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Quinces

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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Introduction

Large, yellow and aromatic, the fruit of the quince tree will ripen to perfection when grown in a sunny position. They are perfect for turning into jelly, jams or membrillo, a hard preserve eaten with cheese by the Spanish. It is a worthwhile addition to the fruit garden because it is easy to look after and not prone to many of the more common fruit problems.

Plant

Quinces can be bought as grafted plants, either onto a ‘Quince A’ (semi-dwarfing) or ‘Quince C’ (dwarfing) rootstock. They come in many shapes and sizes, from large spreading trees that would make an attractive specimen to half standards that are suitable for smaller gardens or even in pots. Free-standing trees attain a height and spread of 3.75–5m (12–16ft), depending on the rootstock, position and soil type.

Quinces need a long growing season to ripen well and so are best trained as a fan against a south or west-facing wall in more exposed or northerly gardens. They flower early, so avoid frost pockets. Gardeners in warmer climates or in sheltered, urban or coastal sites can grow their quinces as free-standing trees provided they position them in a sunny location.

They are happy in most soils, but particularly those that are relatively moist throughout the summer, yet well-drained to avoid waterlogging in winter. Light or shallow chalky soils should have plenty of organic matter added prior to planting and be well mulched afterwards.

As alternative to growing in the ground, compact forms of quince are happy in large, containers filled with soil-based compost. A 45cm (18in) container is the smallest feasible and 60cm (2ft) would be ideal.

Grow

Keep plants well watered during hot, dry summers.

Spread a 7.5cm (3in) thick mulch around plants in spring and feed with 100g per sq m (3oz per square yard) of Growmore or other general fertiliser. In late winter feed plants in pots fortnightly with liquid general fertiliser.

Raise containers onto pot feet to allow excessive moisture to drain away.

In winter remove dead, diseased or damaged stems, along with thinning out any congested or unproductive stems. Aim to maintain a system of well-spaced branches on a clear stem, removing wayward stems as they’re produced.

Harvest

Fruit are ready to harvest in October or November when they have turned from a light yellow to a golden colour and are extremely aromatic.

Only pick undamaged quinces, storing them in a cool, dry and dark place on shallow trays. Ensure they are not touching. Allow fruit to mature for six weeks before using - they will keep for up to three months.

More information of storing fruit

Varieties

‘Vranja’ AGM: Large, pale green to golden, pear-shaped fruit.

‘Champion’: Pear-shaped fruit which ripens earlier than others.

'Lusitanica’: Very tasty fruit, but not as hardy as others.

‘Meech’s Prolific’: Bright golden yellow fruits with good flavour.

Find more AGM fruit

Problems

Quince leaf blight: A fungal disease that is a problem in wet seasons, causing severe leaf spotting and premature leaf fall, whilst fruit may also be spotted and distorted.

Remedy: If plants are infected, try using a fungicide containing Difenoconazole, spraying as the leaves unfold in spring. Prevent the disease overwintering by raking up and disposing of affected leaves as they fall and pruning out any dead shoots in winter. Feed and water plants well to ensure they grow more foliage.

More information on quince leaf blight

Brown rot: A fungal disease that causes a brown, spreading rot in fruit.

Remedy: Prevent the disease overwintering by removing all brown rotted fruit promptly and composting. Do not allow rotted fruit to remain on the tree. Brown rot infects through wounds, especially those caused by birds so, if possible, net to reduce bird damage.

Read more advice on brown rot

Codling moth: The caterpillar of the codling moth can burrow into quince in summer, resulting in fruit that is ridden with tunnels and excrement.

Remedy: Traps containing pheromone can be hung in the branches of trees in May to lure and trap male moths, reducing the females’ success of mating. Newly hatched caterpillars can be controlled by spraying with suitable pesticides, while a biological control containing nematodes can be sprayed on quinces and soil around trees in the autumn to kill caterpillars leaving the fruit.

Find out more about codling moth

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