March: Flowering Quince

Flowering Quince starts blooming in shades of pink, salmon, white, and red in March before the leaves emerge. The flowers continue to shine as the foliage comes in, and then they develop into small, edible fruits with a tart taste. The shrub develops into a low, relaxed shape as it ages with an airy structure.

Flowering Quince is a gorgeous addition to the spring landscape, but it is not for the low-maintenance garden. Root suckers need to be pruned back, leaf fungus can be a problem in wet seasons, and plants should be checked for fire blight from time to time. These shrubs absolutely will not do well with being sheared into a tight, uniform shape. They will quickly rebel with new growth, and the flower display will be reduced and forced into an unnatural growth pattern. Sometimes twigs will have spines at the tip, so be careful. With all these challenges I'm outlining, it may seem like Flowering Quince isn't worth your time. It's true that it has fallen out of fashion in today's landscape, but for those willing to put in the maintenance effort and embrace its natural sprawling habit, it will thrive in many soil types, and it will stun you early every spring with its amazing blossoms. For those interested in edible gardening, it does produce edible fruits, although they are very bitter and are better suited for jams and jellies than raw eating.

Common Name: Flowering Quince

Scientific Name: Chaenomeles species and hybrids

Notable Varieties: Double Take™ Series (later blooms, double flowers), 'Cameo' (apricot double flowers), 'Jet Trail' (white flowers), 'Texas Scarlet' (heavy bloomer, red flowers)

Light: full sun to light shade

Size: common varieties 3'-4' tall and 5'-6' wide

Soil: tolerant of dry soils, clay, and most other conditions

Blooms: 1"-1.5" blooms of pink, red, salmon, or white densely cover branches in early spring

Other Notes: can develop leaf fungus in rainy years; can be susceptible to fire blight; develops suckers; produces edible fruit; prune immediately after flowering to avoid disrupting the next year's flowers, although this will reduce fruiting

See other plants of the month.

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