Flowering quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) is an attractive, versatile and common shrub that produces a display of fragrant, red flowers followed by small apple-shaped fruits. It is native to eastern Asia, but grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones from 4 to 9. It is unusual in that flowers appear before there is any foliage on the shrub.
Flowering quince is a twiggy and sometimes-thorny shrub grown for the flowers and fruits that are made into jams, jellies or preserves. The flowers vary in colour, but red is the most striking. Flowering quince puts forth a show of blossoms early in spring before other flowers bloom. It belongs to a category of shrubs producing flowers before any leaves appear. Grown mainly for the flowers that provide interest in the absence of foliage or flowers at that time of the year, an added bonus is the delicious preserves made from the fruit.
Three Main Species
Flowering quince is belongs to a group of three hardy deciduous shrubs growing in USDA zone 4. The three are C. cathayensis, C. japonica and C. speciosa. Flowering quince is often used interchangeably with Japanese quince, and many gardeners incorrectly refer to flowering quince as japonica. ??The varieties that are most commonly cultivated are the hybrid C. superba and C. speciosa. Common cultivars are Texas Scarlet, a 3-foot plant with bright red blooms; Cameo, a 5-foot shrub with pinkish-coloured double flowers; and Jet Trail, a 3-foot shrub that produces white flowers.
Flowering quince is an excellent shrub because it adapts to most soil conditions. It prefers heavy soil, provided the soil pH isn't too high. Although it can grow full sun or partial shade, the more sun it gets, the more blooms it produces. Because the shrub flowers so early, planting it in an exposed place may put the shrub at risk of losing blooms to a late-winter freeze. Another flowering quince advantage is that it is drought tolerant once established. Under ideal conditions, it requires an average amount of water.
Named cultivars are always propagated by cuttings or layers. Grafting a cutting on to existing rootstock of the species can also propagate them. Shrubs are also be propagated by seeds, but shrubs propagated by seed aren't true to the parent plant or original cultivar.