Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) bonsai is one of the most attractive and popular flowering bonsai trees. Quinces are hardy, thorny and deciduous ornamental shrubs in the family Rosaceae. Over 500 Chaenomeles cultivars have been described in literature. They are popular for their stunning display of vibrant blooms.
In spring, the plant flowers on old wood, and the blossoms can last for as long as a month. Some Chaenomeles varieties have a second bloom in autumn. The flowers are 3-4 cm wide, they appear in clusters, and can be red, pink, white, cream or orange. Their shape is often compared to that of an apple blossom. The flowers can be single or double. Most species have five-petalled flowers, but some hybrids can have as many as 40 petals on a single, rose-shaped flower. Chaenomeles is a hermaphrodite flower, pollinated by bees.
The leaves are oval, glossy, mid-to-dark green and alternately arranged. The little yellow-golden fruits which the tree bears in fall are attractive and sometimes edible. Since the fruits are somewhat bitter or tart, they are only used for jellies and preserves. They have high nutritional value due to the presence of vitamin C. The fruit is waxy, durable and pleasantly fragrant, which makes it a perfect addition to a potpourri basket.
The name of the plant genus has an interesting etymology. It is a reference to the shape of the fruit. Namely, the word Chaenomeles comes from the Greek composite term ‘chainein’. ‘Chaeno’ means ‘to split’, and ‘meles’ means ‘apple or fruit’. On the other hand, the common name Flowering Quince is of Middle English origin, with root in the Old French ‘cooin’ and the Late Latin ‘cotoneum’, both meaning ‘apple’.
Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) is native to Southeast Asia (China, Korea, Japan, Bhutan and Myanmar). In their natural habitat, they grow on both mountain slopes and in forests. The plant was first introduced to England at the end of the eighteenth century, and to the United States in the mid nineteenth century. Today, the plant is widely distributed across Europe and North America. Since ancient times, the tree has been used as a strong cultural motif during the Chinese New Year celebrations. They symbolize happiness, good health and prosperity. Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) is a frequently used element in ikebana, the Japanese traditional art of flower arrangements. In fact, Chaenomeles has been cultivated as a bonsai tree in China, Japan and Korea for thousands of years.
This guide provides the foundations of Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) bonsai tree care guide.
How Long Does It Take To Grow Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) Bonsai?
The plant easily propagates from seed, and usually takes three to four years to start flowering. To see faster results, a good approach is to purchase a young seedling of Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) from a plant nursery, and then slowly start modifying it. Good candidates for bonsai trees are those specimens which have unusual root base and solid trunk lines. It is much easier to correct the branches through proper bonsai techniques.
How to Plant and Grow Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) Bonsai?
Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) bonsai tree is mostly grown as cascade, clumps, root-linked and raft bonsai styles. Some of the most popular Chaenomeles species that are suitable for bonsai are:
- Chaenomeles japonica (extremely popular Japanese variety),
- Chaenomeles speciosa (especially its ‘Toyo Nishiki’ variety, which can bear red, pink and white flowers on the same tree), and
- Chaenomeles x superba hybrids (rather compact plants).
Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) bonsai can be propagated by several methods, including seeds (in spring), softwood cuttings (in summer) and hardwood cutting (in winter), grafting (mainly for hybrids) and air-layering.
Seeds need to be cold-treated (stored in peat moss or potting mix in refrigerator for three months) before they are sowed. Alternatively, the whole fruit can be placed in a sealed plastic back and stored in a refrigerator. Propagation by seeds is considered a relatively easy approach, since the seeds germinate very fast.
Propagation by cutting is more challenging, as cuttings tend to root slowly. Among experienced gardeners, propagation is mostly done by tip layering or stem/basal cuttings. Position, Lighting and
Throughout the growing season, the plant thrives in full sun or partial shade. The bonsai tree should be always placed in a well-ventilated space. The tree should be exposed to full sun to reach full bloom and for the fruit to set. Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) bonsai is perfectly hardy and does not require any special winter protection. When the temperatures are extremely low, the pant needs to be protected from frost. However, if the tree is too much protected in winter, and it does not receive sufficient exposure to cold, it will flower poorly in spring.
Soil and Watering Needs
Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) bonsai trees dry easily, and need to be watered properly throughout the growing season, especially if planted in small pots. Especially in summer, when the temperatures go high, the plant needs to be regularly checked, watered daily, and never let dry out completely. If, by accident, the rootball gets completely dry, the entire pot needs to be placed inside a water-filled tub, until all bubbles rise to the surface. In winter, the compost needs to be kept moist. Misting should be avoided, as it can damage the flowers and cause rotting of the fruit.
Neutral to slightly low pH bonsai soil mix works best. Calcium in the soil promotes flowering and proper development of fruits. However, Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) is not a fussy plant, and can also adapt to various types of soil. It can even thrive on average soil, provided it is well-drained but regularly watered soil.
High-nitrogen fertilizer needs to be given once, after the spring flowering is over. Throughout the rest of the summer, low-nitrogen fertilizer can be applied. Standard, all-purpose and slow-release plant fertilizer also works well.
How to Care for Your Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) Bonsai?
Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) is a tough and versatile bonsai tree. It is considered an easy-to-keep and rewarding bonsai tree, suitable for both novices and advanced bonsai artists. The plant tends to produce many stems, and is thus typically grown in the clump style.
Pruning, Pinching and Wiring
In principle, Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) bonsai trees do not need to be wired. Instead, a desired shape can be achieved through pruning. However, if one decides to wire the branches, paper-wrapped copper wire works best.
Right after the tree has finished flowering in spring, any old growth should be pruned back. The twigs shoots should be properly trimmed, so that the tree can develop into a traditional bonsai shape. To deal with a canopy that gets too dense, the biggest leaves should be removed, and some of the other leaves can be cut in half.
Suckers (vertical growth from the roots or lower stem) need to be removed, as they can consume sunlight and nutrients away from the main stem. Suckers are also known to attract pests and diseases, and thus pose a danger to the health of the bonsai tree. Minimal presence of suckers is tolerated when they are used as part of the tree styling.
Unless all blooms are cut off, the tree will produce fruits in autumn. Some bonsai professionals limit the amount of flowers and fruits, since their excess can dramatically sap the tree’s energy.
In order to encourage formation of branches, frequent and hard cutting can be done every two weeks. However, after mid-summer, all hard pruning and pinching our of new shoots should stop, since the next year’s flowering shoots can be compromised.
In late fall, any leggy (very long) branches need to be trimmed. The tree can then be placed in a sold frame or protective shelter, where it should remain during the winter.
Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) bonsai trees need to be repotted every 2–3 years, either in very early spring, or right after the flowering is over. After removing the plant from the old pot, the roots need to be carefully scooped downwards, and the longer ones cut. The plant needs to be placed in a free-draining compost composed of loam, peaty and sharp sand in the ratio 2:1:1. Once placed inside the new pot, to hold down loose roots, a wire can be circled around the base of the trunk, pushed down in the soil, and properly fastened.
Pests and Diseases
Aphids, scale insects and root carcinoma are the major health risks to the Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) bonsai tree. As a plant in the family Rosaceae, Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) is also susceptible to rust (fungal disease) and fireblight (bacterial disease). This can cause unsightly brown or black spots on the leaves and the branches. The parts of the plant affected by the disease need to be pruned and burned. All gardening tools used on the plant need to be sterilized.
The bark of a Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) bonsai tree can occasionally start to peal. This is a natural part of the tree’s growth process, and should not considered as a problem.