Quinces

Cydonia oblonga

Quinces are small, irregularly shaped trees that grow to about 15 feet tall. They often are used as rootstock for dwarf pears. The trees bear white or pink showy flowers at the ends of leafy shoots in the spring. The flowers are susceptible to winter injury at temperatures below about -15 degrees F, but trees are hardy in Zones 5 to 9. As they mature, the trees take on an unusual gnarled form.

The foliage is deep green with a fine soft fuzz underneath and turns yellow in the fall. The fruits are very fragrant and are commonly used to make jelly. Harvest them when they are golden yellow. Quince is a good source of pectin.

Don't confuse these quinces with several other quince-like species grown for ornamental purposes. There are many varieties of Japanese quince (Chaenomeles japonica) and common flowering quince (C. speciosa, C. lagenaria)—attractive shrubs bearing showy pink, red, or orange flowers in early spring but most producing fruits that are hard and nearly inedible. These fruits do, however, have a high pectin content and are occasionally mixed with other fruits in jellies and preserves.

Growing Quinces

Quinces prefer a fertile site in full sun. They are slightly more tolerant of wet soils and drought than apples and will fruit more reliably on moist but well-drained soil. Cross-pollination is needed for good fruiting. Plant quinces in a protected area because they respond poorly to rapid changes in temperature and exposure.

Although quinces were once grown extensively in New York, pest problems limit their use today. Flower bud injury, fire blight, borers, codling moth, curculio, scale, and tent caterpillars all can cause problems. To avoid fire blight, do not use excessive nitrogen and keep pruning to a minimum. Thin out suckers in winter or early spring. Although quinces are attractive and have interesting fruit, an aggressive maintenance program may be needed if you use these plants extensively in your landscape.

The cultivars Angers, Orange, Pineapple, Champion, and Smyrna are generally available.

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