Japanese quince: care, propagation & varieties


I have always been fascinated by plants and their diversity in nature. Therefore, after my apprenticeship as a carpenter, I began studying horticultural science. At home, I grow a variety of plants in my garden, in the forest and in the house; from small houseplants to large forest trees - with a special interest in fruit trees. After the harvest, I also like to process the fruits into jams, wine and various other products.

Favorite fruit: Apple
Favourite vegetable: Bell pepper

Japanese quince is not only suitable as an attractive flowering plant for the garden, but the fruits are also used in the kitchen.

Chaenomeles flowers
With their rich flowering, flowering quinces immediately catch the eye

Flowering quince (Chaenomeles) is usually a shrubby woody plant that is often used in gardens and public parks because of its showy flowers and fruits. We will show you different species of Japanese quince, how to care for it properly and what uses the plant has besides ornamentation.

Japanese quince: origin and characteristics

Japanese quince or flowering quince is a genus of plant in the rose family (Rosaceae), which is why it is also related to quince (Cydonia oblonga). Originally, the plants come from East Asia, especially from the areas around China, Japan and Korea, where they have been cultivated as ornamental plants for centuries. Japanese quince is a deciduous shrub that reaches a height of up to 3 m and usually has dark green and oval to lanceolate leaves. From around March to April, the plants bear striking flowers that shine in white, pink, red or orange hues. Depending on the variety, the bee-friendly quince flowers are single or partially filled and resemble those of apples or pears. In autumn, Japanese quinces bears fruits that look like tiny quinces or apples. In general, the plants are very robust and thrive in most soils. However, they prefer a sunny to semi-shady location and need adequate watering, especially during the growing season.

Flowering quince
The flowering quince exudes a pleasant fragrance [Photo: marseus/ Shutterstock.com]

The most beautiful species and varieties

There are five different species and countless varieties of Japanese quince grown in gardens and parks around the world. Here are the most beautiful species and varieties at a glance.

Japanese quince (Chaenomeles japonica): Japanese quince forms spiny shoots and has pink or red flowers. It reaches a height of up to 1 m and becomes just as wide.

  • ‘Cido’: This variety of Japanese quince does not form thorns and has strong, salmon-pink flowers with a high fruit set that requires a second pollinator.
Chaenomeles cido
The ‘Cido’ variety has no thorns and delicate pink flowers [Photo: Edita Medeina/ Shutterstock.com]
  • ‘Issai Red’: The next variety ‘Issai Red’ achieves a fast area effect due to its good runner formation. Their flowers are red.
  • ‘Issai White’: As a Japanese quince with white flowers, it has a similarly strong runner formation as the variety ‘Issai Red’.

Chinese quince (Chaenomeles speciosa): A species native to China that also forms spiny shoots. At up to 3 m, it grows taller than its Japanese relatives.

  • ‘Kinshiden’: This cultivar of the Chinese quince is a winner with its attractive semi-double creamy white flowers.

Hybrid Japanese quince (Chaenomeles x superba): This hybrid is the result of a cross between Chaenomeles japonica and Chaenomeles speciosa. It is a robust species with striking florets in pink, red or white.

  • ‘Texas Scarlet’: This variety boasts stunning bright red flowers.
Chaenomeles superba texas scarlet
Texas Scarlet’ is a real eye-catcher with its bold red flowers [Photo: Juver/ Shutterstock.com]
  • ‘Crimson and Gold’: It forms red flowers and bright yellow-green fruits. In addition, the Japanese quince ‘Crimson and Gold’ makes an excellent hedge plant.
  • ‘Pink Lady’: The Japanese quince ‘Pink Lady’ produces pink flowers in spring and excels with its long flowering period.

Planting Japanese quince

If you want to plant Japanese quince in your garden, the following points should be observed:

  • The right time: It is best to plant Japanese quince on a frost-free day in spring before it starts to sprout.
  • Choose a suitable location: Japanese quince prefers a sunny to semi-shady spot with well-drained soil. Areas that tend to become waterlogged should be avoided.
  • Prepare the planting soil: Loosen the soil in an area of about one square metre around the planting site and mix in compost or other organic fertiliser to give the plant the best possible starting conditions. A good solution in this case is our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food, a slow-release fertiliser that gradually releases nutrients that can then be absorbed by the shrub.
All Purpose Plant Food, 1.5kg
All Purpose Plant Food, 1.5kg
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  • Perfect for a variety of plants in the garden & on the balcony
  • Promotes healthy plant growth & an active soil life
  • Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly
  • Plant: Place the Japanese quince in a prepared planting hole, which should be about twice the size of the root ball. Then fill the remaining hole with the soil you have dug out and carefully press the soil down. Care should also be taken to ensure that the plant is positioned at the same height as it was previously sitting in the ground.
  • Irrigation: Water the Japanese quince properly to ensure that the soil around the roots is moist. This should be repeated regularly so that the substrate never dries out completely until the plant forms new shoots. Once quince plants are well rooted, they generally need only a small amount of water.

Japanese quince are also well suited for planting in pots, which should be of sufficient size depending on the variety of quince. If, for example, you want to keep a normal-sized Japanese quince in a container, it should be at least 30 cm high and wide. For container growing, it is also particularly important to use a good substrate, such as our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost, which ensures good root growth and provides the plants with important nutrients through organic fertilisation.

Tip: Japanese quince is a popular choice when it comes to cultivating bonsai – you can buy a Japanese quince bonsai directly from a retailer or, with a little expertise, cut it into shape yourself.

Chaenomeles bonsai
With the necessary knowledge, Japanese quinces can be easily cultivated as bonsai [Photo: LP2 Studio/ Shutterstock.com]

The right care: pruning Japanese quince

Pruning Japanese quince is an important part of its care, promoting healthy growth and abundant flowering. In the first year after planting, however, it may be advisable to let the plant take root before pruning it for the first time.

  • Timing: The best time to prune a Japanese quince is late winter or spring, before the plants sprout again. It should be noted that the flowers and fruits are increasingly formed on last year’s wood, so not too much of this should be removed, otherwise there will be no fruit.
  • Remove any damaged or diseased branches back to the nearest healthy branch. This helps to prevent the spread of diseases and pests.
  • Cut back older branches close to the ground. This promotes new growth as well as better air circulation and light penetration inside the plant.
  • Remove any branches that rub against neighbouring structures or grow inwards. Prune as needed to achieve the desired shape and size.
  • Avoid pruning the plant too much as this can affect flowering and result in excessive new shoots. Cut back only about a third of the branches each year on plants that have been uncut for a long time.
  • Clean your tools before you start cutting to prevent the spread of disease.
Chaenomeles hedge
Japanese quinces are good for cutting into hedges [Photo: crystaldream/ Shutterstock.com]

Is Japanese quince hardy?

Yes, Japanese quince is usually hardy and can tolerate temperatures down to -15 °C. Some varieties are even hardier and can survive temperatures as low as -25 °C. However, a late frost period can cause damage to the flowers or new shoots of sensitive varieties during spring. It is important to note that winter hardiness depends on various factors such as the variety or the region. For this reason, it is better to plant sensitive species only in warmer regions or in sheltered locations such as along the walls of a house. It is also best to keep plants in a pot in a slightly warmer spot, for example under a carport, so that the pot does not freeze through completely over the winter.

Propagating Japanese quince

Japanese quince can be propagated by various methods. A basic distinction is made between generative and vegetative propagation, with the latter producing a genetic clone of the mother plant. Generative propagation can produce a quince with completely different characteristics.

  • Cuttings: In this vegetative propagation method, 10 – 15 cm long and non-woody shoots of Japanese quince are cut in early summer. Except for the top pair of leaves, all other leaves are removed to reduce the evaporation area. The cutting is then dipped in a rooting hormone and placed in a suitable growing medium. One suitable medium is, for example, our Plantura Organic Herb & Seeding Compost, which was specially developed for growing young plants and cuttings and is also peat-free. We recommend wrapping the cutting in a plastic bag to create a high level of humidity. The bag should then be removed regularly until the roots are established to bring fresh air to the quince plant and to control the moisture. When the first new leaves appear, the plant has most likely already formed its own roots. From this point on you can plant the Japanese quince in a slightly larger pot with more nutritious soil or directly outdoors in autumn.
  • Seeds: This method of propagation is the usual generative propagation. The seeds are harvested in autumn from ripe fruits and stored in a layer of damp sand in the refrigerator. This is usually essential to ensure successful germination. In spring, the quince seeds can be placed in pots with growing soil, which must always be kept slightly moist until germination. In addition, the seeds need to be covered a little with soil, as they are dark germinators. They should germinate after about 2 months. As soon as the plants have formed the first leaves, they should be pricked out, i.e. carefully separated and placed in their own pots.
Cuttings can be used to propagate special varieties of flowering quince [Photo: mimohe/ Shutterstock.com]

Are Japanese quince fruits edible?

The fruits of Japanese quince are edible – however, unlike quince (Cydonia oblonga), the plants are usually not grown for consumption but more for their attractive flowers. This is probably because the fruits are not only very small but often also sour and hard.

Processing the fruits of Japanese quince

The fruits of Japanese quince usually have a higher concentration of pectin than the true quince, which makes them an ideal ingredient for making jam or jelly. For this reason, the ripe fruits are harvested in autumn, washed, halved, seeded and cut into pieces. They are then boiled with about an equal part of water of their weight until the fruits are soft. Then puree everything and add about half a part of sugar. After boiling again, everything can be filled into jars and the Japanese quince jam is ready. But Japanese quince fruits are also excellent for making liqueur. This is done by placing washed, pitted and cut-up fruit in a container of clear alcohol, such as vodka or grain. After storage for several weeks in a cool and dark place, the alcohol should have taken on the flavour of the Japanese quince fruit.

Chaenomeles preserved in a jar
Delicious jams can also be made from quince fruits [Photo: Elena Zajchikova/ Shutterstock.com]