Last updated on May 9th, 2022
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Quinces are ornamental flowering trees that live for a long time, grow to a medium size and produce fruit. Best of all, they aren’t prone to some of the other fruit tree problems you can experience with other fruit trees.
The fruit should not be eaten in its raw form, however, it is great for making jellies and jams, which is what draws many gardeners to this fantastic fruit tree.
Grows well in most soils
The good news is, that quince trees will tolerate most soil types, as long as it is fertile and moisture-retentive. They like moist but well-draining soil.
Plant in a sunny position and avoid frost pockets
While hardy enough for most of the UK, they require a sunny spot that is somewhat sheltered. Like apricot trees, which also flower early, the flowers can be severely damaged by frost so its best to avoid any positions in the garden that act like frost pockets and the sun is a requirement for the fruit to ripen because they do take a while as they turn from yellow to a golden colour.
Without the right amount of sunlight, you won’t get any fruit, and if they get caught out by the frost you won’t get any flowers, so choosing the right position to start with is essential.
Choose a south-west or southern aspect position if you live in the North
If you’re lucky enough to live in southern England the weather is often much milder. In coastal towns, you can grow them in the open. However, if you live in Northern England (like us) you will need to find a sheltered area with a southwest or southern aspect, such as against a wall because it will give them that extra protection they need.
When to plant Quince Trees
Purchase them bare root or potted
If you have a new tree, you want, ideally to plant it between November and March. During this time you can usually get them bare-root and this means they come without the pot and soil when they are dormant. You can plant them at any time of the year, but outside the window just mentioned, they will be potted and often more expensive and keeping them well watered will be a top priority.
For the first 3-4 years, you also need to stake the tree as you would any tree. The good news is that Quince trees are self-fertile so you won’t have to do much other than crop it after year around 5.
Feeding and Watering
Feed them in February
It is important to give your quince tree the right amount of food to enable it to thrive. Apply fertiliser (such as growmore) in February and sulphate of ammonia in March.
Mulch in spring
At the beginning of spring, add mulch and well-rotted manure around the base to keep the tree at its optimum moisture level. At all times, be sure to keep the trunk area clear of debris, clearing up any fallen leaves, especially in autumn. This also helps prevent quince leaf blight that hibernates over the winter on the fallen leaves becomes attaching the tree in spring. This is a disease that can be an issue for your tree and we discuss it in more detail a little further down.
Water regularly to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged
In spring, summer, and during any other dry spells, be sure to water the tree regularly to keep the soil moist. This is especially true if you are growing a dwarf rootstock variety in a pot such as a ‘Quince A’ (semi-dwarfing) or ‘Quince C’ (dwarfing) rootstock.
Harvesting fruit from a Quince Tree
Harvest at the end of October or the beginning of November
Unlike most fruit trees, you want to leave the fruit on the tree for as long as possible to help deepen the flavour. As long as you don’t have any risk of frost, you can leave the fruit on the tree without degrading it. They are often fully ripe at the end of October or the beginning of November. When they achieve a lovely golden colour it’s time to remove the fruit so you can start to enjoy the benefits.
Place the fruit in a cool spot for 6-8 weeks before using it to make jellies and jams
When you finally harvest your fruits, place only the undamaged fruits in a cool, dark location where they are lined in a shallow tray. The fruit should not be touched because it can cause them to begin to rot. They should sit apart for 6-8 weeks after harvesting before using them to make jellies and tasty jams.
A word of warning, it is best to keep them away from any other fruit because they are very aromatic and this can leach into other fruits. You can keep them for another 2-3 months.
Pruning and Training
Quinces fruit along the tips of the shoots made during the year prior. So, you can prune and train in the dormant season between the end of autumn and the beginning of spring.
The branch framework you create should mirror that of an apple tree. For new trees, you need to only train the framework, however, as it gets older and more established, you can remove the lower lying branches or crowding branches.
For more mature trees, you can prune every winter to improve air circulation and light penetration, but do not remove more than one-third of the plant in one season.
Propagation by budding, grafting and cuttings
You can propagate your quince tree using budding, grafting from the original tree, or hardwood cuttings that are taken later in the season.
There are plenty of edible quinces from which to choose and below we have listed some of our favourite ones.
- The Quince ‘Portugal’ (syn: ‘Lusitanica’) is known for having the best-flavoured fruit. The fruit is pear-shaped and grows between 13cm and 18cm long.
- The Quince ‘Vranja Nenadovic’ has aromatic, golden pear-shaped fruit that also reaches between 13cm and 18 cm and has been awarded the RHS AGM.
- The Quince ‘Meech’s Prolific’ brings golden-yellow fruit with large flowers and is another good option.
Pests and Problems
Winter moth caterpillars
The same pests you would have issues with for apple trees or pear trees (for example the winter moth caterpillars) also attack quince trees. However, they don’t often cause serious problems.
On occasions, powdery mildew can be a problem but can be treated with a fungicide.
Quince leaf blight
The biggest problem you may face is quince leaf blight which is probably the only serious disease you should be concerned about. If you eat the quince (which most people do) then, unfortunately, there is no fungicide suitable for you to use.
If you grow your quince tree as an ornamental tree you can spray the tree with a fungicide such as Provanto Fungus Fighter Plus RTU 1L.
The non-chemical control method is more about trying to prevent this disease in the first place by removing affected leaves as well as collecting and disposing of all leaves that have fallen off the tree and providing the best growing conditions to promote more growth.