How to Prune a Flowering Quince

A shrub of flowering quince in full bloom.
What You'll Need
Garden hand clippers
Telescoping or extension loppers and pruners
Garden gloves
Wheelbarrow or landscape bags

Flowering quince shrubs and trees provide multi-colored flowers in spring and edible fruit in summer. With numerous cultivars available, there's one to suit every garden landscape need, and although low-maintenance, easy-care deciduous quinces do require pruning in order to do their best.

Why Prune Flowering Quince

Just like other spring-flowering shrubs, quince need pruning immediately after blooming. Without regular pruning, flowering shrubs can become spindly, leggy, and overgrown. Pruning is also necessary to encourage vigorous new growth. This is particularly important since flowering quince bears fruit on new wood, usually off small branches coming from long new shoots. Pruning these trees is necessary to ensure an open framework, particularly in the inner branches.

Pruning Techniques for Flowering Quince

Step 1 - Sharpen Tools

Before attempting any pruning, first make sure to sharpen all tools—hand pruners, loppers, extension pruners, or other. If pruners aren’t their sharpest, the cutting motion will tear and damage the wood, leaving the tree or shrub susceptible to disease or pests.

Step 2 - Learn a Proper Schedule

The best flowering quince fruit buds will be found on lateral or side branches in the upper half of one year-old twigs. These same branches will produce good fruit for about three to four years. In order to ensure good fruit production, thinning out the oldest branches is usually all that’s required.

Some garden experts recommend pruning flowering quince trees the fourth winter after the plant has been placed in the garden. After the first pruning, make it a regular habit every winter.

Step 3 - Prune Flowering Quince Trees

Always wear gardening gloves when doing yard work to protect your hands, and clean your tools between plants to ensure that you don't transfer disease from one plant to another, healthy plant.

In winter, prune excessive growth from the inner parts of the tree, and thin out weak or crowded limbs. It's also important to remove any dead branches and dead or unwanted shoots. Remove these completely; don’t just cut them back. For trees, little other pruning is required, but if they become too tall, they can be shortened at the tops.

Step 4 - Prune Flowering Quince Shrubs

Using sharp hand pruners, cut dead, spindly, or diseased branches completely out. Also prune and remove any older branches close to the ground, including those that have arched over to the ground from the weight of fruit. Do not leave long stubs that will attract pests and diseases. In general, flowering quince shrubs can be pruned back to about six to 12 inches above the soil. For young shrubs, repeat this process for several years to encourage vigorous growth.

Identify a few one year-old suckers. Leave some of them to replace the older branches pruned out, and remove any excess suckers to prevent crowding out the flowering quince shrub. Identify two year-old (or older) branches as well, and prune them back to outward pointing buds or side branches of the shrub.

Avoid pruning branches too short. That will produce overcrowded, dense growth that invites diseases and pests. The idea is to retain branches to create an open canopy, allowing air and light through.

Once you're finished, dispose of all debris using a wheelbarrow and landscape bags.