how-to-prune-quince-trees

When and How to Prune Quince Trees

Large, golden-yellow and hauntingly fragrant, ripe quince fruit simmers down to make delicious jams, jellies and sauces. And to maximize the size of its fruit harvest, a quince tree (Cydonia oblonga) benefits from pruning. The good news is that you don’t need to be an orchardist to know how prune it. We walk you through the process with easy to understand steps.

What’s the Right Way to Prune a Quince Tree?

Don’t let pruning scare you! These pruning practices will keep your quince tree at its healthiest, fruit-yielding best:

  • To avoid spreading disease, choose a dry day. Always use sharp, clean pruning tools disinfected with rubbing alcohol between cuts. Keeping the alcohol in a spray bottle simplifies things.
  • Make each pruning cut at a 45-degree angle, 1/4 inch above and slanting away from a bud. If you cut it any closer, the bud will wither during the healing process. Each cut stimulates new growth up to 8 inches away.
  • Cut large limbs in sections, so the wood doesn’t tear when they fall. Make downward-sloping cuts that allow water to drain.
  • Finally, paint large cuts with organic pruning sealant to deter wood-boring pests or fungal infections.

Expert gardener’s tip: The goal of pruning your quince tree is to boost its fruit production and keep it small enough to harvest easily. Don’t worry too much about keeping it symmetrical; an “informal” growth habit is one of its charms.

When Should You Start Pruning a Quince Tree?

In the late winter of its first year after planting, prune your quince tree back to a single, 3-foot (91 cm) trunk. Then choose three to five branches growing at about a 45-degree angle in an evenly spaced spiral. Tie pieces of twine to them for identification. Prune the rest to create a loosely vase-shaped framework.

Expert gardener’s tip: For a 45-degree angle, think 2 or 10 o’clock.

In the second winter, prune the framework branches back to about 20 inches (50 cm) long. Cut each one just above an outward-facing bud.

What about Pruning a Fruit-Bearing Quince Tree?

Once a quince tree is bearing fruit, prune dead, diseased or damaged wood any time. Just cut it back to a healthy bud facing in the direction you want the new branch to grow.

If your tree’s canopy is so dense that air and light aren’t reaching its center, it needs opening up. Do this in summer. To thin the canopy:

  • Cut four or five main limbs back by about one-third.
  • Make your cuts just above buds that face away from the center of the tree.
  • Leave the side shoots on the pruned branches intact if they’re growing away from the center of the tree. You need them to develop new fruit buds.
  • Remove the side shoots growing toward the center of the tree, cutting as close as possible to the main branches.

That’s all there is to it!