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Plant Profile: Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles x superba)

I first became interested in flowering quince because of a Japanese print I was given as a gift many years ago. The irregular branching pattern and the simple red flowers attached directly on the leafless stems were eye catching, exotic, and made a decorative and interesting picture when framed and hung on the wall. As things turned out, the quince in the picture was probably Chaenomeles speciosa or C. japonica native to China and Japan respectively, and not the quince I now grow in my garden, C. x superba, Many hybrids between the Chinese and Japanese forms have become available and those of the Superba series are among the best. Small cultivars as well as almost thornless ones are available in a variety of colors from white, to pink, and red. The flowers are outstanding for about 2 weeks in the late winter to early spring when they bloom about the time of forsythia. The fruits that follow in the fall are edible if cooked and can be used in preserves and jellies where their high pectin content is an asset. Branches can be forced for winter bloom, plants are excellent subjects for bonsai and espallier.

Type: Deciduous shrub.

Bloom: White to pink, red, and scarlet 1-1 ½” flowers are borne without stems on leafless branches in late winter to early spring.

Foliage: Dark green, oval to oblong, 2-2 ½” long leaves.

Size: 3-5’ H x 3-6” W.

Light: Best bloom is in full sun but part shade is tolerated.

Soil: Average, light, loamy, well drained; alkaline soil may cause chlorosis.

Fertilizer: Apply a general all purpose fertilizer in spring to enhance flowering.

Hardiness: Zones 5-9.

Care: Resist the temptation to shear or heavy prune the plant as its irregular branching pattern in part of its charm; cut out dead branches and trim branch tips to shape immediately after flowering.

Pests and Diseases: Susceptible to fungal leaf spot, fireblight, scab, aphids, scale, and mites; early frost may damage buds.

Propagation: Semi-ripe cuttings in summer; layering in fall.

Outstanding Selections:
‘Jet Trail (3-4’ H, white)
‘Texas Scarlet’ (2-3’)
‘Pink Lady’ (thornless, 5’H x 5’ W deep rose pink)
‘Cameo’ ( compact, double peach-pick, 4’ H x 5’ W).

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