Ornamental quinces are spreading shrubs that bring a touch of Far Eastern flair from their homeland to our gardens between March and April with their brick-red, white or pink blossoms. They are also popular as ornamental shrubs in the garden because in autumn they produce wonderfully fragrant and edible fruits that are similar in shape to pears or apples, but are significantly smaller with a size of four to five centimeters.
Table of Contents
There are only a few known species in the world
Ornamental quinces reach a width of about two meters and a stature height of one to five meters. The best-known types of ornamental quince, which is also called pseudo quince, are:
1. Japanese quince
- mostly brick-red flower
- Height about one to two meters
- dark green foliage
- low varieties (about a meter): Simonii, Carl Ramcke, Vesuvius
2. Chinese quince
- often red flowers
- Height: up to five meters
- light to medium green leaves
In the meantime, tree nurseries and nurseries have a large number of hybrids on offer, most of which are the result of crosses between the two species mentioned. While all original species have strong thorns, hybrids are also available that no longer form thorns (like Cido).
- medium-high varieties: souvenirs of Carl Ramcke (pink flowers) or Orange Star (orange flowers)
- high species (from three meters): Nivalis (white flower), Chaenomeles speciosa (red)
Ornamental quinces love the sun, which is why planting in a southerly direction is ideal for the plants. Broadly growing species are ideal as ground cover or for planting on slopes. Chaenomeles also grow well on relatively poor soils. In a nutrient-poor location, they need a little organic fertilizer such as compost or manure in spring.
- Soil: clay, rich in nutrients, permeable to water
- Location: partially shaded, better sunny
- also tolerates calcareous soils
- no waterlogging
Planting and care
Ornamental quinces can be planted outdoors either in spring (April) or in autumn. The best time is in October. Then the plants still have enough time to develop and grow new roots before winter. If the soil and light conditions are optimal, they do not require any special care and do not need additional fertilization. If the weather is dry for a long time or very hot, the ornamental quinces must be thoroughly watered, otherwise they will lose flowers or fruits or dry up completely. Planting is easy but requires a little preparation:
- Before planting: dig up the soil well and loosen it.
- Dig a sufficiently large hole.
- Recommended: At least five times the size of the root ball
- Water the root ball well.
- With poor soil: add clay.
- Mix in mature compost or manure as fertilizer.
- With compacted soil: expanded clay as a drainage layer
- Lift the plant out of the pot above the planting hole and insert.
- Root ball in the net: cut open the net in the planting hole and remove it.
- Cut off damaged roots.
- Fill the hole with soil.
- Tread the soil lightly so that a slight indentation remains.
- Soak in the well.
Ornamental quinces take up a lot of space. When planting, enough space to neighboring plants should be allowed for. Hedges are planted one meter apart. A thick layer of bark mulch is helpful so that the soil can store moisture well.
In the case of ornamental quinces, the flowers only form on the branches when the wood there is at least two years old. New, green shoots and tips of branches that are not yet lignified remain flowerless in the first few years. Gardeners hoping for abundant bloom should be very careful with a pruning. In general, it is better to cut less. If the shoot tips are removed regularly, the plant rewards with a bushier growth. Ornamental quinces grow only very slowly, so with older plants it is completely sufficient if they are lightly pruned every two to three years. For the first time, pruning takes place in the third year at the earliest.
May to June: Immediately after flowering, the tips of the shoots can be carefully shortened.
At any time: Individual, very long shoots, inward-growing or crossing branches can be shortened at any time.
Winter: In the resting phase, the old wood and dry twigs are cut close to the ground or branches.
Completely overgrown shrubs can, if necessary, be cut as early as March. However, it is better to wait until after flowering. When making a taper cut, the following should be used:
- The shrub needs to be examined carefully.
- Don’t just cut the outer branches.
- Also trim the one in the heart of the bush.
- Cut off about a third of the branches.
- Distribute the cut evenly over the shrub.
- Repeat this cut in the next few years.
- After three years the shrub is completely rejuvenated.
Hedges can also be left to their own devices and run wild. However, if you prefer a certain shape or bushy growth, you can cut your hedge a little more radically so that the shape is retained. The consequence of this, however, is that the plants will only bloom very sparsely in the coming spring. Because at first long flowerless shoots are formed. Growing a dense hedge from young plants requires patience. Here a careful cut is necessary about two to three times a year. It takes years before the hedge becomes opaque.
The ornamental quince is ideal as an espalier plant. Especially for unadorned house or garage walls, it is an enrichment due to its long glowing bloom. With espalier plants, the shoots have to be bent or tied in the desired direction on a regular basis. Branches that grow in the wrong direction are removed.
Since the sowing of seeds from the ornamental quince is very tedious, propagation by cuttings is recommended in early summer during the growth phase.
- Cut off several long shoot tips (at least 8 inches).
- Remove leaves from the lower end of the stem.
- Allow the cut to dry in the shade for about two hours.
- In partially shaded places in the garden, put about ten centimeters into the ground.
- Water regularly until the roots have taken root.
- The rooting can be recognized by the formation of new leaves or shoots.
Alternatively, the cutting can also be placed in a glass with water. If it has developed enough roots, it is carefully placed in a pot with a mixture of clay, sand and humus. The new plants should then remain in the pot for about two years to prevent them from being damaged by the cold.
Note: Always cut the cuttings so that there are two to three sleeping eyes at the bottom. These will then form roots in the earth. The cutting is then stuck into the ground up to the third eye (about ten centimeters). This is done either in the garden in a shady place or on a warm kitchen window sill in pots. The soil must not dry out completely while the roots are forming. However, too much water leads to mold growth or rot in the cuttings.
Growing from seeds
In winter, the fruits that have formed a bright yellow or reddish color on the shrub become soft and break. They are welcome fodder for native birds that stay in our gardens to hibernate. Many gardeners can see that the birds are sowing in other parts of the garden. These plants can easily be dug up and planted elsewhere. Patient gardeners can also grow ornamental quinces from seeds themselves. This turns out to be a bit complex, but it is quite promising. For this purpose, the seeds must be stored moist for several weeks at a temperature just above freezing point. This process is called stratification. The seeds of some plants first need a cold period for them to germinate. This also includes the ornamental quince:
- Time: winter (when the fruits have softened)
- Remove seeds from the fruit.
- Wash off the rest of the pulp.
- Let dry for a day or two.
- Place in layers in a shallow bowl with damp sand.
- Cover with foil or a plastic bag.
- Keep in the refrigerator all winter.
- Put on the windowsill from March.
- Remove the film briefly every day and ventilate.
- Keep it moist at all times.
- Avoid waterlogging.
- Time to germination: at least two months, sometimes longer
- Isolation: from about five centimeters in size
- Soil: nutrient-poor cultivation soil or cactus soil
- Put outdoors in the spring after two years.
Growing from seeds is complex, but quite promising. Because usually only a certain proportion of the seeds actually germinate, a few additional seeds should be sown.
In contrast to some other ornamental fruits, the approximately five centimeters large and bright yellow or reddish quinces are edible. However, they are quite hard when raw, so they should be cooked before consumption. The quinces have a long shelf life when uncooked. They are high in vitamin C and low in sugar. The harvest should take place as soon as possible before the first severe frosts.
Ornamental quinces are able to pollinate themselves, so that fruits can also form on a single plant. If the harvest is meager, this may be due to the fact that the shrub was kept too dry and then it throws fruit. If there are few fruits on the plant despite sufficient moisture, the yield of the tiny quinces can be increased by planting two or more additional ornamental quinces in the garden. All ornamental quince plants of the same variety or those with simple flowers (unfilled flowers) are suitable as partners.
The ornamental quince is an enrichment for the garden not only for flowering in spring, but also in winter. Round, bright yellow fruits hang on the almost black wood over the cold season. This not only looks interesting, but also provides birds with food in the otherwise barren garden.
In their homeland in Asia, the plants are exposed to low temperatures and frosts in winter. Most of the varieties of the ornamental quince are therefore hardy up to minus thirty degrees. Even with longer cold spells and cold winds, there is not much to worry about. Only in long frost-free, sunny periods in winter does the plant need water outdoors.
Diseases and pests
Ornamental quinces are very easy to care for and robust plants that are very rarely attacked by parasites or diseases. Sometimes they suffer from iron deficiency in soils with high pH levels. Then it is important to lower the pH value in the soil. The soil usually contains enough iron, but this is not accessible to the plant when the pH values are high. Therefore it is rarely useful to apply additional iron (as fertilizer). The addition of acidic soil or fertilizer is more promising. Rotten needle leaves that are mixed under the ground can often help here. Special preparations are also available in stores that can be introduced directly into the soil or added to the irrigation water.
Ornamental quinces love a sunny spot in the garden. If they are also standing on nutrient-rich, moist and well-drained soil, they do not require any special care or attention. The lush blooms last for two months. In autumn, especially when there are several shrubs in the garden, bright yellow spherical fruits form, which adorn the garden throughout the winter and provide food for both the gardener and the local birds.