The flowering quince (Chaenomeles) is an insignificant and easily overlooked deciduous shrub that just sits there quietly minding its own business – until late winter when it blooms. Its blossoms are a paradox – old-fashioned yet exotic.
In late winter, when just about everything else blooming is either yellow or pale pink, the flowering quince comes up with its passionate scarlet flowers. Or are they rose? The color is hard to describe.
These stunning beauties are originally from China, Japan, and Korea.
My favorite way to arrange the flowering quince is to just highlight a few stems so that each exotic little blossom becomes more important.
There are many varieties of flowering quince, including some that do well in containers. Some can even be trained into bonsais. Some varieties only grow to about three feet while others can reach 10 feet.
The most common blossom color is shown here, but there are others including pale pink, white, salmon, and crimson.
Care and Feeding
The flowering quince does well in hardiness zones 4 through 9. It adapts to many soil conditions, including clay soil. It also adapts to high altitudes, and it’s deer resistant and moderately drought tolerant once established.
Unless in a hot climate, this shrub is happiest in full sun. My flowering quince is planted in the shade, where it still manages to bloom a little, although the branching is sparse.
It needs air circulation to help avoid mildew and to help it bloom. So it’s best not to locate it in a garden bed that is already densely planted.
When pruning, keep in mind that the flowers form on the previous year’s growth. It’s best to prune the plant early – before the buds begin to appear.
Even in the shade, my flowering quinces have produced a little fruit. Although the fruit looks a little like small pear, it is not tasty to eat raw. But it is good for jams, jellies and liqueurs. Wildlife is attracted to the fruit, so what little fruit I do get, I just leave on the plant.
The quince blossom lends itself to many art forms and artistic interpretations. Here are few pretty examples from Etsy.
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