Chaenomeles (Ornamental Quince)

Chaenomeles red flowers

These beautiful hardy shrubs provide an abundance of spring blossom, followed by fragrant yellow fruits in the autumn. An early flowering delight that is ideal for any medium to large size garden.

Family: Rosaceae
Botanical Name: Chaenomeles (kie-nuh-may-leez)
Common Names: Flowering quince, Japanese quince, Ornamental quince

Foliage: Spiny branches clothed with simple, glossy green, leaves. Deciduous.

Flowers: Clusters of waxy, open bowl-shaped flowers, in shades of red, pink, white and orange (depending on variety). The flowers usually appear before the leaves emerge.

Fruit: Sweetly-scented green or yellow fruits, which ripen in September-October.

Flowering Period: Early spring

Soil: Fertile moist but well-drained soil (clay, sand or loam). Any pH.

Conditions: Full sun, any aspect, exposed or sheltered.

Habit: Bushy.

Type: Shrub.

Origin: Northern Asia.

Hardiness: Fully hardy in the UK.

Planting and Growing Chaenomeles

Chaenomeles red flowers

Plant in well-drained fertile soil in sun or partial shade. Easily grown in a sunny border or as a wall plant. Open sunny sites produce the best flowers and fruits.

The growth habit of Chaenomeles can become a little tangled and untidy, however they do respond well to training and pruning.

Wall grown shrubs can be trained to grow much taller and wider than in the open ground, and will benefit from the wall's warmth and protection in winter. They can even be grown on a north-facing wall, where few brightly coloured shrubs will flourish. Although, if you are growing Chaenomeles for its fruit, then it is best to fan-train against a south or west-facing wall or fence.

The aromatic quince fruits can be used for making excellent jams and jellies. Wait until the fruit is truly yellow and fairly soft to the touch before harvesting, otherwise it can be quite bitter.

Image Credit: Urszula - Pixabay

Taking Care of Chaenomeles

Water thoroughly during dry weather until well established. Mulch with organic matter in spring and apply a general fertilizer suitable for fruiting shrubs.

Pruning Chaenomeles

Prune after flowering by removing any straggly, unruly, thin, crowded or weak shoots. Most varieties have thorns, so always wear protective gloves when handling and pruning.

Hard regenerative pruning can be carried out if the bush becomes overly-large or too straggly. Unfortunately the majority of autumn fruit will be lost if this is done. So if some fruit is desired, leave a few good flowering stems and remove these the following year.

Train wall shrubs by tying the strongest shoots to the wall in a fan-like pattern. Remove any shoots that are growing at right-angles to the wall.

Pests and Diseases

Susceptible to attack by brown scale and aphids. Chlorosis can yellow the leaves on chalky soils. Fireblight can wither the flowers and leaves.

Propagating Chaenomeles

Seed can be sown outdoors in autumn, although cultivars will not come true to type.

Take semi-ripe or heel cuttings in summer and overwinter plants in a cold frame, for planting out the following spring. Alternatively, layer low growing shoots in the autumn. You can also remove any rooted suckers in November or March and pot these on.

Popular Varieties of Chaenomeles Grown in the UK

There are three main species: C. Japonica, C. speciosa and C. x superba, from which a wide range of cultivars are available.

Chaenomeles japonica produces brilliant orange and red flowers over a long period from early spring. Height to 3ft (1m), spread 6ft (2m). Good forms include 'Sargentii' a good dwarf ground cover shrub with orange flowers in spring and aromatic golden fruits in autumn. Available from Thompson & Morgan.

Chaenomeles speciosa (Japan) a slowly growing shrub that eventually creates a dense, spreading bush. Eventual height and spread 10ft (3m). Flowers appear in clusters from March to May (or earlier in warmer winters). Good forms include: 'Moerloosii' apple-blossom pink & white flowers, 'Hot Fire' crimson-red flowers, 'Nivalis' large white flowers, 'Umbilicata' deep pink, 'Simonii' double deep red flowers (semi-horizontal habit) and 'Yukigoten' with double white flowers. Available from Thompson & Morgan.

Chaenomeles x superba a vigorous, low spreading, free flowering form. Height up to 6ft (2m). A number of good cultivars are available, in a range of flower colours, including: 'Nicoline' red flowers, 'Hever Castle' shrimp pink, 'Knap Hill Scarlet' brilliant salmon-scarlet, 'Pink Lady' deep pink, 'Rowallane' large deep crimson flowers, and one of the best reds 'Crimson and Gold' with magnificent deep-red flowers (RHS AGM Awarded). Available from Thompson & Morgan.