Not nearly as popular and glamorous for the orchard when compared to its relatives the apple or pear tree, the quince tree (Pseudocydonia sinensis) arguably has more ornamental features. Its trunk becomes fluted or corrugated with old age, and the spotted bark is particularly noticed in winter when the landscape is usually drab and uninteresting. Grow quince trees in U.S. Department of Agriculture winter hardiness zones 5 through 8.
The quince tree, often called the Chinese quince, is native to temperate regions of China.
The quince tree is a slow-growing deciduous plant in winter. Its growth habit or shape ranges from an oval, rounded large shrub to a small tree, typically reaching 10 to 20 feet tall and 5 to 15 feet wide. It has a shallow root system and, if disturbed or damaged, will sprout suckering shoots upward to create a thicket.
One of the most visually striking features of the quince tree is the exfoliating bark, creating a mottled, leopardlike display. The bark includes colors of gray, olive green, orange and brown-tan. In spring, the oval green leaves appear and makes the tree closely resemble a pear or apple tree. In midspring the light pink flowers appear, each with five petals--again, looking like pink apple or pear blossoms. In autumn the foliage turns alluring tones of red and yellow before dropping off.
Pollinated flowers develop into egg-shaped fruits that ripen in autumn about the time the leaves turn color. Each fruit is about 5 to 7 inches long, yellowish orange and fragrant. The flesh of the fruit is typically juicy but tart.
The fruits of the quince tree are harvested and made into jams and jellies, or mixed with other fruits to make pastry fillings. The tree itself is attractive in all seasons, thanks to the bark, foliage, flowers and colorful fruits. It makes a nice solitary specimen tree, a shade tree for a lawn or as a windbreak or hedge if grown more in a shrublike form. Many cultivated varieties exist, differing in their scent and flavor of fruits produced, with names like 'Smyrna', 'Havran', 'Van Deman', 'Cooke's Jumbo' and 'Pineapple'.
Quince trees are highly susceptible to the foliage disease called fireblight. In regions where this disease is widespread, quince trees often do not survive long or simply are not grown.