Flowering quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) is a deciduous shrub valued for its masses of showy white, red or pink blooms that brighten the landscape in late winter and early spring. Most varieties grow to 6 to 10 feet tall, with a similar spread, although some top out at only 3 feet. Flowering quince thrives in zones 4 through 9.
Flowering quince is an easy-to-grow, drought-tolerant shrub that does well in shady spots as well as sun (although more sunlight will produce better flowers). It is adaptable to many soil conditions and will even grow in heavy clay soil, as long as the pH is not too high. It is an extremely tough plant that will persist for years without pruning or serious insect or disease problems.
The flowers are 1 to 2 inches in diameter, with five petals, and bloom in late winter or early spring. The glossy dark green leaves appear soon after flowering and turn yellow or red in autumn. The edible quince fruit is yellowish-green with reddish blush and speckled with small dots. The fruit is 2 to 4 inches in diameter, fragrant, and ripens in fall.
The fruit of the flowering quince is sometimes used for making jelly, marmalade, and preserves, as it contains more pectin than apples and real quinces. The fruit also has more vitamin C than lemons.
The foliage of flowering quince turns yellow to red in the fall, providing color to the landscape. By virtue of its thorny dense growth habit, flowering quince is an excellent choice for an effective security barrier or to discourage foot traffic. It can be espaliered and is also suitable for cultivation as bonsai.
Flowering quince is used as a food plant by the larvae of some butterflies, and the flowers attract bees. Because it blooms so early, flowering quince is an important food for hummingbirds and will bring the birds to your yard before you even get your feeders out of storage.
Grow flowering quince shrubs in full sun for the best flowering display). For best results the soil should be slightly acidic or neutral.
Flowering Quince is not showy enough from season to season to be used as a specimen plant, I recommend growing it in mass along borders or as an early-spring accent in mixed border plantings. I have also seen varieties that bear thorns planted in hedges, for which the thorns furnish a measure of security. The old-time favorite Chaenomeles japonica is a classic cottage garden plant
Plants are deer-resistant. However, I know from personal experience (see below) that they are not rabbit-resistant. In terms of drawing “good” wildlife, they are known to be plants that attract hummingbirds.
Prune just after blooming is over, since the bush blooms on old wood.
Use mulch to suppress weeds and retain soil moisture. While these are reasonably drought-tolerant shrubs once established, young plants will usually need to be watered at times.
The best feature is obviously the gorgeous red, pink and orange colors of the flowers. Other types of flowering quince shrubs can produce white flowers.
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