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Planting & Care: Prairie Fire Crabapple Tree

Care Upon Arrival
Bare-root plants need special care upon arrival. Please read the following instructions to help your new plants get off to a good start.

You have received bare-root plants with little or no visible growth. This is normal. Upon arrival, open the packaging and check to make sure the roots feel moist. If they are dry, sprinkle the roots with water until they are moist but not soaked. If you have any questions about the appearance or condition of your plants when they arrive, please call us immediately.

Never expose the bare roots of plants to wind or sun before or during planting. If your ground is frozen, or for some other reason you are not ready to plant, soak the roots in a bucket of lukewarm water for 18 to 24 hours (no longer). You can then delay planting for a week or two if you keep the roots moist and in a dark, cool place where the temperature is above freezing. If the weather is warm, it is best to plant immediately.

Do not store a dormant bareroot plant in a warm place, such as in your house, for more than a week or so. Plants stored under warm conditions are much more likely to be damaged by cold spring weather than are plants kept cool (ideally 35 to 40 degrees F).

Cultural Information
Malus x 'Prairie Fire' is a beautiful species of crabapple that blooms in May with crimson-colored buds that open to 1/2-inch wide, purple-red flowers. Every part of the tree is a feast for the eyes, right down to the dark red bark that resembles cherry. Autumn brings bright orange leaves and shiny red, cone-shaped fruit -— a favorite of songbirds. The fruit reaches 3/8 to 1/2 inches in size and does not drop from the tree. 'Prairie Fire' is hardy in Zones 4-7, is disease-resistant and grows into a low, dense, rounded tree with a mature height and spread of approximately 20 feet.

Planting Location
Soil: Fruit trees don't like wet roots, so well-drained, loamy soil is a must. They should be located where there is good air circulation so their leaves will dry quickly, since moisture helps spread disease. Avoid planting in heavy clay or overly wet soil.

Frost: Flower buds can be easily damaged by late-spring frosts, so avoid planting in a frost-prone area. Cold air flows downhill, making plants located at the bottom of a slope especially vulnerable to frost. Winds are most severe at the top of a hill, so mid-slope is the best planting location.

Sun: Fruit trees need a lot of sun to grow healthy and be productive. If they are shaded by other trees or a building, they will be less fruitful and more prone to insects and disease.

Planting
Step 1. Dig a hole with a diameter twice as wide and deep as the root system. The planting hole should be large enough to allow the entire root system to be covered. Remove the sod and set it aside. Now separate the topsoil and the lighter-colored subsoil into two piles, and remove any rocks from the planting hole.

Step 2. Chop up the sod and put the pieces in the hole, grass side down, so that they don't come in contact with the tree roots. Cover the sod with a little topsoil.

Step 3. The plant should be set into the planting hole at the same depth it was growing in the nursery. (You should be able to see a soil line around the stem which will indicate how deep the tree was planted.)

Step 4. Fill in around the roots, using the topsoil first. Use your hands to firm the soil around the roots and eliminate any air pockets. Fill in about half the planting hole.

Step 5. Pour water into the planting hole until the soil is very wet. Tamp down the soil.

Step 6. Fill in the rest of the planting hole with the remaining topsoil and subsoil. Firm down the soil around the tree and make a "dish" or depression to encourage water to drain toward the tree.

Step 7. We recommend a thick layer of straw, compost, sawdust, aged manure, or other organic material to reduce weed growth and help conserve moisture. As it slowly decays, mulch also provides nutrients for the plant. Mulch should be kept at least one to two inches away from the base of the plant to discourage insects or rodents from damaging the bark.

Step 8. Water the tree until the soil cannot readily absorb any more water.

Step 9. Fruit trees grafted to dwarf rootstock develop smaller root systems than standard-size trees and require some support. After planting, drive one or two stakes into the ground outside the root zone and attach the tree to the stakes using flexible tubing or a cushioned ties.

Leave the support stakes in the ground for the first year. The following spring, release the ties and gently push the tree to one side. If the soil does not break away from around the roots, the support stakes can be removed.

Step 10. Place wire-mesh hardware cloth or a plastic tree guard around the tree trunk to protect it from nibbling rodents and deer.

Watering
Once the trees have been planted and watered well, they will not usually need much water until they begin to grow vigorously. Deep watering once a week is far better than frequent light watering. Thorough watering encourages deep root growth, making the plant less susceptible to drought stress. Water more frequently during dry weather, especially if growing in a container (possibly daily).

Fertilizer
Wait 4 to 6 weeks after planting before adding any fertilizer. Do not apply fertilizer in late summer or fall. This could stimulate new growth that could become injured during winter.

We recommend using a balanced, slow-release fertilizer for overall plant health such as our 5-5-5 All-Purpose Fertilizer

Growing in Containers
Deciduous apple trees require dormancy through the winter to fruit properly the following year. If growing in containers, apple trees need to be brought indoors for storage during their dormant period in winter.

If you're not in a mild-winter zone (zones 7 through 9), apple trees should be moved to an unheated garage or basement after the leaves have dropped, and kept moist with temperatures between 32 and 40 degrees F. Move the trees back outdoors in spring, once temperatures have begun to warm to above freezing.

For best results, make sure to use a large container and replace the planting mix in the containers every spring or amend the soil every year with our all-organic Container Booster Mix. Two tablespoons of the mix recharges 1 quart of soil.

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