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General Informaton: Chaenomeles are much beloved for bonsai because of their tiny, lovely flowers, and in spite of their prickly thorns. Most varieties flower before leafing out, sometimes as early as January, and may continue to flower for a long time following. The fruit is yellow and large, too hard to be edible, but making tolerable preserves.
Taxonimists have suffered much over Chaenomeles. To begin, the species now known as C. japonica and C.speciosa were hopelessly confused when introduced into England. They were originally classified as pears, but then reclassified as quinces, and then classified as pears again! Finally, when the genus Pyrus got too large, they were given their own genus. Then the Chinese quince, Chaenomeles sinensis, was reclassified as Pseudocydonia sinensis - false-quince. To make things worse, C. japonica and C. speciosa hybridize at the drop of a hat (called C. x superba), which has made it difficult to know the true derivation of some cultivars (many are simply identified as C. 'CultivarName'.)
Lighting: Full sun, although partial shade in midsummer is desirable in very hot areas.
Temperature: Protect from frost.
Watering: Generous, but avoid misting as this damages the flowers and may rot the fruit. Reduce watering in winter, but never allow the soil to become fully dry.
Feeding: Every two weeks from the end of flowering until fall. Some varieties have spot blooms throughout the season; these obviously still need to be fed when growing actively. Use liquid bonsai fertilizer or half-strength plant food. Proper feeding is essential for good flowering. Calcium in the soil helps to form fruit and flowers.
Pruning and wiring: Fruiting and flowering can sap the plant's energy dramatically, so it is wise to limit the amount by picking off developing fruit and flower buds, especially in young bonsai. Flowering quince likes to sucker from the roots. Suckers should be removed if a thich trunk is desired; however, thick trunks can be difficult to achieve, especially in some popular C. japonica cultivars such as 'Chojubai.' These plants are most often grown in clump style. Some species may need to be cut back hard to encourage branch formation. New shoots should be cut back to 1-2 leaves after 5-7 leaves have formed, which may be as often as every two weeks in a vigorous plant. Chaenomeles can be wired from spring through the end of summer, leaving the wire on for up to four months, and can be repeated yearly.
Propagation: From seeds, which need to be cold-treated before sowing in spring, but will germinate rapidly. Softwood cuttings may be taken in summer,or hardwood cuttings in winter, but cuttings will root slowly. Clumps may be propigated through division. Named hybrids are often propigated through grafting.
Repotting: Chaenomeles is one of the few species which prefers to be repotted in autumn, but can also be transplanted in early spring, or even summer if the top is properly cut back. The books recommend repotting every 2-4 years, But Brent has found that (at least in the California sun!) they may need yearly repotting. Use Hollow Creek Farms Professional Main Soil. Roots can be cut back by about half if necessary.
Can be purchased at www.hollowcreekbonsai.com