How to grow ornamental quince
The ornamental quince is a small, pretty shrub with lots to offer to any garden. Chaenomeles spp. produce abundant flowers from February through to May, which are enjoyed by bees. The blossoms are followed by attractive, slow developing fruit which are a great source of food for birds throughout the summer. The shrub also doesn’t need much maintenance and is super easy to look after. Here is our essential guide on how to grow ornamental quince.
Types of quince to grow
Chaenomeles spp. are sometimes confused with the related quince (Cydonia oblonga), but the ornamental quince is grown primarily for its flowers rather than fruit. It is often called ‘flowering quince’. The fruit of Chaenomeles spp. can be eaten, but they are smaller than the fruit produced by Cydonia.
Ornamental Quince is also a much smaller shrub than the edible tree which can sometimes reach 4.5m (15').
The main species of Chaenomeles to grow are:
- Chaenomeles speciosa. Also known as Chinese quince. This species has red, white or pink flowers, and can grow to 2m (7') high. Notable cultivars include ‘Moerloosei’, which has a particularly long flowering period, and ‘Geisha Girl’, which has salmon-pink flowers.
- Chaenomeles japonica. Also known as Japanese quince, or Maule’s quince. The smallest of Quince species, this variety only grows to 1m high (3'), but can grow to double this in width. Expect red, white or pink flowers with small fruits up to 7cm across (3"). Attractive cultivars include ‘Pink Lady’ and ‘Texas Scarlet’.
- Chaenomeles cathayensis. A much larger variety of Ornamental quince, growing up to 6m (18') tall. Flowers are white or pink with fruits up to 15cm (6") across.
What you’ll need to grow ornamental quince
Ornamental quince can be grown from seeds, but takes a long time and germination is variable. An easier way to propagate your own quince is by tip layering from an existing plant, in the spring, after new leaves have begun to appear.
Ornamental quince plants have a naturally arching habit, so find a long branch, gently bend it towards the ground and simply bury the tip of the stem in nearby soil. You may need to weigh it down so that the stem doesn’t spring up before it has taken root.
Water the buried tip, and keep it connected to the main plant until you are sure that the buried stem has produced new roots. Check this after two to three weeks by gently removing some of the soil away from the tip, to see if new roots have started to shoot from the buried stem. If new roots are visible, sever the stem from the main plant, and prepare to relocate the plant later in the year.
Ornamental quince are best planted out in the winter, when the quince becomes dormant. You will need:
- A spade
- A garden fork
- Well rotted compost
- Using the spade to dig a hole in the ground that is twice the width of the rootball of the Ornamental quince. The hole should be slightly deeper than the rootball.
- Disturb the soil in the bottom of the hole, using the fork.
- Wearing gloves, dig in plenty of Levington® Multi Purpose Compost to ensure good drainage. Add Miracle-Gro® Premium All Purpose Continuous Release Plant Food to provide a long-lasting nutrient boost to the newly planted Ornamental quince.
- Place the plant in the middle of the hole, backfill with soil and gently firm in so that there is good contact between the roots and the soil.
- Water well and leave to establish.
Easier and quicker still is to purchase an Ornamental quince from a garden centre or online retailer. An ideal time to do this is the autumn, when the soil is still warm but not too dry.
Where to plant and place your ornamental quince
Locate the Ornamental quince in full sun, or dappled shade. They will grow especially well in full sun, which will encourage flowering. They are fully hardy to frosty conditions, but should be protected from strong winds.
Ornamental quince are best placed in a border, where they can be left to spread across the ground. They can be grown in a container, but moisture levels will need to be closely monitored, and plants will always be much happier in bare soil. Ornamental quince will grow in acid through to alkaline soil.
The arching and dense habit of Chaenomeles spp. mean that it is not easy to train against a wall. However, Chaenomeles are deciduous woody perennials and produce small thorns, making it a great security deterrent to plant around the perimeter of a garden. The spikes also mean it is best placed away from paths.
Caring and nurturing your ornamental quince
Ornamental quince flowers on old wood, so prune after flowering in May-June. Only prune to maintain a manageable size and shape, and to remove dead or diseased growth. Make sure to remove enough growth from the centre of the plant to allow good air circulation. As they are very thorny, wear thick gloves which cover the forearms too.
Whilst Ornamental quince tolerate drought well, water them in very dry periods, and add a mulch annually to help retain moisture.
Common pests and diseases with ornamental quince
Why is the bark on my Ornamental quince becoming swollen and producing a sappy substance?
Canker is a serious disease which can severely weaken and eventually kill an Ornamental quince. Act quickly to prune affected parts of the plant back to 15cm (6") beyond any visible damage.
What are the shiny brown lumps on the leaves of my ornamental quince?
Scale insects can attack Ornamental quince, clinging on to the underside of leaves as they suck sap from the plant. Mature plants will be able to withstand a small number of scale insects, and the population will be controlled by natural predators, such as ladybirds and birds. Encourage these into your garden. Larger infestations of scale insects can be treated with BugClear™ Fruit & Veg Ultra.
Why is new growth on my ornamental quince stunted and gnarly?
Aphids love to feed on young foliage and flower buds. They need managing if these grey-green pests appear in large number. Encourage ladybirds, birds, and other predators which will consume the aphids. Spray with a strong blast of water from the hose, and squish between fingers. Badly affected flower heads can also be removed and immersed in soapy water to kill off the aphids.
Frequently asked questions about ornamental quince
Are Ornamental quince fruits edible?
Ornamental quince fruits can’t be eaten raw but do make excellent jellies and jam. However they are smaller than the fruits of Cydonia, and a little fiddly to prepare!
How easy are ornamental quinces to grow?
Quinces are incredibly easy to grow as they are tolerant of most soil and pH types.
Can ornamental quince be grown in pots?
Yes, but they will need more care and attention to maintain moisture levels than those grown in the ground.
Is ornamental quince evergreen?
No, they are deciduous and will lose leaves in the autumn.
Key features of ornamental quince
|Botanical Name||Chaenomeles spp.|
|Plant Type||Woody shrub|
|Light Exposure||Full sun to dappled shade|
|Soil pH||Neutral to slightly acidic|
|Flowering Time||February - May|
|Flower Colour||White, pink, or red|