Double Take Scarlet™ (Chaenomeles speciosa). Photo by Proven Winners.

If one word could be used to describe the glories of flowering quince, it would be “apricity,” a quaint but little-used term that means the warmth of the sun in winter. Bravely defying the chill of late winter, flowering quince (Chaenomeles) wakes from a long slumber to put on a dazzling display of apple-blossom-like flowers in an array of bright and cheery colors.

Flowering quince blooms weeks before other spring-flowering shrubs—even forsythia— appearing as early as late January in the South, and March in northern regions. Although some gardeners are put off by the plant’s thorny stems, many newer cultivars are thornless, making it easier to collect branches for cut flower arrangements and winter forcing. Adaptable and easy to grow, flowering quince is also very tolerant of heat, dry conditions, and a wide range of soil types.

On this page: Basics | Planting | Care & Maintenance | Flowering Quince Pictures | Design Ideas

BASICS

Botanical name:

Chaenomeles (pronounced kih-nom'uh-leez)

Plant type:

Deciduous spiny shrub

Zones:

5-9

Height/Spread:

6 to 10 feet, although some compact cultivars grow to only 3 or 4 feet

Exposure:

Sun

Bloom time:

Late winter to early spring, with the blooms lasting for several weeks.

Flowers and foliage:

Produces saucer-shaped flowers, up to 2 inches in diameter. Most are single-petaled, but there are also double-petaled varieties that resemble roses or camellias. Colors include various shades of red, orange, coral, pink, and white. The foliage is shiny and dark green, with serrated margins. New leaves often emerge a bronzed red color in spring, typically after the plant flowers.

Fruit:

Most varieties (with the exception of a few non-fruiting cultivars) produce small greenish-yellow quinces that ripen in early fall. The apple-like fruit is very tart and unpalatable when eaten raw, but it can be used to make pies, jams, and jellies or left on the branches to feed local wildlife.

PLANTING INSTRUCTIONS

When to plant:

Because growth begins early in the season, plant in the fall so you can enjoy flowers the following spring.

Where to plant:

In full sun or partial shade, but plants will flower best when grown in full sun. Although hardy to zone 5, they do not grow well in areas with hot, steamy climates, such as southern Florida.

Soil:

Prefers average moisture-retentive soil but will adapt to almost any soil type as long as there is good drainage. Avoid planting in high pH soil, which can lead to chlorosis (yellowing of the foliage).

Plant spacing:

4 to 10 feet apart, depending on the plant’s spread at maturity. When using for hedges or barriers, base spacing on the distance from the center of one plant to the center of the next.

CARE & MAINTENANCE

Watering:

Because flowering quinces develop deep root systems, they are very drought-tolerant once established. However, new plants should be watered regularly during dry spells to keep the soil evenly moist. Avoid getting water on the foliage, which can cause leaf spotting.

Fertilizing:

To boost bloom production, fertilize once in early spring with a balanced all-purpose fertilizer.

Pruning:

Because blooms form on old wood, prune in the spring immediately after flowering so you don't inhibit bloom production the following year. If older plants become too tall and lanky, you can reshape them by removing taller stems and thinning out crowded branches. If flowering is sparse, try rejuvenating growth by cutting back the entire shrub to a height of 6 to 12 inches. Quinces have a tendency to spread by sending up suckering shoots from the base. These should be removed if you don’t want plants to spread outward.

Common pests and diseases:

Vulnerable to fireblight and fungal leaf spot, especially during wet periods. Removing infected branches and applying a fungicide are the best remedies to prevent further infestation. Also watch out for aphids, which like to feed on new growth.

FLOWERING QUINCE VARIETIES

Swipe to view slides

Photo by: Proven Winners

Double Take Peach™Buy now from Proven Winners
Chaenomeles speciosa

Height/Spread:

4 to 5 feet tall and wide

Bloom Time:

Early to late spring

This breathtaking member of Proven Winners’ Double Take series of flowering quinces bears huge, double-petaled, camellia-like blossoms in a lovely soft peach color. Other equally enticing colors in the series include scarlet, pink, and orange. As a bonus, Double Take quinces are thornless, as well as non-fruiting so they often rebloom in the fall to give you an encore performance late in the season.

See the entire Double Take™ series.

Photo by: Edita Medeina / Shutterstock.

'Texas Scarlet'
Chaenomeles x superba

Height/spread:

3 to 4 feet tall, 4 to 5 feet wide

Bloom Time:

As early January in the South and late February in the North.

A low-growing, compact hybrid with vibrant tomato-red flowers that emerge in the earliest days of spring. Flowers are followed by small greenish-yellow fruits that become tinged in red as they mature in fall.

Photo by Iva Villi / Shutterstock.

‘Jet Trail’
Chaenomeles x superba

Height/Spread:

3 feet tall and wide

Bloom Time:

March

This white-flowered clone of ‘Texas Scarlet’ is one of the best choices for smaller gardens, remaining a manageable size of about 3 feet tall and wide. Showy golden-yellow anthers stand out in brilliant contrast to the pure white petals.

Photo by: Spring Meadow Nursery

'Toyo-Nishiki'
Chaenomeles speciosa

Height/Spread:

6 to 8 feet tall and wide

Bloom Time:

April

Boasting a color scheme reminiscent of strawberry-swirl ice cream, this stunning cultivar combines red, white, and pink flowers on the same plant and sometimes all three hues intermingle on the same flower. Although not a thornless variety, its exotic beauty is hard to resist.

Photo by: Spring Meadow Nursery

'Cameo'
Chaenomeles x speciosa

Height/Spread:

4 to 5 feet tall and wide

Bloom Time:

Early spring

Cameo is a dense, rounded shrub with often-tangled, spiny-tipped twigs. Flowers bloom in early spring and give way to edible fruit. The fruit is usually considered too bitter to be eaten off the shrub, but can be used in preserves and jellies. Cameo is easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. For the best look, plant as a hedge, screen, or barrier.

Photo by: Green Acres Nursery and Supply / Flickr

'Kurokoji'
Chaenomeles

Height/Spread:

3 to 4 feet tall and wide

Bloom Time:

Early spring

This bushy quince has dark leaves and masses of deep red flowers. Kurokoji blooms in early spring, prefers full sun to partial shade, and can grow in a variety of soils. Kurokoji works best in your garden as foundation plantings.

Photo by: Edita Medeina / Shutterstock

'Pink Lady'
Chaenomeles x superba

Height/Spread:

4 to 5 feet tall and 5 to 6 feet wide

Bloom Time:

Early spring

Pink Lady quince has thorny branches that bloom with clusters of rich pink flowers for weeks in early spring. Flowers eventually give way to yellow fruits that ripen in the fall. The fruits are often considered too bitter to eat off the shrub, but can be used in preserves and jellies. Pink Lady grows best in full sun to partial shade, and in medium, well drained soils, and works great as a foundation plant.

DESIGN IDEAS

There are many ways to incorporate flowering quince into your landscape. Here’s how:

  • Barrier or hedge plant.
  • Freestanding specimen shrub.
  • Train as an espalier along garden walls or fences.
  • Foundation plantings or shrub borders.
  • Forcing for winter bloom (learn more about how to force branches indoors.

Garden styles: Japanese gardens, English and cottage gardens, modern gardens.

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Shrubs 101
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