By: Ilana Goldowitz Jimenez, Plant Scientist & Writer
Like its relatives, the apple, pear, and crabapple trees, the English hawthorn is a prolific flower producer in spring. This tree is a beautiful sight when it’s covered with an impressive quantity of small flowers in shades of white, pink, or red. And it can grow in difficult environments most trees will not tolerate. Read on to learn about English hawthorn care.
What is an English Hawthorn?
English hawthorn, or Crataegus laevigata, is a small to medium-sized tree native to Europe and North Africa. It typically grows to reach 15 to 25 feet (4.5 to 7.5 m.), with a similar spread. The tree has lobed, green leaves and attractive bark similar to that of an apple tree. The branches of most varieties are thorny. English hawthorn is adapted to USDA zones 4b to 8.
English hawthorns are commonly used as street trees and in urban landscapes, since they are tolerant of poor air and soil conditions and can be grown successfully even where the roots will be confined to relatively small spaces. They are also grown as bonsai or espalier trees.
Abundant flowers in white, pink, lavender, or red appear on the tree in spring, followed by small red or orange fruit. Varieties bred for specific flower colors or with doubled flowers are available.
How to Grow English Hawthorn
Growing English hawthorns is easy. Like all hawthorn trees, they can tolerate a wide range of soil pH and moisture conditions, though the trees do not tolerate salt spray or saline soil.
When choosing a site for the tree, be sure fallen fruit will not be a nuisance. These trees grow relatively slowly, but they live 50 to 150 years. For optimal English hawthorn care, plant in well-drained soil in sun to light shade and water regularly. However, established trees can tolerate dry conditions.
English hawthorn trees are susceptible to several diseases, including leaf blight and leaf spot, and they are susceptible to fire blight and some other diseases that affect apples. Some cultivars, such as “Crimson Cloud,” may resist leaf diseases. Aphids, lace bugs, and several other insects may attack the foliage.
Hopefully this English hawthorn info will help you decide whether this tree is right for your property.
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Plant taxonomy classifies Washington hawthorn trees as Crataegus phaenopyrum. As members of the large rose family of plants (making them relatives of apple trees), they are deciduous, flowering trees.
Washington hawthorn trees attain a height of 25 to 35 feet, with a spread also of 25 to 35 feet. They produce attractive white blooms in clusters, in late spring to early summer. These flowers, known for their distinctive odor, yield to first green and then red berries that persist throughout winter. These berries are a favorite snack of wild birds, such as cedar waxwings.
The bark of the Washington hawthorn tree is pretty enough to add further visual interest to the winter landscape, and its branches bear thorns. Its summer leaves are a shiny, dark green its fall foliage ranges in color from orange to red.
Washington hawthorn trees are attractive enough to be treated as specimens, and their foliage is dense enough for them to be used as a privacy screen if grown in a mass. Some homeowners take advantage of their sharp thorns and prune them into security hedges. With their dense foliage, they can also serve as small shade trees.
"Crimson Cloud" hawthorns are quite tolerant of most soils, but prefer heavy loam or clay. The tree blooms best in full sun but can tolerate some shade, and does well in most climates. It is not a good choice for hot, humid areas where fungal diseases can become a problem. Hawthorn trees are generally susceptible to several diseases, including hawthorn leaf blight, or Entomosporium, a fungus that can cause discoloration of leaves and, in severe cases, loss of foliage. This and other fungal diseases can be treated with regular applications of fungicidal sprays.
"Crimson Cloud" hawthorn makes an excellent specimen tree, planted in a location where its attractive blooms become a strong landscape accent. Since it's not a large tree, it can also work well as part of a border screen and, if you plant several trees in a row, you could prune them into a tall hedge. The tree is also quite tolerant of urban conditions and does well as a specimen in a city landscape or as part of a border planting near a sidewalk or other paved area.