Chinese quince in the ground

This is very much a work in progress, and it will be several years before we see anything close to refined…No surprise endings in this post. If you’re not interested in growing out material in the ground to become bonsai…well, at least the fall color shows up a bit.

Chinese quince, Pseudocydonia chinensis, a temperate China native, is known for its flashy, exfoliating bark, pink April flowers, large yellow fruits, and amazing red/orange fall color. What’s not to love?

C. quince is a member of the rose family, and it is a vigorous grower, in the ground, issuing 8′ long canes in a growing season, with modest trunk thickening by comparison.

Here is my first C. Quince, likely from Lone Pine Nursery, definitely from Sebastapol, CA. This photo is from ’06. The trunk diameter was about 1″, but did have the beginning of a decent base:


Since we were moving, it went into a pot until we got to the new house. When we moved in, it went into the growing bed, and the trunk was chopped for the first time, and allowed to grow freely all year. Here is a terrible photo from ’07…clearly not the focal point of the photo, but there no less:


In ’07, the second section grew to about the thickness of a Sharpie marker, and actually showed some movement! It was allowed to grow unrestricted for ’08-’09. Then we were faced with another potential move, so everything went back into pots. Here is a shot from spring ’10:


Then, in the fall, after we didn’t move, they went back into the ground. Where they’ve been for the next two years.

In early spring ’11 it was chopped again, leaving a second section of trunk, and a few small shoots to the outside of the curves. Those small shoots are weak and shaded out, but they need to be preserved by allowing sacrifice branches to grow, keeping energy flowing past the small shoots, until the sacrifice branches get trimmed back.


In ’12, the third section developed, thickening everything behind it. The trunk is now 2″, and greater than 3″ at the soil. The canes grew about 12′ this year, and next spring it will be chopped back again, leaving 3 sections of trunk with movement and taper, and time to develop a 4th section over the next two years…all while trying to preserve the taper and small branches emerging at the outside of each bend.


Some observations after growing this one over the last 6 years, and propagating it, about 12 more cuttings are now in the ground…

1. New shoots grow in canes (rose family) and bolt upright very quickly and with almost no taper. If it’s in a bonsai pot, wire the branches early to get shape, and exaggerate the movement to ensure it doesn’t grow through it in a few years.

2. They seem to have thin bark and thick cambium. Try to keep the big cuts to the back and quite concave, or it will develop a bulge around the scar. Surprisingly, as fast as they grow, they close wounds relatively slowly.

3. New growth is STICKY, and aphids LOVE it, maybe because it’s such an early starter. Be vigilant, although they don’t seem to do much damage.

4. They start growing the second it’s above 40 degrees outside, and late frosts/freezes do not harm the opening buds; that only slows them down for a few minutes!

5. I was unsuccessful in layering, but cuttings in May had about a 50% success rate.

6. Utilize sacrifice branches to thicken trunk and branch sections, but try to keep cuts toward the back of the final design.

Some great resources for Quince include:

Bonsai Today 46 has several great articles, with photos of mature quinces having major branches and roots removed.

International Bonsai ’99 volume 1 is mostly dedicated to them, 5 articles and nearly 30 pages,mostly B&W photos, but some nice examples.

Owen Reich’s blog:

Thanks for reading!

3 thoughts on “Chinese quince in the ground

  1. Thanks for the article. I am stratifying seeds quince for the spring. I have my fingers crossed for some success in central Illimois.

  2. I have had a couple of these. I tried to layer both the ones I had, and never got them to root. I wonder what the deal is? I have had the squirrels in my backyard push dirt up on junipers in the ground planting seeds and had the junipers ground layer within 6 months without even trying. Maybe I should get the squirrels to do the layers!

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