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Crataegus (Hawthorn, Quickthorn, May)


Hawthorns will grow in almost any soil, including shallow chalky soils, and in any position except deep shade, though in very dry, very wet or very windy conditions will grow slower than in more fertile less exposed sites. They respond well to regular pruning or trimming so are often used as hedging plants.  All are smothered with clusters of fragrant white, pink or red blossom in spring, a wonderful source of nectar and pollen for bees, followed by masses of red berries in autumn, much loved by small birds. The foliage also usually colours well, providing a wonderfully rich autumn display.


Plant your trees as soon as possible after receipt, allowing sufficient space for them to grow. If allowed to develop naturally most Crataegus will reach a final size of between 5 and 8m (15-25ft) in height by 4-6m (13-20ft) in spread, though they can be kept smaller if necessary by occasional pruning or regular trimming.


Should weather conditions be adverse (i.e. if the ground is frozen or too wet to plant), then heel-in the trees temporarily until conditions improve. Dig a hole or shallow trench, lay the trees at an oblique angle and cover the roots loosely with sufficient soil or compost so that no roots are exposed to the air.  If the ground is too frozen to heel them in, keep them somewhere cool out of direct sun (such as a garage, a garden shed or against a north facing wall) in their packaging until conditions improve.  


Improve the soil structure by thorough digging before planting, ideally to a depth of about 45cm (18in) - two spades deep. Mix in plenty of well-rotted manure or compost.


Soak the root system in water for 1-2 hours. Dig a hole comfortably large enough to take the root system (so the roots can be evenly spread out), ensuring the top of the root system is level with the surrounding soil or up to 2.5cm (1in) deeper. Apply rootgrow™ mycorrhizal fungi directly to the roots before planting - this will help the tree to establish quickly. Tread firmly and water-in thoroughly. Stake the tree and secure with tree ties to prevent rocking whilst the roots establish.


Keep the soil around each tree moist throughout its first growing season. In later years only water during prolonged dry spells, drenching thoroughly no more than once a week.


Weeding & Mulching

Keep the area around the tree free of weeds, particularly during the first year. An annual mulch of well rotted compost will greatly improve moisture retention and soil structure, and help suppress unwanted weeds.


FOR A STANDARD OR HALF STANDARD - Virtually no pruning will be needed throughout the life of the tree. Should any shaping be necessary the ideal time to prune is in July or August, but Crataegus can be pruned or trimmed at any time of the year.

FOR A MULTISTEM OR LARGE BUSH - Cut back the main stem when planting to around 75cm (30in) tall to encourage plenty of new shoots from low down. Thereafter no further pruning should be needed throughout its life. Should any shaping be necessary the ideal time to prune is in July or August, but Crataegus can be pruned or trimmed at any time of the year.



Most garden soils contain sufficient nutrients for a tree to grow healthily, though a balanced general purpose top-dressing (such as Fruit Feed) in early spring can be beneficial.

Pests & Diseases

Crataegus are susceptible to a number of pests and diseases, common examples are aphids (greenfly), caterpillar and mildew. In a typical garden setting however these are not normally severe enough to need any treatment.  Indeed the caterpillars provide vital food for nesting birds in spring and summer.