Flowering quince, (Chaenomeles) is a genus of shrubs with three recognized species. Native to Eastern Asia, this plant is a member of the rose family.
Chaenomeles speciosa is the species most commonly referred to as flowering quince.
This thorny perennial is grown primarily as an ornamental plant due to its showy red/pink colored flowers.
Flowering quince also produces fruit that resembles apples. These fruits are very tart and not eaten raw. However, they are frequently made into jams, jellies, and liqueurs.
Flowering quince has been growing in gardens worldwide for hundreds of years, and naturally in Asia for thousands of years.
They were introduced into America in the 1800s and grown in gardens and farms for both practical and ornamental purposes.
Several legends exist relating to Chaenomeles; the most widely known is that it was a fruit from the quince and not from an apple tree, that Adam accessed in the Garden of Eden.
|Scientific name||Chaenomeles speciosa|
|Common names||Flowering quince|
|Height||Up to 7 feet (2 meters)|
|Width||Up to 7 feet (2 meters)|
|USDA Plant Hardiness Zone||Zones 5 to 9|
|Flower colors||Red or pinky-red|
|Plant specific features||Flowers appear before the leaves; fruit produced that is edible but not eaten raw|
How to Plant and Grow a Flowering Quince Bush
Flowering quince is a popular ornamental shrub that is fairly easy to cultivate and maintain and produces multi-seasonal interest.
Where to Plant
Early American farmers were attracted to the Chaenomeles speciosa because its thorny branches and loose growing habit made it an excellent choice for a hedging species.
Its fruit was also used in cooking; well-prepared, the fruit of the flowering quince makes splendid preserves and is full of vitamin C.
Although this shrub is deciduous, it still makes a useful border or screening plant. In flower, it produces a pretty blossom that appears before the leaves.
When to Plant
Normally, a container-grown quince shrub is best planted in the fall. It is easier to ensure that the roots of a newly planted quince don’t dry out if you plant the shrub at this time.
It’s very important that the roots are well-watered until they have established a strong and robust network.
Flowering Quince Shrubs Care and Maintenance
Chaenomeles speciosa will grow in moist, well-drained soil, but it isn’t too fussy about the type of soil. However, flowering quince shrubs will not thrive in soil that is alkaline, and planting in alkaline soil can result in the yellowing of the leaves.
Likewise, don’t plant the flowering quince in heavy clay soil because this will not drain sufficiently. Planting flowering quince in soil that is too sandy can result in a plant that is less vigorous.
If necessary, improve the condition of the soil at the time you plant the flowering quince, using organic compost.
Keep the flowering quince well-watered after planting, until it has become established. For the first growing season, the shrub will be developing a strong, robust root network.
During this time, you want to encourage it to grow roots that go deep into the soil.
Plants that have developed strong and deep roots can withstand dry spells more successfully than those with surface-spreading root systems.
To achieve this, water deeply, and thoroughly, but less frequently. Flowering quince is relatively drought-resistant once established.
You can help to retain moisture in the soil, by applying a mulch around the base of the flowering quince shrub, but take care that this doesn’t come into direct contact with the stem of the shrub.
When watering, it is preferable to water the ground and not the foliage, as this helps to prevent leaf spots and other fungal diseases. Similarly to this, it is preferable to water early in the day as opposed to late at night.
At the start of the growing season, apply a slow-release, balanced fertilizer. This will encourage plenty of vigorous new growth and improve both flower and fruit production.
When using fertilizer, always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and instructions for amounts and applications. Be careful that the product doesn’t come into contact with the foliage, as there is a high risk that fertilizer will scorch the leaves.
Always water well, once the fertilizer has been applied, in order to wash the product into the soil around the roots of the shrub.
The flowering and consequent fruit production will be much improved if you plant the flowering quince in full sun. However, the shrub will thrive in partial shade too, but with fewer flowers.
Pruning and Repotting
Sometimes the Chaenomeles speciosa will need pruning to restore its shape. This shrub does have a tendency to become untidy, and straggly, and pruning can address this.
Similarly, if you are growing flowering quince as a hedging shrub, you will need to prune it regularly to maintain it at the desired height.
The best time to prune the shrub is immediately after the flowers have finished. This is because Chaenomeles speciosa flowers on old wood. If you delay pruning, the shrub will not have time to form new flower buds, and you will lose the following years’ flowers.
However, the flip side to this is that if you prune immediately the flowers have started to fade, and you will lose the apple-like fruits. The best advice is that if you are growing flowering quince in order to make jam or jelly, don’t prune it at all!
If you are growing flowering quince in a pot or container, then take care that their thorns are not going to harm a passerby. Pots should be large enough to last about two years before repotting. Flowering quince has only a moderate growth rate.
Flowering quince plants can be multiplied by stem cuttings easily. Although you can also sow the seeds, this is a harder, and less reliable method. It is especially unreliable if you are propagating a hybrid plant.
Hybrids grown from seed will not form clone plants of the parent, whereas those grown from living plant tissue will reproduce clones of the parents.
The summer is the ideal season for taking cuttings. Use pieces of stem that have just started to turn a little woody. These are known as semi-ripe cuttings and are of the current season’s growth.
Each cutting should be a few inches long, and taken only from a healthy branch. Remove the lower leaves, and cut the leaves that remain in two.
Using hormone rooting powder will help to root the cuttings more quickly and increase the rooting success rate.
The pots should be filled with potting compost and once the cutting is placed in the pot, it should be covered with a plastic bag. This will help to keep the growing medium in the pot moist, which is extremely important whilst the cutting is forming small roots.
It will take up to two months for the cuttings to root sufficiently for them to be transplanted outdoors.
If you are determined to propagate flowering quince shrubs from seed, be prepared for a lot of time and energy! The seeds will not germinate unless they have been subjected to a period of cold stratification.
Collected seeds have to stay in the refrigerator for three months. After this, they can be planted in trays filled with compost and covered with plastic.
Don’t attempt to disturb the seedlings until they have at least two sets of true leaves. Allow the seedlings to grow to about 1 foot in height before they are transplanted into their growing positions.
Pests and diseases
In the winter, rabbits can cause damage to the new growth, particularly in young plants. Young plants, too are more susceptible to extreme cold, than mature plants.
Pests such as aphids, mites, and scale insects can cause cosmetic and superficial damage to the foliage, but this is not serious and doesn’t usually require treatment. Any treatment that is necessary can be carried out using horticultural oil.
It is in the Spring, after extended wet periods, that the flowering quince is most likely to be troubled by fungal diseases, such as leaf spots. Applying fungicides can usually treat leaf spots and other fungal diseases successfully.
But prevention is always the best cure and if you ensure that you give the flowering quince an appropriate growing environment, you will help to greatly reduce the problems.
To do this, make sure that you remove any damaged, diseased or dead wood around the base of the shrub regularly.
Remove dead flower petals promptly and any leaves that have dropped. Also, when pruning, try to improve air circulation through the lower branches. Make sure that any mulch that has been applied does not touch the plant’s stem directly.
Bacterial diseases can also cause die-back. The branches and the leaves will die and sometimes growths will appear on the branches.
If this happens, it is likely that a fireblight or scab has infected your flowering quince. The only way to treat this, at this stage, is to cut off and remove all infected parts of the plant.
Don’t leave them near other plants, nor put the diseased plant material on the compost heap.
Temperature and Humidity
If your flowering quince blooms poorly, it has probably been damaged by a late Spring frost. This can kill off the new flower buds, and prevent the quince from blooming.
The following year, flowering will re-occur, but there will be no flowers or fruits during the current year.
Other Uses for Flowering Quince
Flowering quince isn’t the showiest of garden plants; it is thorny, and its flowers don’t last very long. But it can work well as a barrier or screen at the back of a border.
The fruit is much loved by some people for making it into jams and jellies, although the high pectin content of the fruit can make cooking with the quince fruit somewhat of a challenge.
Flowering quince can be trained to grow as an espalier, like other fruit trees. Cut flowers are attractive, but short-lived and this shrub can also be used as a bonsai object.
Birds and butterflies are attracted to the flowers of quince shrubs, so this is a shrub that can be included in an easy-care, wildlife, or nature garden.
Because of its thorns, flowering quince is somewhat resistant to damage by browsing deer.
Types of Flowering Quince You Can Grow
There are cultivars of flowering quince that do not grow more than 3 ½ feet in height or spread. If space is limited, and you want to include a flowering quince shrub, then this might make a good choice.
Most varieties of quince produce red flowers, but orange-colored cultivars are also available that produce fragrant, orange-colored fruit.
There is another variety known as Champion, that produces lemon-tasting fruit that is produced later in the season.
Despite the numerous varieties and cultivars that are available, Chaenomeles speciosa flowering quince is the most well-known species.
Despite the fruit being less remarkable than that produced by other cultivars, it is grown mainly for its flowers.
*image by st-design/depositphotos