How to Plant in a Full-Sun Garden Together With Crab Apple Trees

Whether your lawn features an ornamental or a culinary assortment of crab apple, then the tree leads frothy springtime flowers in addition to fruit that is at least “for the birds” Because “crabs” prefer full sunlight but themselves cast some shade, companion planting can be challenging. Search for neighboring plants which thrive in full sunlight and even work to boost the plant health of the crab apple. Moreover, seek lower-growing plants that will endure dappled shade should they grow under the branches of crab apples and their bigger neighbors. Both dwarf and conventional crab apple trees grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9.


Spring-blooming bulbs are ideal near deciduous small trees such as crabs for many reasons. First, the flowering bulbs finish their blooming periods before the trees leaf out, meaning that you can plant them near and even under the crab apple trees without fear of robbing the bulbs of sunlight. Secondly they suppress shallow-rooted grass and weeds which compete with the nutrients crabs need — by the time the trees start to blossom and fruit, the bulbs have completed their cycles. Daffodils (Narcissus spp., USDA zones 3 to 9) also help shield crab apple trees and neighboring plants because they repel deer over the ground and gophers beneath the ground. If your grow culinary crab apples, stretch the edible landscape motif with bulbs which are both cosmetic and which create culinary plant parts, like garlic chives (Allium tuberosum, USDA zones 4 through 8) as well as tulips (Tulipa spp., USDA zones 3 through 9), which bear edible petals.

Ground Compatibility

Even in a sunny garden, ground covers which can manage some shade are a good choice. All these low-growing plants cover bare patches under the shadier parts of trees, in addition to sunny spaces between crab apples and their neighbours. Periwinkle (Vinca minor, USDA zones 4 through 9), mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus, USDA zones 4 through 9) and liriope (Liriope spp., USDA zones 6 through 10) fall into this group. When you have deep shade behind your crab apple trees, then think about hostas or ferns (hardiness zones fluctuate). On the other hand, patches in front of or between the trees and their neighbors which consistently get sunlight might benefit from perennial white clover (Trifolium repens, USDA zones 4 through 8 ), which leads nitrogen to the backyard while behaving as a living mulch.


A number of flowering perennials will grow either in sunlight or under the dappled shade cast by the crab apple tree. Among them are daylilies (Hemerocallis, USDA zones 4 through 8) and bee balm (Monarda, USDA zones 3 through 10). Additionally, consider herbs, which add beauty to the garden while also attracting beneficial insects. In many cases, herbs also have culinary or scent-crafting price. This collection includes lavender, yarrow, dill, coriander, Queen Anne’s lace and mint varieties. Many herbs have been amenable to a number of growing states and hardiness zones, especially those found in Mediterranean climates.

Shrubs and Trees

Choose shrubs and trees which are either higher in stature to your crab apple, or somewhat briefer. Dwarf fruit trees like pears, apples and plums (zones vary depending on variety and species) are good choices, as are a mixture of additional ornamental and culinary crab apples. The shrubs butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) and fushia (Fuchsia magellanica) — both USDA zones 6 through 9 — are not only ornamental but attract pest-eating birds. These shrubs thrive in sun or partial shade. For planting in the shade of crab apple and other trees, think about dwarf azaleas (Rhododendron atlanticum, USDA zones 5 through 9) and dwarf hollies (Ilex cornuta “Burfordi,” USDA zones 7 through 9), which can manage partial shade.

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