I have two flowering crab apples planted 2 yrs ago beside each other (20 ft apart). When they went in they were identical. However for two years the one has flourished and the other is anemic, such that one has a 2.5 inch dia trunk and the other one has a 2.25 inch trunk. The most striking difference is the leaf size: the healthy one has many leaves 2 inches long and the anemic one has only a half the number of leaves about 1 inch long.

Is this a serious problem? Should I just wait for the weak tree to pull out of it?

Any suggestions for the weak tree?

  • 1
    What is the difference in location? For example, does one get more shade, or does one have better drainage or more water? (water could be something like a neighbour's irrigation that you might not think of)
    – winwaed
    Commented Jun 22, 2011 at 12:25
  • They are in a courtyard in the middle of my property. So, they are isolated frm outside influences. They were planted at the same time with the same soil source. The differences are:
    – Roseann
    Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 4:16
  • Healthy : partial sun, shaded at base, planted in 4x6 ft hole. Weak: full sun, partial sun at base, planted in 4x4 ft hole
    – Roseann
    Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 4:21
  • I don't know your climate, but could the weak one be drying out more? i don't know if crab apples 'deliberately' adapt to conditions but if they did, "smaller leaves in the sunnier location" is just what you'd expect. Smaller size could then be a follow-on due to less photosynthesis.
    – winwaed
    Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 12:59
  • And, are they identical rooting stock and graftings? Apples do not come 'true' -to have a particular variety, you need a plant of the required variety grafted on suitable rooting stock (rooting stock can control tree size - eg. traditionally large tree variety can be made small by grafting it onto 'dwarf' rooting stock)
    – winwaed
    Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 13:01

1 Answer 1


There are a lot of variables in this equation. The best thing to do in my mind would be to start eliminating some of the variability and see if you can nail down a possible source of the problem. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Take a soil sample from somewhere near each of the trees and get it analyzed. I don't know where you live so I can't recommend anywhere, but if you are in the US then your local extension office will be the most likely place to go. They may even be able to speak to your specific situation

  2. Investigate any moisture imbalance between the two trees. Is the soil around one wetter than the other? Does the soil drain better around one than it does around the other?

  3. As a commenter mentioned is there a solar imbalance between the two locations? Does the tree that's thriving have access to more sun than the other one?

  4. Look for signs that pests are attacking the more anemic looking tree. It doesn't sound like they are going after the leaves, but they can attack in other ways either at the roots or inside of the tree.

These are just the starting points. I don't have any ideas about your specific situation, but these would be the places I would start looking for a cause.

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