Once a common American fruit tree, quince trees fell out of favor as orchard trees and today grow most often as hedges or ornamental bushes. Most quince varieties bear edible fruit. Training and pruning methods determine the form of the tree and place the focus on the flowers or fruit.
Pruning Fruiting Quince
Train the tree to a single trunk by removing all sucker shoots as they form. To form a vase-shaped, fruit-bearing tree, prune in late winter when the quince passes 3 feet in height. Clip the central leader and select three strong limbs to form the framework of the tree. Quince grows best in a spreading habit with an open center.
Remove competing branches from the fruiting quince the following winter. Prune away sucker shoots and crossed branches. Cut out any damaged or broken limbs. Keep the form of the tree open and wide to allow light and air circulation through the crown of the tree.
Encourage new growth by cutting back older limbs. Quince trees set fruit on last year's growth. Pruning a few older limbs back to a main fork opens up space for new fruiting wood.
Pruning Flowering Quince
Prune flowering quince to a hedge shape by allowing suckers to grow from the row of original quince trees. For a dense hedge, prune the vertical growth back during the winter. Cut as much as half the previous season's growth off the bushes to encourage branching during the next season.
Prune flowering quince to a bush form by selecting several strong shoots and allowing the central cluster to take a spreading form. Remove new sucker shoots to prevent the formation of a quince thicket.
Control the size of either hedge or bush by cutting back old wood during winter. Heavy pruning will remove fruiting stems, so leave enough of last season's growth to provide next year's bloom.
Cut out dead wood and damaged or crossed branches during the winter dormancy. Open up the center of the bush by pruning out any vertical suckers. Rejuvenate old hedges and bushes by allowing a few new sucker shoots to grow and cutting some older shoots back to the ground. A constant cycle of new shoots and maturing branches guarantees a yearly crop of flowers.
Things You Will Need
- Pruning shears
- Limb loppers
- Pruning saw
- Wheelbarrow or garden cart
- Select orchard quince varieties if growing quince as a food crop. Flowering or ornamental varieties may bear edible, but poor quality fruit.
- Japanese quince bears thorns and small bitter fruit. This quince makes a good hedge, but don't select it as a fruit tree.
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