Wild apple tree: grow guide and characteristics

The common apple tree is well known to all, a crop spread throughout the world that produces one of the most famous and consumed fruits. However, in the botanical world there are many variants and alternatives of species, and one of them closely related to the apple tree is Malus Sylvestris , or as it is commonly known, wild apple tree .

The fruits it produces are well differentiated from the common apple tree. They are much smaller , and it must be taken into account that their cultivation is not focused on professional management as it is done with other varieties. Although they are edible, many of the uses that are given to this tree are ornamental, since in spring it emits a fantastic white bloom that is very attractive for the garden.

Its “wild” name has not been given because it grows spontaneously and derives from the common apple tree. In fact, it is credited with Asian origins from other Malus species However, visually it does not have many visual differences with respect to the tree that we all know, and that is an advantage if we want to use it as an ornamental species for our garden.

This article is dedicated to knowing the main characteristics and cultivation guide of Malus Sylvestris or wild apple tree.


As a tree, its size and structure is very similar to the wild apple tree, perhaps with greater budding and a tendency to branching since professional pruning is not carried out from the first years of life and it leaves a “freer” growth.

Its size, in good condition, exceeds 2 meters in height in adult state, a stage that we can consider to start from the age of 5, already entered into production. In cases where the lateral branches are pruned, it can exceed 3 and 4 meters in height, although it is not common.

The wild apple tree is widely introduced in different European countries . Despite being a crop that requires enough cold hours to produce a good sprouting in the following year, Malus Sylvestris can also be grown in Mediterranean gardens.

Photography: Dr. Reiner Ehrig (Germany)


And is that one of the most visual elements in a garden is the magnificent flowering emitted by many fruit trees and, especially the apple tree. Depending on the growing conditions, the wild apple tree produces a large number of flowers grouped by clusters and which remain on the tree after the leaves have sprung.

All this happens in spring, moving forward in warmer areas (such as the Mediterranean), and pollinating naturally by insects such as bees and bumblebees.


The main difference that we find between the crabapple and the common apple tree is the size of their fruits. They are usually small in size, although the determining factor of their size is the water and the fertilization received. They can be somewhat larger in size, although those grown for gastronomic use tend to be slightly larger than a cherry or pillory.

Harvesting takes place on practically the same date as other pome fruit trees, throughout the month of September . They are totally edible, without any risk, although with a much more acid flavor .

In fact, they are often used to make alcoholic beverages , especially for cider. Its acid content favors the fermentation process and gives this drink the characteristic flavor.

On the other hand, the highly acidic fruits of the wild apple tree are used to make apple cider vinegar and other beverages with a higher alcohol content than cider. It can also be used to make juices when looking for a higher acidity point.


In general, the growing conditions of the 2 species of apple trees that we are mentioning throughout this article are the same. It is true that the common apple tree takes a higher maintenance and fertilization, since it tries to obtain a high productive yield.

However, with regard to the uses of the wild apple tree ( Malus sylvestris ), if we grow it as an ornamental species or to collect its fruits anecdotally in our garden, we are going to know the main maintenance tasks , where irrigation and Pest and disease control is one of the most time-consuming activities.


The crabapple is slightly more rustic than the common, withstanding a higher degree of temperature range. In winter, without leaves, it supports very freezing temperatures , but when budding begins, in early spring, it is much more sensitive, especially its flowers, causing damage when the thermometer crosses 0 ºC.

It is grown in full sun , with good ventilation and an optimal relative humidity from 60%. The disposition to the light will determine the number and quality of flowers produced and, therefore, the volume of fruits and their size.


This type of apple tree adapts without problems to all types of soils , regardless of their texture. In any case, and as a common rule in any garden tree, we must avoid conditions of waterlogging or root suffocation.

And it is that the pome fruit species are quite sensitive to flooded soils , since the well-known Phytophthora fungus lurks , which causes root rot and sap flow blockage.

The pH of the ideal soil is slightly acidic , since the crabapple is quite sensitive to micronutrient deficiencies, especially iron (iron chlorosis ). For this, it is common to use fertilizers rich in this element or those known as iron chelates from sprouting.

If we transplant for the first time in our garden, it will be highly recommended to add at least 10 kg of organic matter together with the soil from our garden. It is also customary to add 100 grams per hole of granulated fertilizer rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, to promote the development of its roots.


Pome fruit trees such as apple trees are demanding in water , especially when fruit production begins and in the hottest months, spring and summer. It is usually watered between 3 and 4 times a week during the productive period, irrigations lasting 1 hour with drip.

The newly planted species and up to 3 or 4 years, it will be enough to place a single dripper emitter, of 4 L / h. Later, it can be expanded to 2 emitters.


Whether you grow your wild apple tree to obtain the fruits in September or as an ornamental species, due to its flowering, in both cases it is advisable to provide fertilizers at the beginning of the productive period. 

At the end of winter, just when we begin to see the buds of the branches swell, it is convenient to start watering and add liquid organic matter to promote root development. We can also resort to providing NPK granulated fertilizer or liquid drip fertilizers.

If we use solid compost, we can apply around the trunk (but not glued), between 100 and 200 grams. If we use liquid fertilizers, look for an NPK with micronutrients rich in nitrogen and phosphorus for the first stages, at a dose of 1 ml / liter of irrigation water.

At the end of the article we add a recommendation of the fertilizers that you can use for the nutrition of this crop.


Pruning is necessary in most fruit trees to create structure, improve ventilation inside the tree and control its growth. The pruning operation on the crabapple is carried out at the end of winter , when all the leaves have fallen to the ground. We will trim the elongated branches and remove crossed or damaged branches.

If we have planted Malus sylvestris to obtain fruits, it is interesting to eliminate the vertical development branches. In this way, it will be much easier for us to collect, without using a ladder.


The stone and pome fruit trees are a great attraction for a multitude of pests and fungi, especially during the initial sprouting and the arrival of good temperatures. At the beginning of sprouting, we will monitor the presence of sucking insects , especially aphids, since it is usually quite common.

Once the tree bears fruit, we will monitor the fruit fly ( Ceratits capitata ), placing traps with vinegar or hydrolyzed proteins to reduce the population and avoid damaging the fruits with bites.

For aphids, you can use an insecticide based on potassium soap , at a dose of 5 ml / L of water, sprayed on the tree and repeating the application 2 or 3 times depending on the progress of the pest.

Regarding diseases , we must monitor the progress of diseases that appear in periods of rain and high humidity , such as the mottled apple tree ( Venturia inaequalis ). A common way to prevent and treat this type of disease is from the different forms of copper that you can find, such as copper oxychloride .

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