If you’ve never heard of quince, don’t worry, it’s rarely grown in the U.S. as a fruit crop and is much less common than apples and pears of which it is a close relative. Far from being a new fruit, quince is actually quite ancient and has been talked about in ancient texts. Some even argue that it was a quince that Eve picked in the garden of Eden and not an apple. Let’s take a closer look at this fascinating fruit and discover how to grow a quince tree.
What You'll Learn Today
- Where Do Quince Trees Grow?
- How To Grow A Quince Tree From Seed?
- How To Plant Quince Trees?
- Dwarf Quince Trees
- Quince Bush Vs Quince Tree
Where Do Quince Trees Grow?
Quince (Cydonia oblonga) is the only member of the genus Cydonia and belongs to the family Rosaceae, as do pears and apples.
The tree is deciduous and bears golden-yellow fruits that ripen to a golden yellow in fall.
Quince trees will grow happily in zones 5 through 9 in the United States, although they’re native to areas around the Caspian Sea, Turkey, and Southeast Asia where the fruits are widely eaten and prized for their incredible aromatic scent and flavor.
In the U.S. even the ripe fruits can be very hard and woody, with a tart astringent flavor. They transform into something quite delectable after cooking. In warmer climates the fruits ripen to a softer texture, are less tart, and can be eaten fresh from the tree.
If growing quinces to eat fresh is important to you, first, you’ll need to select the right variety and then try growing them against a sunny south-facing wall or perhaps choose a dwarf variety to grow in a pot in the greenhouse.
One thing is certain, cooking quince transforms it completely. Many varieties turn a delicate shade of pink and have a delicate floral flavor that is popular for adding to apple pie recipes.
You may be more familiar with the Japanese quince which is grown as an ornamental shrub for its fragrant, pink blossoms that resemble wild roses. It attracts bees and butterflies so is a useful way of getting these essential pollinators into your garden.
How To Grow A Quince Tree From Seed?
The quince tree is relatively slow-growing and tends to create a fairly sprawling habit. Its eventual dimensions will depend on the soil it is grown in and it varies in height from 8 to 20 feet with a similar spread.
Controlling them can be done fairly easily by careful pruning and many consider them to be a good tree for a smaller garden.
Growing your own quince from seed is relatively easy. One thing to keep in mind is that seed-grown fruit trees take a lot longer to establish than those grown from cuttings or grafted onto rootstock. We will look more closely at other methods of growing quince later.
Note that there is no guarantee that a quince tree you grow from seed will develop to be like the tree the seeds came from.
Growing Quince From Seeds
1. First, you’ll need to get some seeds. They can be taken straight from a ripe quince fruit by slicing it open and removing the pips from the inside.
2. Clean the seeds carefully under running water and wipe them off with a paper towel.
3. Fill a plastic ziplock bag with some damp sand and place the seeds in the sand.
4. Keep your bag of seeds in the refrigerator until early spring – this is called stratification and mimics a natural period of winter dormancy.
5. Carefully remove your seeds from the sand, some may be showing signs of sprouting. Be sure you don’t damage any root growth.
6. Place a single seed into a pot filled with moist potting compost. Just place it on the surface and cover it with a light sprinkling of soil.
7. Spray the surface of the compost with some more water until it is nice and damp.
8. Place the pots in a warm place and keep them damp but not wet.
9. You should see sprouts appearing in around six weeks.
10. Allow the seedlings to develop until they are six to twelve inches in height, then re-pot into larger pots to grow on.
11. Plant out where you want the tree to grow the following spring. Introducing it gradually to the environment.
Other Ways To Grow Quince Trees
There are several other ways to grow quince trees.
Growing Quince Trees From Cuttings
Quince trees can be propagated from hardwood cuttings taken from selected varieties. This ensures a clone copy of the parent tree, so you can be sure of how the tree will grow and fruit. It will have all the properties of the donor tree.
- During late autumn to early winter take cuttings from a healthy tree. Cut a whip of approximately 10 to 12 inches in length from a full-size tree or 4 to 8 inches in length from a dwarf tree. Choose new wood that grew in the summer and has a green stem and plenty of leaf buds along the branch. Make a clean, slanting cut at a 45-degree angle using a sharp pair of pruners, just after a bud.
- With a small, sharp-bladed knife, carefully scrape off one quarter to one-third of the bark from the bottom of the cutting and allow it to stand in water for around 15 minutes. Some people prefer to leave the sticks in water and allow them to root there, but this can result in them rotting.
- Dip the end into a rooting hormone powder and tap off any excess. Or use a liquid rooting hormone.
- Plant the cuttings carefully into potting compost mixed with a small amount of lime, in a pot that is large enough to allow a reasonable amount of root growth around each cutting, depending on how many you’re doing.
- Carefully tamp down the soil around the cutting.
- Water well and ensure the soil remains damp but not wet throughout the winter.
- It’s fine to leave the cuttings outside in a sheltered position, as this keeps them hardy. Choose a spot out of direct sunlight and protected from cold winds.
- When you see leaves start to shoot in the spring remove each of the cuttings and carefully re-pot them into individual tubs to grow on.
- After around three months, plant your young trees out in the garden.
- Allow your new trees to grow long roots by watering them deeply once a week. To conserve water use a deep watering pipe as shown in the video link below.
- Remove any suckers that grow, a common problem from using this method.
This video shows one way of deep watering your young tree’s roots to help them develop without wasting water:
Growing Quince Trees By Layering
There are several layering techniques. Layering basically means getting roots to form on part of a plant that is still attached to the mother plant.
A. Low Branch Layering
If your quince has low hanging branches and there are some that almost touch the ground, bury the branch at the point where you want it to develop roots. This needs to be last season’s growth.
The best time to do this is in early spring. Pin the branch in place with a piece of strong wire or a piece of forked wood, then cover it with soil. Water it well and ensure it stays moist through the summer months.
By fall, gently remove the earth and you should find roots. Simply cut off the newly rooted part of the plant and place it where you want it to grow.
B. Air Layering
This technique is developing a lot of interest and is a method of propagating new plants from young green branches at any point you can easily reach on your tree. It will work best on younger growth. There are many videos showing how to do this on YouTube.
1. In spring, select young, healthy, green branches. Using a sharp knife, carefully remove a two-inch section of bark all the way around the branch where you want it to grow roots by scoring it and peeling it off.
2. Once you’ve removed the bark, use your knife to scrape off all the cambium layer that was below the bark so there is just bare wood.
3. Apply rooting hormone all over the bare wood, this can be done with a small paintbrush. Avoid getting it on you.
4. Take a ziplock bag that is around five to six inches in length and half fill it with a good quality potting compost mix. Fill it with water until the soil in the bag is soaking wet then close and seal the bag.
5. With your knife, make a vertical slit on one side of the bag from top to bottom, right in the center. Squeeze out all of the excess water so the soil in the bag is left only slightly damp.
6. Folding the bag back to open up the slit, place it around your prepared branch so the bare wood is in the center of the bag.
7. Close the slit in the bag around the branch and squeeze it tightly so the soil is held right up against the branch.
8. Use cable ties to firmly secure the bag around the branch. Getting someone to help with this can be very beneficial!
9. Cut off the excess ends of the cable ties.
10. Wrap the bag with aluminum foil and poke some holes in the bottom right into the bag so any excess moisture can drain freely. The foil keeps any roots that develop in darkness and mimics it being below ground.
11. Wait for two to three months before undoing the aluminum foil carefully and checking to see if there are any roots showing in the bag. If there is good root growth you can cut the branch from the tree. If not, put the foil back on and leave it a while longer.
12. When you’ve got good root growth, very carefully cut off the cable ties and extremely gently remove the bag and soil from around the cutting. The roots are very tender and easy to break.
13. Put up your newly rooted cutting into a pot to grow on. In a few months, plant it where you’d like the new tree to grow.
C. Mound Layering
The final kind of layering is mound layering. In spring when the tree is growing new shoots from the base of the tree (suckers) build up a five-inch mount of soil and peat moss around the base of the shoot. Keep it moist through the summer and come fall gently scrape away the soil and you should find roots.
Cut the newly rooted branch off and pot it up. Keep it outside over winter. In the spring you can let it grow on in the pot, or if it’s large enough, plant it where you want it to grow outside.
Growing Quince Trees By Grafting
There are various different styles of grafting and for fruit trees, it is most usual to use bud grafts for quince. Grafting allows you to use a hardier rootstock that is best suited to your climatic and soil conditions while placing a better variety of fruit stock to grow as the branches of your tree.
1. You will need:
- A small, sharp knife
- Sharp hand pruners
- Your potted up rootstock plant
- A cutting from the current year’s growth from the tree you want to propagate. The cutting should be the same thickness as the rootstock you will be grafting it onto
- Grafting tape
- A label to identify your new tree
2. In late summer take the branch you have cut off that is the current year’s growth and remove the leaves, leaving the stems still attached to the branch.
3. Select a healthy bud (the stem you’ve just removed one of the leaves from) and using your sharp knife make a 45° cut one inch below the bud at a downward angle. The depth of the cut should only be the depth of the bark and no deeper.
Next, make a second cut one inch above the bud, again at a 45° downward angle and only cutting to the depth of the bark, but this time continue cutting in a continual slicing action downwards behind the bud until you reach the first cut you made and effectively remove the bud from the branch.
This is called a chip cut.
4. You now need to create a matching chip cut in the rootstock. To do this, hold your bud up to the rootstock and find a good location where it will fit. Never touch the cut you have made on your bud, just hold it by the leaf stalk.
Make your first cut at a 45°angle, then offer up the chip bud so you can see where to make the top cut. As before, slice downward so you make a mirror image cut that matches your bud chip perfectly.
5. Slot the chip into the cut you’ve just made and remove the leaf stalk. The idea is to ensure the cambium layer on both the chip and the rootstock touch perfectly. You may need to adjust your cut slightly to get a perfect fit.
6. Using your grafting tape, secure the chip to the rootstock tightly.
7. In spring you can remove the tape to see if the graft has taken.
It’s best to do two or three grafts onto your rootstock in order to give yourself the most chance of success. Choose the healthiest looking graft in spring and prune off the rootstock wood an inch above the successful graft.
How To Plant Quince Trees?
When you’re ready to plant your quince trees, ensure you first prepare the soil. If you have heavy or sandy soil, it will need to have well-rotted compost or manure added into it in a three-meter area around where you will plant the tree, to a depth of at least double that of the pot your tree is currently growing in.
Quinces prefer rich, loamy, well-draining soil. If you’re planting into heavy clay, don’t dig a hole to bury the roots in, instead create a mound where you build up a layer for rich soil around the roots on top of the area where you’ve improved the soil.
This will prevent your tree’s roots from becoming waterlogged and killing your young tree. As your tree matures, it will be more able to cope with poor soil conditions, but you should continue to add compost and mulch around the tree in fall and spring to further enrich the soil.
Choose a site that is protected from the wind as it can damage the branches of the tree and blemish the delicate skin of the fruits.
The tree requires a clear space around it of eight feet in circumference for dwarf trees and 15 to 20 feet for larger varieties.
If you have good soil, dig a square hole that tapers inwards three times the depth of the pot your tree is in. Fill the hole with water and wait for it to drain away.
Replace the soil in the bottom of the hole along with some mature compost or planting compost mixed with the soil until you have reached the depth of the tree in the pot. Again fill the hole with water and allow it to drain.
This establishes a good amount of deep water in the soil.
Carefully remove the pot from the tree being careful not to disturb the roots at all and place the tree carefully into the hole.
Backfill with soil to ground level. You can create a water-retaining ring of soil around the tree of about 2 inches high at a distance of two to three feet from the trunk. This is useful in dry locations or if you are planting on a slope to keep the water concentrated around the tree.
Water deeply once a week, or more in very dry conditions.
Protect your newly planted tree from animal attack by putting protection around the trunk.
Control grass and weeds around the base of the tree by mulching or using an appropriate herbicide, being very careful not to allow it to touch the tree.
Watch your tree closely and check for quince fleck or pear tree and cherry tree slugworm or any other problems.
When To Plant Quince Trees
Plant quince trees when they are completely dormant in late fall through to early spring. See the information above on how to plant quince trees.
Dwarf Quince Trees
If you don’t have the space for a large tree in your yard, or if you’d like to grow quince in large pots, then a dwarf variety will be perfect.
Just like the full-size trees, they are hardy and will still give you a plentiful supply of fruit once they mature.
A dwarf quince will typically only grow to a height of less than two meters and a minimal amount of pruning will keep them in check.
Due to their smaller size, it’s easier to harvest the fruits, and once established they are pretty self-sufficient.
Quince Bush Vs Quince Tree
A common mistake is for people to confuse the common quince tree (Cydonia oblonga) with the Japanese quince (Chaenomeles japonica) which is a shrub or bush and there are also other varieties such as the Chinese quince (Chaenomeles speciosa).
Only the common quince and its sub-varieties are grown specifically for their fruits. The Chaenomeles quinces are ornamental, although they do still produce small, hard, edible fruits.
If you’d like to grow something a little more unusual with a history that stretches back beyond biblical times, then the quince may be the perfect fruit for you.
The taste of cooked quince is delightful and the delicate pink color it imparts is very attractive.
To spruce up your apple pies, or to make traditional Spanish quince paste or Portuguese marmalade, then you’ll need some lovely plump, ripe, golden quince fruits.
The trees are relatively hardy and easy to care for once established and will continue to supply you with delicious fruits each fall for decades to come.
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