The Garden Muse: Let’s talk about Flowering Quince

Published 1:00 pm Friday, March 17, 2023

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the Garden MuseIf you’re looking for a beautiful showy spring shrub the Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) may fit your bill.

The flowering quince is a deciduous shrub in the rosacea (rose) family. It grows well in full sun to partial shade and is not picky regarding soil type, it will happily grow in chalk, clay, loam, or sandy soil. It is also very drought tolerant.

The flower colors can be white, yellow, coral or red and are small but really make a statement en masse. I promise you will not miss this shrub when in bloom. The flowering quince does on occasion produce somewhat ugly very small pear shaped fruit. It is very astringent and the seeds, along with the flowers, are poisonous in varying quantities. The fruit can be cooked and used to make jams and for flavoring in cocktails, but fruit production is low and erratic at best.

It is most likely that birds and wildlife will find it first.

Best to plant the Flowering Quince for its beauty as a landscape specimen. I like to cut some branches early in the spring before the flower buds open and bring them inside to open in a vase of water, the same way you would force forsythia branches.

Since first described by Carl Thunberg in 1784 the flowering quince has been called by several names, the most recognizable being Japonica. Gardeners of yore were simply referring to the plant by its country of origin and it stuck. I am careful now when talking ‘gardens’ with people to make sure I know exactly what plant they are referring to when the name japonica comes up in conversation.

The Flowering Quince is definitely a spring show stopper in the garden. The wild birds also love them for a cover and food source. They are easy to grow and practically indestructible once established.

Dawn Conrad is a Retired Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener, Herbalist, Writer and Artist. She can be contacted at