Crabapple Tree Not Leafing Out – What To Do?

Like any other tree, crabapple trees can suffer from various issues that may prevent them from leafing out. This can understandably be frustrating for a homeowner who looks forward to having a beautiful blossoming tree in the spring months. But what causes this is? And how do you fix it? We have researched the most common reasons why crabapple trees may not grow leaves. In this post, we will go over them with you.

When a crabapple tree fails to leaf out, the issue is usually due to malnutrition, improper maintenance, or pest problems. Factors such as unhealthy soil, a lack of fertilization, and over or under-pruning can place a lot of stress on the crabapple tree, preventing it from blooming. Sometimes, this can also be caused by watering or fungal diseases attacking the tree at the roots.

Identifying common crabapple tree issues is your best defense to preventing problems with leaf growth. Inspecting your tree to discover any possible nutrient our pest issues can help you get your tree back on track so it can produce beautiful foliage and healthy crabapples. Continue reading to learn how to recognize common issues that may affect leaf growth and fix them.

Crabapple berries photographed on a sunny day, Crabapple Tree Not Leafing Out - What To Do?

Reasons Why Your Crabapple Tree Won't Leaf Out

Lack of minerals and nutrients

When grown in their natural habitat, crabapple trees enjoy the benefits of natural nutrient-rich soil from various wildlife and decomposing trees. When you plant a tree in your yard, the soil must contain enough nutrients to give the tree what it needs to sustain itself. If the soil doesn't have many nutrients, you can always add fertilizer and mulch to help improve its condition.

On average, crabapple trees prefer soil with a neutral to slightly acidic pH and a reasonably even mix of the main plant nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium).

Crab apple berries photographed on a sunny day

This is especially important if you have a row of crabapple trees planted within short distances to one another. If there is a lack of nutrients in the soil, you may find that some trees will thrive while others may not grow leaves at all.

The best way to prevent this issue is to keep an eye on your tree and create a fertilizer schedule so that it's not starving for nutrients. It's also helpful to conduct a soil pH test every 3-6 months to ensure that the soil has enough minerals and nutrients to help the tree sustain itself.

Opportunistic Pests

If your crabapple tree has become riddled with pests, this can also affect its ability to grow leaves. Tree pests can eat away at the tree's bark or affect the tree at the roots, causing it to fall into a state of high stress. As a result, the tree will fail to grow leaves and begin to die if left untreated. Let's look at the most common type of crabapple tree pests and how to eradicate them.


Aphids are common pests that arrive in the blooming season. They feed on leaves and branch tips, sucking away vital hydration resources for the tree. They'll also leave a black sooty mold on the branches and leaves of the tree, which can cause these areas to decay. The best way to get rid of aphids is to use an insecticidal soap or horticultural spray at the start of the blooming season while they are still larvae.

Check out this insecticidal spray on Amazon.


Mites are another crabapple tree pests that can cause severe issues if they're not eradicated earlier. The voracious feeding activity of mites can quickly affect the health of your crabapple tree, wreaking havoc on its leaves and branches, reducing its ability to flower the following year. If you notice that your crabapple tree is beginning to develop a reddish appearance on the branches and twigs, the chances are that it has a mite infection.

The best way to rid the tree of this infection is to use a spray or insecticide such as neem oil or Trifecta Crop Control. Mites are dedicated pests, so you'll likely need to apply multiple applications of the insecticide each season.

Find Trifecta Crop Control on Amazon.

Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetles love crabapple trees, and they can cause significant damage to the branches and leaves of your tree. If left untreated, they can cause your tree to struggle with blooming the following season. The best way to eradicate this particular plant pest is to use a strong insecticide that contains lambda-cyhalothrin, chlorantraniliprole, or neem oil.

Find neem oil on Amazon.

Restricted Root Space

While the roots of crabapple trees are not invasive, they can suffer from malnutrition if the trees are spaced too close together, especially when there is a lack of nutrients in the surrounding soil. As crabapple trees grow, the tree's roots will spread considerably beyond the edges of its canopy. It's essential to consider this when planting a crabapple tree. To ensure that the trees aren't competing for root space, it's best to plant crabapple trees at least 7 to 15 feet apart so that their roots are not limited.

It's also important to ensure that the trees' soil remains moist, well-draining, healthy, and full of nutrients. Fertilizer and mulch applications can help ensure the plant has a healthy bloom at the beginning of the spring. Crabapple trees with a fertilizer with even nutrient ratios of 10-10-10, though all-purpose fertilizers will work as well.

Check out this fertilizer on Amazon.

Improper Pruning

Improper pruning can also play a part in a crabapple tree's inability to leaf out, and in some cases, can reducing or prevent the bloom for the following season. To prevent this, ensure that you are only trimming away dead branches and not more than 1/3 of the tree's canopy, as it will need time to recover from the pruning. If not, the tree may struggle to breathe absorb water as a result.

Learn more about these pruning shears on Amazon.

Fungal Issues

Crabapple trees can also suffer from typical fungal issues such as leaf rust, root rot, mildew, and apple scab. The best way to prevent these issues is to inspect your tree for signs of inspection continuously. Common signs include yellowing, browning, or wilted leaves, as well as deformed or scabby fruit. You may also notice a foul smell coming from the soil beneath the tree, which most likely indicates a root infection.

The faster you diagnose the fungal infection, the faster you'll be able to treat it and prevent it from damaging the entire tree. The most common remedies for the infection are anti-fungal sprays such as Liquid Copper, Daconil, and Spectracide.

Read more details about Spectracide on Amazon.

What does it mean to leaf out?

To "leaf out" refers to a tree's ability to grow leaves. This usually refers to deciduous trees as they'll typically lose their leaves in the fall and winter months and regrow them in the spring and summer months.

How do you rejuvenate a crabapple tree?

A crabapple tree photographed on a sunny day

The best way to rejuvenate a crabapple tree is to provide it with the care and maintenance needed to thrive. This includes everything from ensuring that its soil has the proper nutrients and free of common pests and fungal issues. The first step to rejuvenating the tree is to diagnose any issues that may be causing stress on the tree and mitigate them. Reviving the tree may typically include applying pesticides, fungicides, correcting watering issues, pruning the tree, and applying fertilizer.

Can a tree survive with no leaves?

It depends on the type of tree. Some trees do not grow leaves, while others will grow them every spring. However, if you have a deciduous tree that usually grows leaves in the spring and it's suddenly failing to do so, the chances are that it's in a high state of stress. If the tree is left in this state, it can eventually die. So it's best to determine what issues may be preventing the leaves from growing.

How do I know if my crabapple tree is dying?

The most common sign that a crabapple tree is dying is when it fails to produce leaves and fruit during the spring blossom. You may also notice any leaves that grow on the tree or a wilted, deformed, or smaller than normal. Lastly, the bark of the tree may change color, develop cracks and break off. Also, if the fruit of the tree becomes deformed or develops scabs, this can signify that the tree is suffering and in a state of ill-health.

Wrapping Things Up

Crabapple berries on the crabapple tree taken on a sunny day

We hope that this post has been helpful and illustrating the most common reasons why a crabapple tree may fail to grow leaves. Remember, the best way to prevent issues with your tree is to stay on top of any signs of plant stress, most notably on the tree's leaves, fruit, and branches.

Before you go, be sure to check out our other posts:

Does Hawthorn Grow In Shade?

How Long Do Hawthorn Trees Live?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *