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Quince fruit
Quince fruit

Quince fruit
Quince fruit

Quinces are small, irregularly shaped trees growing to about 15 feet tall that are often used as rootstock for dwarf pears. They bear white or pink showy flowers at the ends of leafy shoots in spring. The flowers are susceptible to winter injury at temperatures below about -15 F, but trees are hardy in Zones 5 to 9.

As they mature, trees take on an unusual gnarled form. Foliage is deep green and pubescent underneath, turning yellow in fall. Fruits are very fragrant and are commonly used to make jelly.

Harvest fruit -- a good source of pectin -- when they are golden yellow.

Don't confuse these quinces with several other quince-like species grown for ornamental purposes. There are many varieties of Japanese quince (Chaenomeles japonica) and common flowering quince (C. speciosa, C. lagenaria), attractive shrubs bearing showy pink, red or orange flowers in early spring.

Most of these ornamentals produce fruits that are hard and nearly inedible, though they have a high pectin content and are occasionally mixed with other fruits in jellies and preserves.

Growing quinces
Quinces prefer a fertile site in full sun. They are slightly more tolerant of wet soils and drought than apples, but will fruit more reliably on moist but well-drained soil.

Flowers need cross-pollination for good fruiting. Plant in a protected area as quinces respond poorly to rapid changes in temperature and exposure.

Quinces were once grown extensively in New York, pest problems limit its use today. Flower bud injury, fireblight, borers, codling moth, curculio, scale and tent caterpillars can all cause problems. To avoid fireblight, do not use excessive nitrogen and keep pruning to a minimum. Thin out suckers in winter or early spring.

Although quinces are attractive and have interesting fruit, you may need an aggressive maintenance program if you use them extensively in your landscape. 'Angers', 'Orange', 'Pineapple', 'Champion', and 'Smyrna' are generally available in the trade.

Copyright, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University.

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