An Old Fashioned Shrub for Early Spring Color

Spring is on its way – there’s a bit of softness in the air, a tease of sunshine in the mornings and, here and there, the beginning of spring’s colorful show of flowers. Flowering Quince, Chaenomeles speciosa, is one of the first to greet us with a burst of color. In Willits, this unassuming shrub blooms delightfully anytime from February through March with waxy flowers in shades of red-orange, rose, pink or white.

This deciduous shrub grows from 6 to 10 feet tall and spreads as wide. It is a twiggy, tangled, multi-stemmed plant that makes a good barrier or hedge. Flowering Quince will tolerate a wide range of soil and site conditions, including dry sites. It can be grown in shady areas, but for best growth and flowering, plant in full sun.

Flowering Quinces are easily grown and are valued for their early spring flowers. Their 1-1/2 inch, apple-blossom-like flowers are borne in clusters and are quite showy for over a month.

The new leaves emerge a bronzed, reddish color which turns to glossy green, but there is no real fall color. In winter, the dense, twiggy character of the plant makes a good shelter for birds and other small wildlife (while successfully keeping out the neighbor’s dog).

Branches may be used in arrangements if they’re cut before the flowers are fully expanded. When these shrubs are grown in the open, they need no pruning unless their branches become crowded. Periodic rejuvenation pruning can enhance the plant’s ornamental performance and should be done after flowering so as not to damage next year’s flowers. Old clumps gradually spread by suckering and they can be dug and divided to obtain additional plants.

Flowering Quince is a relative of the edible Quince and does produce small, quince-like fruits, 2″ to 2.5″ long and yellow-green in color. The fruits taste awful when eaten fresh but do make tasty preserves if harvested in October.

There are a number of Flowering Quince cultivars of special interest. ‘Texas Scarlet’ is a beautiful spreading shrub with fiery red flowers, growing 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide.

‘Toyo Nishiki” is an outstanding variety that bears pink, white and occasionally red flowers all on the same plant. It makes an excellent bonsai plant, or will grow 3-5 feet in the garden. ‘Super Red’ is an upright form to 8 feet high and 6-8 feet wide. It has spectacular, large, bright red flowers.

All Flowering Quinces will bloom indoors from branches cut before the flowers open. They are wonderful for arranging.

Flowering Quince is a tough, reliable shrub in the garden that offers a welcome greeting each spring.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.