Chaenomeles shohin

Chaenomeles as a bonsai (Shohin category)

Quince (Chaenomeles) originate from China and Japan and they are a common ornamental shrub which is used as a bonsai due to the showy flowers that bloom in Spring. There are a wide range of cultivars to choose from and the most commonly used as a bonsai is Chaenomeles speciosa.

Root pruning is usually carried out in autumn during repotting at the same time as any structural branch pruning, however if this is not possible re-pot after flowering. Shaping through cutting new shoots back and shortening them to two leaves should be carried out in late Spring after flowering to avoid the removal of flower buds or spurs prior to this time. Some species are thorny so be careful when pruning and in they can be prone to aphids and sooty moulds so pruning off affected leaves in summer can aid with reducing the impact of these issues.

Regular clipping and pruning aids with the production of flowers so prune in late Spring and Early Summer after flowering and Chaenomeles are quite commonly used as hedging material and trained as wall shrubs. Unpruned stems produce few if any flowers whilst spur pruning promotes profuse flowering by shortening the growth during the Summer to five or six leaves. Thin out any unwanted shoots and keep a good air flow around the leaves and branches to reduce the chances of sooty mould or leaf pests.

Feeding should occur throughout the growing season and feed a high potassium based fertiliser to aid with flower production but ensure fruits are removed if they form as these can reduce the energy levels of the tree especially when kept as bonsai.

A common style to see in bonsai is that of the clump style (kabudachi) and this is due to the natural form of Quince as a shrub being very prolific in it’s growth but with a multi stemmed habit generally. However, remove any unwanted suckers as this species does tend to produce suckers or shoots within the pot vigorously.

In the UK over winter Qunice in a green house or provide with protection as they can suffer from frost and cold conditions causing them to decline and the cold can also inhibit flowering.

Chaenomeles are deciduous and part of the Rosaceae family and are easy to cultivate and highly regarded for their beautiful flowers in early Spring. The flowers are saucer shaped and come in a range of shades of red, orange and white and the flowers are followed by large yellow fruits or quinces.

Examples of Chaenomeles Species and Cultivars

  •  C. x californica
  • C. x californica ‘Enchantress’
  • C. cathayensis
  • C. japonica, C. japonica var. aplina & C. japonica ‘Chojubai’ which can produce flowers in white or red all year round
  • C. lagenaria
  • C. sinesis
  • C. speciosa plus cultivars including ‘Apple Blossom’, ‘Brilliant’ ‘Cardinalis’, ‘Contorta’, ‘Eximia’, ‘Falconnet Charlet’, ‘Geisha Girl’, ‘Kermesian Semiplena’, ‘Knap Hill Radiance’, ‘Moerloosei’, ‘Nivalis’, ‘Phylis Moore’, ‘Red Ruffles’, ‘Rosea Plena’, ‘Rubra Grandiflora’, ‘Sanguinea Plena’, ‘Simonii’, ‘Snow’, ‘Spitfire’, ‘Umbilicata’, ‘Versicolor Lutescens’, and ‘Yukigotan’.
  • C. x superb including ‘Boule de Feu’, ‘Crimson and Gold’, ‘Elly Mossel’, ‘Ernst Finken’, ‘Etna’, ‘Fire Dance’, ‘Hever Castle’, ‘Incendi’, ‘Jet Trail’, ‘Knap Hill Scarlet’, ‘Lemon & Lime’, ‘Nicoline’, ‘Pink Lady’, ‘Red Chief’, ‘Rowallane’, and ‘Vermilion’.

Here are a few images Chaenomeles as bonsai and some examples of their key features from the stunning mottled bark on mature trees which creates an awesome winter image to the showy flowers in Spring. They are a good all round bonsai which can make fantastic trees from Mame right through to large Bonsai trees and a very characterful species.

Sources of information:-

  • Bricknell, C & Joyce, D (1996) Royal Horticultural Society (RFS) Pruning and Training A Fully Illustrated Plant by Plant Manual (Dorling Kindersley)
  • Hillier, J & Coombes, A (2002) The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs (David & Charles)
  • The Royal Horticultural Society Plant Guides – Shrubs and Climbers (1996) (Dorling Kindersley)
  • Tomlinson, H (1990) The Complete Book of Bonsai (Dorling Kindersley)