Common flowering quince is a deciduous shrub or tree that is commonly grown as an ornamental for its prolific display of flowers in the spring. Found frequently in the northeastern regions of the United States, quince grows well from hardiness zones 4 through 7. The plant also bears an edible fruit that is similar to an apple. Common flowering quince should not be confused with other quince varieties.
The leaves of the common flowering quince tree are about 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches long and 1 inch wide. They are somewhat oval or lance-shaped, gradually coming to a point, and alternate along the branches of the tree. The edges of leaves are serrated. New growth usually has a reddish-bronze color, maturing to a dark, glossy green. Depending upon the variety, the branches of quince trees may produce sharp thorns that are 1 to 2 inches long.
Flowers bloom in the spring before the leaves appear. The color can vary from white to pink, salmon, or rose and some cultivars have double flowers. Each flower is about 1 1/2 inches across. In full bloom, quince trees are very showy. The fruit of the tree is apple-like and 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Color ranges from green to yellow and usually ripens in the fall.
Common flowering quince trees are small and shrubby-looking, usually not growing more than 15 feet tall. They are low trees and grow close to the ground with a slightly rounded and irregular shape. The canopy is fairly dense with a coarse texture. The trunk of the tree is fairly short with many branches radiating from it. The branches are often tangled in appearance.
Quince is an adaptable tree and can grow in a variety of soil conditions, preferring well-drained, acidic soils. It is fairly drought tolerant. The tree grows best in full sun to obtain the optimal floral display but will tolerate partial shade. Regular pruning will help rejuvenate the plant and enhance its performance. Propagation is primarily through cuttings. Seeds used for planting require a certain period of cold temperatures to germinate.
The same problems that affect apple trees can affect quince. Apple scab and fire blight, common diseases among apple trees, can also attack quince trees. Scale insects, mites and aphids can also feed on the tree. For ornamental purposes, quince trees are considered only a single-season ornamental plant, displaying primarily in the spring, without much ornamental appeal the rest of the year.
Quince is frequently grown for its flowers as a specimen tree and can also be trimmed as a hedge in residential settings. The fruit is edible, but is usually not eaten fresh. Rather, it is used to make jellies and is an excellent source of pectin, a jelling agent, frequently used in jams, jellies and preserves. Seedling trees of quince are often used as disease-resistant rootstock for growing dwarf pear trees.