The Case for Growing Quince

Courtesy of Gardenia Creating Gardens
Has Quince started flowering in your neighborhood?

One of the first plants to bloom every year is flowering quince. It blooms so early, in fact, I’m loathe to call it a spring-blooming shrub. Depending on the mildness of the winter, it can start as early as January. Thanks to the fact that most of the U.S. has decided to skip winter this year, it’s probably blooming now in your neck of the woods or soon will be.

Flowers appear before the leaves and put on a spectacular show. They may be single, semi-double, or double in colors of white, pink, red, salmon, orange, or multicolors. You can enjoy them in the yard, clip blooming branches for display, or clip budded branches and place them in water-filled vases to watch to flowers open indoors.

Unlike its cousin, the fruiting quince (Cydonia oblonga), flowering quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) is grown mainly for flowers, not fruit. However, some selections do bear small, hard, delightfully aromatic fruits in fall you can smell from far away. The fruits contain lots of pectin, making them good for jelly or preserves provided you add copious amounts of sugar. Reliably fruiting selections include ‘Apple Blossom’ (light pink flowers), ‘Cameo’ (double salmon), ‘Texas Scarlet’ (tomato red), and ‘Toyo Nishiki’) white, pink, and red). Planting two different selection for cross-pollination gives a bigger crop.

Flowering quince is found in so many gardens because, in addition to its lovely blooms, it’s easy to grow and hard to kill. Deer won’t eat it. Leaf spot may defoliate it by midsummer in humid areas, but that won’t reduce flowering the next year. It likes full sun and well-drained soil. Adapted to USDA Zones 4 to 9, it grows 3 to 8 feet tall and wide depending on the selection. Prune it immediately after it finishes blooming.

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