiple trunks with an attractive shape that, along with the persistent fruit, keep the tree interesting in winter.
Prairie Fire crabapple trees need full sun and adapt to a wide range of soils. It tolerates compacted urban soil, drought, salt spray and poor drainage. It doesn't tolerate soils with a high pH. Prairie Fire makes a good street tree, and its low height makes it suitable for growing under power lines. The dense foliage creates good shade. It works well as a specimen tree; however, the large fruit can make a mess on decks and patios. It is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 4 to 8.
Prairie Fire crabapple is a low-maintenance tree, but it needs pruning in late spring. Use clean pruners and loppers to prevent the spread of disease, and if you suspect the tree has a disease, use disinfectant wipes on the blades between cuts. Keep the blades sharp so that they make clean cuts that heal quickly. Remove suckers from their point of origin to keep them from regrowing. Remove middle branches to provide good air circulation.
Pests and Diseases
Prairie Fire has strong resistance to apple scab, fireblight, cedar-apple rust and mildew. The tree is attractive to apple maggots, though, so avoid planting it near apple orchards where the insect can seriously damage crops. Apple maggots tunnel through the fruit, leaving brown tracks. Hang sticky traps and jars of molasses soap and ammonia to trap and kill the insects. These traps won't get them all, but they minimise the damage to an acceptable level. Aphids often infest the branch tips and foliage. Use horticultural oils according to the label instructions. If fall webworms become a problem, remove the nests manually and spray with Bacillus thuringiensis.
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