A Quince Essential Fruit - How to Grow Quince Trees

, written by gb flag

Quince fruit

Fashions come and go, no less in fruit-growing than in the width of trouser-leg (though rather more slowly), but if you want to be á la mode in your garden right now I recommend you plant a quince tree. It's even The California Rare Fruit Growers Association's 2014 fruit tree of the year.

Its renaissance is long overdue. The tree itself is full of character, tending to grow into an irregular shape with twisted branches. Its flowers, which appear in June, are single, large and pinky-white. The large fruits ripen to golden-yellow and shine out from among the strikingly large leaves, which are grey and furry underneath, making you want to stroke them. The fruit itself is delicious.

What I love, though, is its part in history and myth. It's often mooted that the apples awarded to Aphrodite by Paris were actually quinces, as might have been the fruit with which the serpent tempted Eve. It seems the seeds were once used as a gelling agent (before commercially produced gelatine made things easier) and it has always been a useful source of pectin for jams. Quince trees live to a ripe old age, and venerable examples include the four wizened veterans in the Cloisters Museum in New York.

Tasty, Scented Fruits

On top of all this, though, is a beautiful taste and scent. The fruit has to be cooked as it's too hard to eat fresh (an exception, in a good summer, may be the early-ripening variety Ivan), but although many recipes call for long hours of baking, if you stew it in a pan it will actually cook in about fifteen minutes. Its slightly spicy, intensely rich flavour combines excellently with apples or dried fruit.

The fruits smells rather like pineapple—not the fresh fruit (the introduction of which probably helped in the quince's decline), but pineapple sweets. A bowl of quinces will scent a room, and some people even recommend putting one in the car as an air-freshener.

Growing Quince Trees

Another good point is that a quince will tolerate most soils, acid or alkaline. It's happiest on a deep, rich loam that stays moist and if I had a pond or stream I'd put one next to it, so long as it didn't become waterlogged. Light soils should have plenty of compost added before planting and a thick organic mulch applied every year. In a very dry summer, you should give it a very thorough soaking.

Planted in open ground, it's not a first choice for the smallest garden as, depending on rootstock and soil conditions, it can grow anywhere from around 10 feet (3 metres) to 20 feet (6 metres) tall. However, it could also be trained against a wall and recently a Patio Quince has been developed, so even if space is limited it's not out of the question. A bonus is that, being self-fertile, only one tree is needed.

Quince tree

Advice is generally to cosset your quince in a warm and sunny spot or, in colder northerly areas, to grow it against a south-facing or west-facing wall (in the States it is hardy in Zones 5-9). However, as always, growing isn't an exact science, and we've found that in the UK's warmer south our east-facing Vranja variety is quite happy in a bit of shade.

Once established, quince trees need very little pruning. In winter, remove dead, diseased or damaged stems. If yours has a particularly untidy mode of growth you could also even up the tree's shape a bit and take out any branches that are creating congestion.

Best Quince Varieties

Quinces are either apple- or pear-shaped. The slightly misshapen pear shapes look dramatic, but apple-shaped Leskovic is the hardiest and probably the best choice for colder positions. Vranja (the only quince with an Award of Garden Merit) and Meech's Prolific are very reliable, and Bereczki is said to crop heavily and have one of the best flavours. There is a surprising variety of cultivars (one of the world's largest quince collections is held in Oregon, USA) and advice from a local nursery should put you on to a good choice for your area.

Harvesting, Storing and Using Quinces

The fruit ripens gradually to a rich yellow and though it's tempting (think of Eve's apple), it should be left on the tree as long as possible to allow the flavour and perfume to develop. Ideally this means until the end of October. The only exception is if frosts threaten, when you should gather them before the cold gets them.

Storing demands a little thought as their perfume will affect any fruit stored nearby. Put them somewhere separate, where they don't touch each other, and check regularly for rot. The fruit will keep for around 3 months.

Quince can used in savoury dishes to accompany meat, but also, like the medlar, to make a cheese or jelly, and is the secret to a really special apple pie. You'll never want to eat one without quince again.

NB Don't confuse this quince (Cydonia oblonga) with Cydonia japonica, the Japanese Quince (also known by the Latin name Chaenomeles). That also bears edible fruit but is generally grown as a beautiful shrub.

Picture of patio quince courtesy of DT Brown

By Helen Gazeley

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Show Comments


"How close to a pond or stream could we plant a quince tree? Would it be similar in placement to a willow?"
Brent on Monday 12 May 2014
"Where can one get such a tree in Indiana?"
Elaine on Sunday 8 March 2015
"Hi Elaine. I'm not sure exactly where you would fine one in Indiana. My suggestion would be to check local nurseries that sell fruit trees. It may also be worth searching for quinces sold by stockists local to you online."
Benedict Vanheems on Monday 9 March 2015
"I have two quince trees that I planted two years ago. First year, thousands of flowers, many apples, but before reaching right size most of them became brown together with the leaves surrounding them. I consulted the adviser at a garden center and was told that all the brown was rust. Was given a bottle of SPECTRACIDE IMMUNOX with the instructions to spray three times, every two weeks, from the moment the trees wake up in the spring. Second year: followed instructions, but the result was worst than the first year: from two grown trees I picked up three quinces. Went back to the garden center and was told that the fungicide is the best available. This is the third year. Do you have any suggestions that differ from what I was told so far? Thank you for your courtesy. Joseph Monastero "
Joseph Monastero on Monday 4 May 2015
"Hi Joseph. Without seeing the fruits it's hard to say. It does sound like you may have had brown rot, which commonly affects quinces. I'd suggest that as well as any sprays you use, you concentrate on ensuring ground conditions are excellent. Add a good layer of well-rotted organic mulch. Is the tree getting enough sun? That could compromise the number of fruits, though it sounds like you would have had plenty in the first year had they not gone brown. Sometimes fruit trees that crop heavily one year then crop insufficiently the next as they are 'exhausted' from the previous year. So it may simply have been that last year was an off year and your chances of success will be far higher this year."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 5 May 2015
"Hi I'm in England where we've just planted a patio quince. It's flowered well and is just beginning to get small fruits. I've read somewhere that these need discarding so the tree can concentrate on growing stronger. Is this correct?"
joan on Tuesday 2 June 2015
"Hello Joan, Elaine, and Joseph, Joan: I'd say just let the quince determine if it is ready to bear the fruit. Unless your tree is oddly determined to overbear, it will probably drop any extra fruit shortly after the petals fall. The fruit on my tree all set out at the tips of longer branches. Most of the flowers dropped their petals and then fell off within a week. Elaine: I ordered my Smyrna quince from Trees from Antiquity, a reputable on-line nursery in California--which needs to be done early in the calendar year as their supply of particular varieties is limited. This company is notable here in the US since they grow and sell several different varieties--it pains me to look at the options UK gardeners have!). If you order by mail, I recommend always googling the company for reviews. I always look at the results on "Davesgarden.com" Joseph: the various Apple, Hawthorne, and Quince rusts in North America exhibit very tell-tale symptoms on the leaves, fruit, and twigs of their hosts as you can see here: http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/trees-shrubs/cedar-apple-rust-and-gymnosporangium-rusts/#rosaceae-image I had quince rust in 2012 during the first year I had my tree and eventually lost most of that first year's branches. I now have a rather poorly shaped young tree as a consequence. I should add that quince rust can be hosted by a number of other plants, including hawthorns, which are numerous in my neighborhood, so the fact I probably had the only quince in the area didn't matter. My nearby neighbors provide a dozen or so of the many cedar trees that provide the alternate host for the fungi. Since then, I've used Captan, from bud break on, usually about every 7-10 days. I'll go a bit longer if the weather has been very dry. Up till this year, I've stopped using Captan on the quince the end of June, but now that I've got fruit on the tree I may need to reconsider because of ... Brown rot. I already use Captan to prevent brown rot on my peach tree and tried to do so last year on a Japanese plum. Brown rot often infects fruit through existing wounds--which was the case with my plums. Wounds can be caused by wind damage, hail, birds, and insects. In the case of my plums, I missed one application of insecticide last spring--the one that should have been applied about 7 or 10 days after "shuck split"--and had plum curculio beetles strike almost every small fruit on the tree. I lost most of the fruit long before they ripened, but the few that got close all developed brown rot and had scars from the curculio visit. A quince grower who experienced something very similar with her quinces has a great post here: https://janedata.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/quince-stricken-by-brown-rot/). As you've probably guessed I think an insecticide may also be required to prevent things like Plum Curculio beetle larva, Codling moth larva, and Apple maggots from ruining your fruit, but the exact mix of insect pests you'll face depends on your location. So, try to consult a university extension service in your general area. Of course, you probably won't find specific recommendations for growing quinces, but true quinces (Cydonia oblonga) are basically similar to apples in terms of insect pests. To prevent the development of resistance in the insects I'm targeting, I'm currently using, in rotation, two consumer products: an OMRI approved organic pesticide containing Spinosad, and a pyrethroid-based product. Neither of these products can be applied around active pollinators."
Don Blume on Sunday 7 June 2015
"Hi I wonder can you grow quince in a large pot could you use the Vranja variety"
Susan on Sunday 18 October 2015
"Hi Susan. You should be able to grow quinces in pots, no problem. Look for a quince grown on a dwarfing rootstock and raise the pot off the ground on pot feet to allow excess moisture to drain away. The variety 'Vranja' is a good choice because it is completely self-fertile and has large fruits. Good luck!"
Ben Vanheems on Monday 19 October 2015
"I live in Calgary, Alberta, I believe we are zone 3, would quince grow here?"
Theresa on Wednesday 21 October 2015
"Hi Theresa. I'm afraid zone 3 is a little too cold for quinces."
Ben Vanheems on Wednesday 21 October 2015
"Anyone know where I can get Meech's Prolific Quince? I'd even try seeds or cuttings! "
Sharon on Sunday 13 March 2016
"Hi Sharon. Where abouts are you? There are lots of suppliers in the UK. And as it's an old American variety I would imagine there are quite a few suppliers in the US. "
Ben Vanheems on Sunday 13 March 2016
"hi my tree is ~ 9 years old, tall, superb shape; but in the spring blooms hundreds of flower that will dry up and fall down; what is wrong with it??"
mariana chepa on Tuesday 26 April 2016
"For Sharon, Ben, Mariana, and others: Mariana, Your post caused an email to end up in my in box. Do you get any fruit to set? Most quince fruits set on the tips of branches, so the flowers along branches often drop off. While quince are usually self-pollinating,they are said to benefit from having more than one tree. It could be that your tree is in need of company. Meech's Prolific: From what I've been able to see over several years of occasionally searching, Meech's Prolific Quince trees are impossible to find for sale in the US. Ben: Quinces fell rapidly out of favor before WWII here where I live in the Northeastern USA in part because of changing attitudes towards home gardening but also because they are highly susceptible to Quince Rust (aka Hawthorn Rust). I contacted Trees of Antiquity about Meech's Prolific a couple years ago. The owner said the only person he was aware of who was growing it commercially was also on the West Coast and had in the past supplied Trees of Antiquity with varieties for propagation, and he said he would look into adding it to the company's offerings, but that hasn't happened yet. The variety's lack of availability is particularly annoying to me, since I live in Connecticut where the variety was discovered. This link http://queenofquince.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Quince-Karp-FG-2010.pdf suggests that Willowrose Bay, Inc. in Washington state grows the variety. Good luck to you all! Don"
Don Blume on Tuesday 26 April 2016
"Hi Don, this is hugely helpful of you - thanks so much for sharing!"
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 28 April 2016
"Has anyone located a source for Leksovic, Vranja or Meech's quince trees (for purchase in the US? I haven't had any luck finding these varieties."
Amy on Monday 22 August 2016
"I wrote to Hidden Springs Nursery in Cookeville, TN and she was kind enough to sell me two Meech's Prolific Quince trees, they do not list them in their catalog but used to sell them. Good luck."
Sharon on Tuesday 23 August 2016
"Thanks, Sharon. I'll try contacting them. I'd love to plant one or two this spring! "
Amy on Tuesday 23 August 2016
"I have Vranja in a large pot, it looks very healthy. This year for the first time I have a single, fully grown quince which is a beautiful golden colour. I am checking it every day but it still does not want to leave the tree and it is now the middle of October and nights are getting colder here in Manchester. Would it be better to pick it or leave it out in the cold?"
Pamela Jones on Wednesday 19 October 2016
"I should have said Manchester, England!"
Pamela Jones on Wednesday 19 October 2016
"Hi Pamela. Quinces are usually ready for picking in the UK in October or November, so it sounds like your fruit will be ready very shortly. I wouldn't worry until we start getting hard frosts, which is unlikely before mid November. Enjoy your quince when you come to pick it!"
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 20 October 2016
"I live in Vermont, zone 4b. What type of edible quince would be best here?"
Laurie Furch on Sunday 23 October 2016
"Laurie, The Quince (Cydonia oblonga) is generally considered hardy down to zone 5, so in 4B you would be pushing it. My guess is that it might work if you can get it past the first winter, though deep freezes in mid-winter and late spring frosts might damage the blossoms. I'm not aware that any of the varieties you can find are more cold tolerant than others. You might want to ask the people at Trees of Antiquity, which stocks several cultivars. Also, beware of some of the sellers that come up via a google search. I recommend googling them by name as in "TyTy nursery review Daves garden" (you don't need the quotation marks). Dave's Garden has an excellent home gardener-driven review section on mail-order nurseries and other garden-related sites and Ty-Ty is infamous. The Japanese Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) is hardy to zone 4. "
Don Blume on Sunday 23 October 2016
"Thank you Ben for the advice. I'm glad my quince is still on the tree - I think it has been enjoying the sun this last week"
Pamela Jones on Sunday 23 October 2016
"My one and only Vranja Quince fruit was finally ready for picking earlier this week. Wish I could send you a photo - it is perfect and weighs five and a half ounces. Thanks again for your advice, I'm glad it was ready for picking whilst the sun was still shining and the weather was warmer. I think I will put into a larger pot and hope for more fruit to set next year."
Pamela Jones on Thursday 3 November 2016
"Congratulations Pamela. I'm sure that quince will taste exquisite too!"
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 3 November 2016
"Will Squirrels or Crows or any other bird or animal eat the ripening Quince fruit on the trees?"
Mark Ulrich on Monday 21 November 2016
"Hi Mark. That's a good question. Like any fruits, the ripening fruits may be susceptible birds, though I've no experience of this personally. I would say any damage is likely to be very localised and a mature tree will produce more than enough fruits for both you and any passing birds."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 21 November 2016
"Hi! I'm looking for good hardy flowering quinces that bear fruit. I live in Idaho and know some varieties can grow here as my mother was given one for her wedding present and planted it at our first house. It only grew to about 4-6 feet, but it flowered beautiful light pink flowers and had delicious quince fruit that we made into jam every year. I just rediscovered the joy of quince and would love to have a plant of my own. any suggestions?"
Sarah Zuck on Monday 2 October 2017
"Trees of Antiquity carries several varieties of true Quince (Cydonia oblonga, not the Japanese or Flowering Quince or Chaenomeles that has hot pink or fuchsia colored flowers): www.treesofantiquity.com Cydonia quince are hardy into zone 5, so much of Idaho should be suited to grow them. The one trick is that they mature very late so they are often ripened off the tree in colder climate zones like 5 and 6."
Don Blume on Monday 2 October 2017
"Hi, I'm in the UK and have a quince vranja variety. I planted it 4 years ago. The first year it just had leaves. Last year it had 3 flowers and they didn't set and this year it was smothered with blossom but not a single one has set. I read that they are self pollinating so what can I be doing wrong. It has been particularly cold here in north Norfolk, could that be the reason. Also my husband is concerned about the fact that it seems to be dead ended with no growing points on the end of the branches. I'm not sure what he means. It is getting bigger the tree. Thanks "
Sally harwood on Tuesday 12 June 2018
"Hi Sally. It could be that it is too cold. Quinces perform more reliably against a sunny, south-facing wall the further north you go in the country. An exposed north Norfolk site could give unreliable cropping and this could well be the reason. The trees also like quite moist soil, so if it's very dry this could contribute to a lack of fruit too. My hunch is that it is probably just still a bit young and hasn't yet built up enough strength/reserves to begin fruit production, so perhaps you'll need to wait another year or two."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 25 June 2018
"Does anyone know where can i get a dwarf quince variety good for eating fresh here in Ontario, Canada? I grew up in Europe with those delicious fruit and i would like one in my backyard"
Sorin on Monday 16 September 2019
"Sorry I can't recommend on this one Sorin. Hopefully you'll find a good source and can enjoy these tasty fruits once again. Good luck!"
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 17 September 2019
"Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my query so promptly, Ben. Can you at least advise on which variety should I focus on getting, preferably dwarf or slow growing, with good fresh eating fruit for the zone 5 we have here in Southern Ontario, (Toronto area)? Thanks a lot"
Sorin on Tuesday 17 September 2019
"Hi Sorin. My apologies for the delay in replying to you. I would suggest, if you are looking for a dwarf variety, to search out anything grown on a dwarfing rootstock, usually 'Quince C'. A rootstock is the lower part of the plant, including roots, onto which the variety you want to grow to eat is grafted. It helps to control the vigour and ultimate size of the plant. I can't recommend on the specific varieties, as I don't know what is sold in Southern Ontario - but a search online or visit to a nursery selling fruits will reveal availability. It's always worth talking to a local nurseryman too, who can share direct experience with locally available varieties. Sorry that's a bit vague, but hopefully you'll be able to find something on a dwarfing rootstock that at least limits its size. And all quinces are jolly tasty!"
Ben Vanheems on Monday 7 October 2019
"Thanks Ben. I know I didn't ask an easy question...Most of our fruit in stores comes from down south somewhere, (US, Mexico, S. America), and especially quince! Guess how much they charge in October for one quince? $ 3.00-5.00!!! And they're not even ripe. They bring them in still green!"
Sorin on Monday 7 October 2019
"Crikey - that is an extraordinary price! I can see why you want to grow them yourself! Good luck finding a suitable tree, it will be worth it."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 7 October 2019
"Hello Sorin, You can order Quince trees from: Whiffletree Farm Nursery , Elora, Ontario, N0B 1S0, Canada. Phone # 519-669-1349 This year they have Giant of Zagreb quince tree, It is from Former Yugoslavia. It is Serbian Leskovac (Leskovatz quince tree) . They grow very well in GTA - Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, Brampton, Caledon, Windsor , etc Good luck ***** from my own experience"
Milos on Saturday 8 February 2020
"Thanks a lot Milos, I shall give them a call soon."
Sorin on Saturday 8 February 2020
"Hello, What a lovely article! We have our quince against a south-facing brick wall and sometimes also put fleece over it when needed. 'We are in the Midlands, UK. My questions are - what is the lowest temperature that an outdoor quince can stand and what is the best temperature range for an outdoor quince? Many thanks"
Daisy A on Saturday 16 May 2020
"It is hardy down to about -25 Celsius, so in the Midlands you'll be absolutely fine! In fact the UK climate is pretty good for quince. It sounds like you have it growing the perfect spot."
Ben Vanheems on Sunday 17 May 2020
"I dug out some root from a quince tree growing in the Adelaide hills. I have planted it down on the plains in the ground facing N east. It is prolific but is a shrub rather than a tree and those in the hills grow into huge round shrubs of quite immense proportion. It seems to be more an apple shape and an early ripening variety. I believe these quinces were planted in the 1860's from stock brought in from South Africa. So - my question is: do some quinces naturally grow as shrubs, and if so , what variety is mine likely to be? "
Tony Franklin on Tuesday 8 September 2020
"Hi Tony. I can't give you an accurate answer to that I'm afraid, but would be very interested to know if anyone else can offer suggestions as to the variety. "
Ben Vanheems on Wednesday 9 September 2020
"I have two quince bushes I think are ornamental quince with red/pink blossoms in the spring. They appear to have been planted long before we bought the house. The last several years they have had lots of fruit, but smaller than those pictured on quince sites. I’ve read that the fruit is not usable, but one of your comments from Idaho said she had one which they made delicious jam from. Any comments about that? I live in central Utah."
Carolyn on Friday 9 October 2020
"The fruits of the ornamental quince (Chaenomeles) - which it seems you have - are also edible. The fruits are quite aromatic and make superb jams and jellies. Wait till the fruits are yellow and beginning to soften or else they can be rather bitter. Go for it!"
Ben Vanheems on Monday 12 October 2020
"Are there any red-blush (red fruits) Quince? How listed quince compare to Turkish cultivars? Thanks"
Fuad Efendi on Wednesday 10 March 2021
"Not to my knowledge Fuad, no."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 15 March 2021
"We have a 10yr old quince tree, planted in a sunny lawn in Oxford. Our soil is very free-draining. The tree's only fruited once, and then not a lot. It's flowered really well this year, but now, as usual, the spent flowers are dropping off instead of setting fruit. I gave it a good compost mulch in the spring and we've had tons of rain recently, too. Do you think the not fruiting cd be down to a mineral deficiency, or maybe having grass and other plants too near the tree's trunk? I'm longing for fruit!"
Helena on Sunday 19 May 2024
"This does sound very frustrating Helena. I wonder if it's a lack of pollinators, as it sounds like they're all aborting rather than swelling into fruits. Adding additional flowers to attract pollinators into the area would certainly help. But I will ask other members of the team here about this and see if they might have some other suggestions."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 20 May 2024

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