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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - April 14, 2010

From: Burbank, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Small flowering tree for Burbank IL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Looking for a semi-dwarf flowering tree resistant to disease and insects. Current flowering crab has fire blight. What would you suggest planting. We live in a Chicago IL suburb.

ANSWER:

What you are saying is that you want a flowering crab tree that doesn't get fire blight or insects, another "designer" plant. There are three wild crabapples native to Illinois and two to the Cook County area: Malus coronaria (sweet crabapple) and Malus ioensis (prairie crabapple), which has this warning in our database: "Cedar-apple rust, apple scab, and other leaf diseases are severe." This applies to all members of this family, and since your plant is likely a much-hybridized cultivar of the Malus genus not even native to North America, that poor plant was probably doomed before it ever left the nursery. 

We will look in the Recommended Species section of our Native Plant Database for possibilities, and avoid recommending any plants that are known to be susceptible to disease. As for insects, well, you know, if you plant the bushes, they will come. Many insects are beneficials of one kind or another, and a healthy plant in the right place will often overcome damage from the others. You didn't tell us if the plant would be in sun or shade, so we will search without inserting those specifications and you can follow the plant links to the page on each plant to learn what their prime growing requirements are. Often diseases and insects will attack, or at least affect, plants that are not in the right place. That is one of the reasons that the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center will recommend only plants native to both North America and to the area in which the plant is being grown. A plant that has grown in an area for millions of years will be adapted to the rainfall, temperatures and soils of that area, and more able to withstand threats.

Every plant that we selected appears in the USDA Plant Profile for that plant as growing in or very near to Cook County. We will look at both shrubs and trees, because many shrubs are considered "shrubs or small trees," and can be trimmed to a tree-like form. None of them is evergreen, but then neither is the crabapple. We eliminated any from our list that were known to have severe disease or insect problems. Most had statements similar to this:  " Resistant to most diseases, insects and physiological problems." (Cornus racemosa (gray dogwood)

Small Flowering Shrubs for Burbank IL:

Cornus alternifolia (alternateleaf dogwood)

Cornus racemosa (gray dogwood)

Cornus sericea (redosier dogwood)

Physocarpus opulifolius (common ninebark)

Spiraea alba (white meadowsweet)

Viburnum prunifolium (blackhaw)

Small Flowering Trees for Burbank IL: 

Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud)

Prunus americana (American plum)

 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Cornus alternifolia

Cornus racemosa

Cornus sericea

Physocarpus opulifolius

Spiraea alba

Viburnum prunifolium

Cercis canadensis

Prunus americana

 

 

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