How to Grow Quince Trees

Quince tree with round green fruit growing

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

In This Article

While not as prevalent in the United States as in other parts of the world, the common quince tree, Cydonia oblonga, is most often used in North America as a unique flowering tree option in garden design.  

The quince tree shouldn't be confused with the ornate flowering shrub also referred to as quince. This is an entirely different plant known as the Japanese quince from the genus Chaenomeles.

In America, the quince does not rank up with apples, cherries, and peaches when it comes to favorite harvested fruits. As a food crop, the quince tree falls behind because of the amount of work and time it takes to produce a harvest, and the tree is susceptible to a contagious disease called fire blight. Around the world, however, the quince is a cultural mainstay as an ingredient in jellies, pastries, drinks, and occasionally by itself.

As an ornamental tree, it is lovely and produces pale pink or white blooms in early spring on a visually interesting multi-trunked tree that becomes gnarled as it ages. The flowers attract numerous pollinators and play host to the stunning butterfly species Limenitis arthemis, commonly called the white admiral, and all of its subspecies.

To attempt growing the quince as a fruit tree will take some effort and time. It is also important to note that, while quince is self-fruiting, the production will increase with cross-pollination, so at least two trees are needed for getting a usable harvest.

Botanical Name  Cydonia oblonga
Common Name Common Quince
Plant Type Tree
Mature Size 12-15 ft. tall 9-12ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full Sun
Soil Type Fertile, Moist, Good Drainage
Soil pH  Acidic
Bloom Time April-May
Flower Color  Pale Whilte To Pink
Hardiness Zone  USDA 5-8
Native Area  West Asia
Toxicity No

Quince Tree Care

Quince can be beautiful and delicious. However, they are prone to disease and can take some work. If you are just looking for a pretty, flowering ornamental tree, then the quince is a lot less demanding.

Depending on the rootstock, it can take three to five years to produce the first fruit and a full ten years till the tree reaches maximum production. Time is often forgotten when fruit trees are planted. Great patience is needed while waiting for the great reward.

Quince tree with small white flowers in front of woods

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Quince tree branches with small white blossoms and buds closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Quince tree branches with small white flowers and bright green leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Light

Full sun is best to produce the best blooms and fruit and prevent disease, but some partial shade can be tolerated.

Soil

Keep the soil around the quince tree well-drained, slightly moist, never completely dry, and be sure it is composed of a mix of organic content. Quince trees prefer acidic soil but will tolerate very low alkalinity. Basic soil will lead to iron deficiencies.

Water

Quince trees are not incredibly drought-tolerant and can only endure one or two weeks without water while establishing. Give your tree a deep watering every two weeks to once a month, depending on temperature, at other times. Insufficient water results in fruit drop. Overwatering can lead to the onset of fire blight.

Temperature and Humidity

Quince trees can withstand cold temperatures as low as -15o F and thrive in USDA Zones 5-8. Fruit left on the tree during the cold weather will ripen and will become sweeter in a process called bletting.

Fertilizer

Fertilize only once a year during the winter, applying a slow-release Low nitrogen fertilizer with micronutrients under the canopy. High nitrogen content and providing too much fertilizer will invite disease into the tree.

Pruning

After the last frost, prune dead and damaged branches and remove lower branches. The fruit develops on old growth, so be cautious when pruning the tips of branches. Quince trees have the habit of forming thickets if sucker growth is not removed, so remove suckers immediately.

Common Pests/Diseases

Fire blight is a devastating bacterial disease that affects apple, pear, quince, and
numerous other trees and shrubs.

The sign that typically appears first is a watery, light tan bacterial ooze that exudes from cankers on the plant. This ooze will turn black and will leave marks on the tree as it runs down the trunk. Fresh blooms on trees are the most prevalent infection sites and remain so as the petals fall. Flowers that have been diseased will wilt and become discolored.

Fire blight can spread into limbs, trunks, or root systems and can kill vulnerable host trees. When the pathogen spreads from blossoms into the wood, the newly infected wood underneath the bark has pink to orange-red streaks.

Copper solution sprays are the only materials available on the market to consumers for fire blight control. If fire blight is suspected, hiring a licensed arborist with a pesticide applicator license may be your only recourse.