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Commonly known as Hawthorn, Crataegus (krah-TEE-Gus) is a genus from the Rosaceae family and related to the:
- Flowering Almond
- Red Tip Photinia
The genus comprises several hundred species of shrubs and trees native to the Northern Hemisphere.
It is found in Europe, North America, North Africa, and Asia.
They are known for their glorious flowers, hawthorn fruits, full foliage, and hardy growth.
While Hawthorn remains a popular name, it has other common names such as:
Previously, the name “hawthorn” was applied to the Crataegus species growing in European regions.
However, it is generalized and applied to the genus, which includes the Asian genus Rhaphiolepis.
The word Crataegus itself is a derivative of the Greek words kratos and akis.
While the latter means sharp and refers to the plants’ thorns, kratos means strength – which is also a name given to the Greek God of War.
Hawthorn Bush Plant Care
Size & Growth
Decorated with beautiful flowers and beautiful, glossy fruits against dark green foliage, hawthorn trees are hardy plants.
Most species and varieties of the genus can grow between 16′ feet and 49′ feet tall.
Other features such as leaf size and bark vary between different whitethorn species.
Flowering and Fragrance
Both shrub and small tree varieties of the hawthorn produce spring flowers.
The features of the hawthorn flowers depend on the species and the variety.
Overall, the flowers are beautiful and often edible.
They are also great sources of nectar for insects and shelter for birds and small mammals.
C. monogya or the common hawthorn has pink or white flowers while Crataegus laevigata produces red flowers.
These species may also produce pink flowers.
The hawthorn fruit is a small pome.
C. mollis among other species produces red fruits.
Light & Temperature
Crataegus plants do their best under the full sun.
However, partial shade is also tolerated.
They aren’t too fussy when it comes to their position.
These plants are also comfortable growing in temperate climates.
They are hardy to USDA Hardiness zones 4 to 8.
Watering and Feeding
Hawthorn plants are recommended for water conservation landscapes (xeriscape) as they are pretty resistant to drought.
During the first season after planting, water it frequently and then let it be, hydrating it during dry spells.
Fertilizers should not be used with hawthorns when the plant is young and just-planted.
The spring after the one you transplanted your hawthorn in is the right time for feeding.
To do so, use a 10-10-10 formula (1/4th cup) once a year in spring.
Feed the plant every year for three years and then switch to feeding every other year.
Soil & Transplanting
When planting a hawthorn, it’s fine to work with multiple varieties of soils.
For optimal growth, however, use an average, well-draining type of soil enriched with organic matter.
However, it is also tolerable of chalky, loamy, clayey, and sandy soils.
As for the pH, neutral is preferred but varying pH is also tolerated.
New shoots are transplanted in the spring the same you would plant any other small plant.
When transplanting the bush or tree to a new location, the first task on the list is root pruning.
To do this, use a sharp hoe and cut 8″ inches deep around the trunk.
The diameter should be 24” inches at the least.
This way, the long roots will be able to travel with the tree or bush.
Grooming and Maintenance
These plants are relatively low maintenance.
Hawthorns are drought-resistant and pretty hardy, even to air pollution.
Pruning is not necessary.
If you want, trim the canopy or prune a hawthorn bush as a hedge.
With regular watering, you don’t have to do much except remove dead or damaged growth and remove the new suckers to prevent overcrowding.
How To Propagate Crataegus Plant
Hawthorn plants are propagated in multiple ways.
Seeds are not frequently used as the process is slow.
The seeds require stratification and are planted in the fall.
While some seeds may germinate in the spring, the majority may take up 2 years.
The germination may be improved if the pyrenes are dried before the seed is stratified.
As for propagation with cuttings, it is difficult with rootless stem pieces.
The most common way to grow them is by transplanting them, taking samples from a nursery or the wild.
Crataegus Plant Pest or Diseases
Species in the Hawthorn genus are similar to roses, crabapples, and apples as they share a family.
Considering this, the plants are susceptible to problems affecting these plants.
When it comes to diseases, apple scab, blight, fungal leaf spots, cankers, powdery mildew, and rust are problems. Learn more about Controlling Powdery Mildew on Roses here.
Disease resistant varieties such as the Winter King are suitable options if your garden has frequent problems.
As for pests, borers, leafminers, scale, aphids, caterpillars, lace bugs, and mites may infest. Use Neem oil for control.
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Hawthorn Tree Uses
Whether you choose to plant a evergreen shrub variety such as Crataegus indica (syn. Rhaphiolepis indicia) or a tree variety such as the Crataegus phaenopyrum (Washington hawthorn), they make great lawn and street trees.
They also look spectacular in a small flowering landscape, especially when they are in full bloom.
You just have to make sure you don’t plant thorny varieties in areas where children, pets, and pedestrians may pass through.
Some Hawthorn species could be used for bonsai.
Besides landscaping, the Crataegus genus has other uses as well.
Some species of the genus have edible plants.
For example, Crataegus monogyna has hawthorn fruits (haws) and may flowers are edible; although the flavor is similar to an overripe apple.
In the United States and Canada, the Kutenai people use red and black hawthorn plants for food.
Even some hawthorn berries or blueberries are eaten depending on species.
Hawthorn bush and trees also have medicinal uses, especially in traditional and folk medicine. For example, it is used for blood pressure.
The wood of its species is also used to make tools.
Indian Hawthorn plants are also grafted and make hardier rootstock than quince.