The flowering quince is a thorny, multi-stemmed deciduous shrub with a somewhat messy growth habit but beautiful red, orange, white, or pink flowers to go with shiny, dark green foliage. Related to roses, flowering quince has a thorny habit and easy-to-grow nature that makes it a good choice for barrier or border plantings.
The shrub is a dense mound of gray-brown spiny twigs with five-petal flowers about two inches in diameter. The flowers last for about 10 to 14 days and are followed by yellowish-green fruits that can be used in preserves and jellies. The oval leaves with serrated edges are a glossy dark-green, growing to a maximum of about 3 1/2 inches.
|Botanical Name||Chaenomeles speciosa|
|Common Names||Flowering quince or Chinese flowering quince|
|Plant Type||Deciduous shrub|
|Mature Size||6 to 10 feet tall with a similar spread|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil pH||3.7 to 7.0; acidic to neutral|
|Bloom Time||Late winter, early spring|
|Flower Color||White, orange, red, or pink|
|Hardiness Zones||4 to 9, USDA|
|Native Area||China, Korea|
How to Grow Flowering Quince
Most gardeners find flowering quince to be easy to grow and care for. It grows adequately in most soil types other than alkaline clay, and pruning is necessary only if you decide to shape the shrub.
Its dense, thorny growth habit makes flowering quince a good low-maintenance option where a dense, impenetrable hedge, shrub, or border is required. If you don't want the shrub to spread, then make sure to remove suckers at ground level as they appear.
Grow flowering quince shrubs in full sun. It can grow in partial sun, but the flower display will be better if the plant is exposed to full sunlight.
Plant flowering quince shrubs in well-drained loam soil for the best flowering display. An overly alkaline soil pH can lead to problems with chlorosis, so keep the soil pH slightly acidic or neutral. These plants can be grown in clay and sandy soils but may be less vigorous.
Mulch the base of the shrubs to suppress weeds and retain soil moisture. While these are reasonably drought-tolerant shrubs once established, young plants will need to be watered at times. Water in the morning so excess moisture has time to dry before evening. Sprayed water can cause leaf spots, and leaves may drop if the foliage stays wet.
Temperature and Humidity
Maintaining an even temperature and humidity are crucial for propagating flowering quince via stem cuttings. Temperature also plays a big part in growing this plant from seeds. Once flowering quince is established, though, the plant is quite forgiving of a wide range of temperature and humidity levels. This shrub is quite cold hardy, tolerating temperatures as low as minus 25 degrees F.
Feed flowering quince with a slow-release, all-purpose fertilizer in early spring before new growth occurs, or apply compost as a soil amendment. Scatter the fertilizer carefully on the soil around the plant; do not let it touch the foliage, as it can scorch the leaves. Follow with a deep watering to distribute the fertilizer around the roots.
Propagating Flowering Quince
Propagating flowering quince is done through stem rooting or seeds.
- Seeds: In order for seeds to germinate, they must go through stratification or a freeze and thaw cycle. You can mimic the winter cold by putting the seeds in the refrigerator for 60 to 90 days; then remove them, plant in soil, water, and cover with plastic until germination occurs. Transplant seedlings into separate containers once two sets of true leaves develop. Keep the soil moist but not damp. Continue growing the plants until they reach a height of about 12 inches, then transplant.
- Cuttings: Cut several stem clippings (about 6 inches long) from the previous year's growth. The diameter of the stems should be that of a pencil. Leave the top leaves intact, but remove the rest of the leaves. Score the bottom section of each stem cutting to reveal the cambium layer beneath the bark. Dip the cutting in a rooting hormone, then embed it in a well-watered, sandy, general-purpose soil. Cover with plastic and set it in a spot with bright light but not direct sun. After a month, check to see if the cutting has rooted by gently tugging the stem. If the stem resists pulling, then it is rooting properly. Wait one more month and then transplant outdoors.
With a thorny habit and a relatively short bloom season, flowering quince is not a great specimen plant, but it works well planted in mass along borders or as an informal barrier hedge. In large mixed borders, it can provide an early-spring accent. The fruit from quince shrubs (especially the related C. japonica) can be used in jams and jellies.
Prune just after blooming is over since the bushes bloom on old wood. Pruning should be fairly light, but when done immediately after blooming it will stimulate new growth that makes for more profuse blooming the following spring.
Common Pests/ Diseases
Flowering quince is susceptible to fungal leaf spot. Fireblight and scab can sometimes occur. Aphids can badly damage new growth but the damage is not life-threatening. Other insect pests include scale and mites. Chlorosis (yellowing of the foliage) can occur in high pH (alkaline) soils.
Varieties of Flowering Quince
Flowering quince is a member of the rose family as evidenced by its thorny stems and flowers and leaves that resemble those of roses. It is one of the oldest of all landscape plants, having been cultivated for thousands of years in Asia.
In natural environments, the different varieties of the native species grow 6 to 10 feet high with a similar spread. Several cultivars of flowering quince are commonly sold at garden centers, and there are also hybrid crosses of other Chaenomeles species. A few of the smaller-sized varieties you can find include:
- Chaenomeles x superba 'Jet Trail' grows 3 to 4 feet tall with white flowers.
- Double Take series: 'Scarlet Storm,' 'Orange Storm' and 'Pink Storm' grow to 5 feet in height with double flowers of scarlet, orange, or pink. They are grown in hardiness zones 5 to 8.
Comparison With Related Species
Chaenomeles speciosa is closely related to two other common landscape plants:
- Chaenomeles cathayensis (sometimes known as Chinese quince) has the largest fruit of any of the shrubs in the Chaonomeles genus.
- Chaenomeles japonica is a classic cottage garden plant; the fruit can be used in jellies and jams.
Mengelm K, Geurtzen, G. Iron Chlorosis on Calcareous Soils. Alkaline Nutritional Condition as the Cause for the Chlorosis. Journal of Plant Nutrition, v9,3-7,161-173, 1986, doi:10.1080/01904168609363434