In this article, I’ll be looking at how you care for quince trees. This ancient fruiting tree is enjoying something of a comeback, and as more people taste this delicious, easy-to-grow fruit, they want to produce it for themselves. If you’d like to add something a little bit different to your orchard, quince could be the perfect candidate. Let’s find out more.
What You'll Learn Today
- How Do I Care For My Quince Tree?
- How Much Water Does A Quince Tree Need?
- What Do You Feed Quince Trees?
- How Long Does It Take For A Quince Tree To Bear Fruit?
- Why Is My Quince Tree Not Producing Fruit?
- Why Is My Quince Tree Dying?
How Do I Care For My Quince Tree?
Like all fruit trees, quince also needs a certain amount of care and attention to keep them strong, healthy, and bearing lots of delicious, highly fragrant fruits.
Propagating Quince Trees
If you want to grow quince trees, there are a few different options available to you. Quinces are relatively easy to grow from hardwood cuttings, seeds, layering, or grafting. We have an article that will tell you all about how to grow a quince tree.
Choosing The Right Location
One of the biggest enemies of the quince tree is wind because of its naturally sprawling growth habit and branches that sag when laden with fruit.
To prevent wind damage, the first thing to consider is location. When planting your quince trees, try to pick a sheltered spot where they are given some protection from wind.
First, you’ll need to figure out which direction the prevailing wind comes from and use objects in the environment to block its blast. This could be a building, other mature trees, or a hillside, for example.
Establishing Your Orchard
Another consideration when deciding where you’re going to plant your trees is the land itself. Are other trees growing there or did they grow there previously?
It is better to establish quinces in virgin land where there are no other tree roots present. This is because they are susceptible to the Armillaria mellea fungus that is frequently found living on the roots of native trees.
If you have old roots in your land, they should be dug out and burned.
The best type of soil is rich and loamy with good drainage. Soil can be improved with the addition of organic matter in the form of well-rotted compost or manure.
Mulching newly planted trees can also help with adding nutrients and helping to subdue the development of competitive weeds.
Quince trees enjoy a soil pH of 6.5 to 7. If your land is more acidic or alkaline, you will need to use appropriate amendments to bring it into the correct range. Keep in mind that the use of NPK fertilizers will acidify soil over time.
Preparing The Soil
Tilling the soil deeply where trees are to be planted, will help them to become established faster. The young tree roots will be able to penetrate the soil more easily.
Pruning And Training Quince Trees
It is the pruning of the young tree that establishes its shape.
- Pruning Young Trees – Young trees require pruning into an open center or vase shape to make fruit picking easy. This is done in the first few years after planting. From there it requires annual thinning of excess growth to prevent overcrowding, particularly in the middle of the tree.
- Topping – Young trees may also be topped to help them branch lower down and ensure fruits are easier to reach.
- Dormancy – Pruning is performed in late fall or winter when the tree has become dormant.
- Where Fruits Grow – Quince fruits grow on the tips of young shoots. This causes them to over bend and droop down as the fruit fills when ripening.
- Don’t Prune New Growth – New growth in springtime should not be pruned back, as this is where flowers appear. Once blossoms are pollinated, they become fruits. By cutting the new spring growth off, you’ll effectively prevent the tree from producing any fruit.
- Preparing Your Tools – Before pruning, start by sharpening and sterilizing your pruning tools. You can use rubbing alcohol or a weak bleach solution which you then rinse off with clean water. This is necessary to prevent any disease from spreading when you make the cuts. Ensure to re-sterilize between trees or if removing any diseased branches.
- What To Prune – Inspect your tree and begin by cutting out any diseased, dead, or damaged branches. Next, look for any branches that cross each other or grow inwards towards the center.
Look at the angle at which the branches are growing and remove any that have a very narrow or open-angle from the primary branch.
Prune them just beyond where they emerge and leave the cut branches growth collar intact.
It is best to avoid too many plants growing beneath the quince trees, as they will rob nutrients from the surrounding soil. These can be controlled with the use of an appropriate herbicide or, more naturally, by applying mulch during the growing season.
If you are growing quince commercially, the alleys between the trees should be mown frequently. If you don’t have grass in the alleys, for example, in drier areas, then they can be tilled lightly to keep weeds under control.
In this video, learn more about the quince and caring for your fruit trees:
Pollinating Your Quince Trees
Quince trees are self-fruiting, meaning they don’t need another quince tree to pollinate them so they bear fruit. However, if you do have other quince trees that can cross-pollinate each other, you will always get a better crop.
Insects such as bees are needed to pollinate quince flowers by carrying and transferring pollen between them.
The flowers themselves are large and, depending on the variety, can be pale pink through to a vibrant orange. They are very ornamental and usually bloom slightly later than most apple varieties.
How Much Water Does A Quince Tree Need?
Even if you live in a high-rainfall area, irrigation, particularly during the growing season, is required to help trees develop quickly and yield consistent crops of a good size.
Active growth differs depending on the cultivar of the tree, climate, and light levels. Broadly speaking, it is from spring to fall.
Soil should be kept moist but not saturated with deep watering. By watering just the surface ground around the tree, it will result in shallow root formation which can cause the tree to be easily blown over in strong winds.
Deep watering is usually required about once or twice a week when trees are becoming established, but it may be necessary to do this more or less depending on the weather conditions and soil type.
The need for water can be tested by scraping away the top layer of soil and poking your index finger into the ground up to your second finger joint. If it comes out dry, watering is necessary; if it is still damp, wait another day or so and test again.
Keep in mind that container-grown trees will dry out far more rapidly than those planted in the ground. Therefore they require watering more regularly.
It’s not only the sun that dries out the soil, the wind will too, so even if it has been overcast, but windy, check water levels.
What Do You Feed Quince Trees?
Quince trees don’t require a lot of feeding and providing you have good soil, may require nothing more than some annual compost.
Mulching For Nutrients
In late fall, to late winter applying a layer of mulch around your quince trees of at least 3 inches deep will help protect roots from frost and help with future growth by supplying the soil with valuable nutrients and increasing organic matter which prevents water loss.
It is best to leave a slight gap around the base of the trunk.
Mulching in spring and throughout summer can help with water retention in the soil and prevents weeds from growing.
There are various suitable substances that can be used as mulch, well-rotted garden compost, well-rotted manure, or grass clippings.
Ornamental mulches can also be used. These include things like chipped bark or pebbles, but they don’t have the same nutritive properties.
Feeding your trees high potassium, broad-spectrum fertilizer of a ratio around 5:2:6 (nitrogen: phosphorus: potassium) in early spring can help get your tree started.
Avoid high-strength nitrogen fertilizers, as these will put on a lot of leaf growth which can facilitate disease and take nutrients away from the fruits, and it also delays ripening.
Container-grown quinces should be given a slow-release granular fertilizer or a water-based one that is given once a fortnight according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Always remember to keep fertilizers away from the bare roots, trunk, and branches of your tree. This does not apply to fertilizers specifically made for spraying onto foliage.
How Long Does It Take For A Quince Tree To Bear Fruit?
It will depend on how your tree was grown, from a graft, seed, whip, and so on.
Grafted trees will generally start to produce their first few fruits within three years, while those grown from seed can take considerably longer.
For a quince to reach maximum fruit production takes around ten years from the appearance of its first fruits.
When they are well cared for, quince trees will continue to be productive for at least 25 years and will often live to be more than 50 years old.
Why Is My Quince Tree Not Producing Fruit?
It can be most disappointing when the fruit tree you have lavished care and attention on does not produce any fruit. Some of the reasons for this include:
- Over pruning
- Damaged flower buds
- Pests and disease
- Chill hours
1. Over pruning
The quince flowers and fruits are born on the tips of the small branch stems that grow each spring. If you prune your tree during springtime then you’ll likely be removing these and so removing where the fruits grow.
2. Flower bud damage
There are various things that can cause the flower buds to become damaged. A cold snap in the spring that brings frost is one. This is preventable by wrapping your tree carefully in horticultural fleece.
3. Pests and disease
Another thing that may damage flower buds is a disease called fire blight which gives the trees bark, leaves, and stems all have a scorched look. Bacteriacides and pruning away damaged areas and burning them is the only treatment.
The two-spotted spider mite is an insect that can cause significant tree defoliation and affects fruit yield.
4. Chill hours
Many fruit trees require a proper dormancy period during the winter. This is where the air temperature drops to below 45°F. Different cultivars of quince will need differing amounts of chill hours, but an average is around 300 hours.
As temperatures rise in the spring, the tree naturally comes out of dormancy and is ready to start its reproductive process.
Insufficient chill hours result in the tree not becoming dormant and its reproductive cycle being upset.
Although quince is typically classed as self-fruiting, which means not needing another quince tree to cross-pollinate them. All fruit trees will produce more fruit if they are cross-pollinated.
A lack of insects such as bees to pollinate the flowers can cause a problem. If this is the case, then you may need to hand pollinate with a soft brush.
If your quince is not mature enough, or if it is too old, it will not bear fruit. It can take a quince around five or six years before it becomes fruit bearing.
Why Is My Quince Tree Dying?
There are various reasons your quince tree might appear to be sick or even dying:
- Lack of water
- Waterlogged roots
- Poor soil pH
1. Lack of water
Water is essential to the life of your tree and it can be easy to forget that just like us trees need water, especially when weather conditions are hot and dry.
The easiest way to ensure your tree is getting sufficient water is to set up a watering system that you can either put on a timer or just switch on manually a couple of times a week.
Fruit trees benefit from infrequent, deep watering to encourage them to grow a root system that reaches far down into the ground. This in turn helps protect the tree from droughts as it matures, because it’s able to access moisture from deep underground.
2. Waterlogged roots
Just as too little water can be detrimental to the health of your tree, so can too much.
If you have particularly heavy clay soil or ground that isn’t free draining, then during times of heavy rain the roots of your tree can be left continually saturated.
Roots need to breathe and being constantly in water will suffocate them and cause them to rot, killing your tree.
Just like us, trees can suffer from attacks by fungus, bacteria, viruses, and insects. Most can be dealt with providing you give the tree appropriate care. But some are more deadly and once infected the tree cannot be saved.
Without a good diet, we eventually become sick. This is the same for a tree. If your quince is planted in poor soil that has a severe lack of nutrients it won’t grow and thrive. Your tree will require feeding, particularly while it is young and when fruiting.
Overfeeding can also be detrimental and cause problems for your tree, so a careful balance is required. This is where slow-release fertilizers and the use of natural organic composts and manures can be beneficial, as these feed the tree gradually through the season.
Care must also be taken how you feed your tree. If you use a liquid fertilizer it should not be brought into contact with the trunk, branches, or leaves of the tree, as it will burn them and sometimes cause irreparable damage.
5. Soil pH
All soil has a pH value and will land somewhere in a range between 0 acidic and 10 alkaline. Various things can affect soil pH, including what the underlying rock type is such as limestone or chalk which will naturally make the soil pH quite alkaline.
Acidic soil can be caused through a variety, and usually a combination, of factors including the presence of certain minerals, decomposition of organic matter, and leaching from rainwater.
Quince trees like soil to be a pH of between 6.5 to 7.
Quince trees are generally quite hardy and require only a small amount of care once established. Getting that care is important and ensures the tree remains healthy and productive for many years.
Quince does best in rich, loamy soils that drain well and are not too heavy. They like a sunny position, sheltered from the wind as they suffer from breakage due to their sprawling habit.
Good pruning maintenance, while the tree is young, will ensure it has a good shape that can help keep the canopy open, so air can circulate and sunlight reaches the lower branches.