Is Flowering Quince Deer Resistant?

Flowering quince is an excellent candidate for landscapes that are regularly plagued by deer. This shrub or small tree assumes a form with tangled, overlapping branches, and many varieties have thorns. Not only does this thorny characteristic make a flowering quince a good barrier or hedge, it also deters browsing from deer. Varieties with few thorns may suffer from occasional deer browsing, but in general, plants are seldom severely damaged. Rabbits, however, may eat at the base of stems in winter, warranting seasonal protection. 

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Photo by F. D. Richards, unmodified, Flickr, copyright CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED

According to Rutgers University, flowering quince is Seldom Severely Damaged by deer on their rating scale from Rarely Damaged to Frequently Severely Damaged. Numerous other trees and shrubs are more attractive to deer than flowering quince, including apples, pears, dogwoods, redbuds, hydrangeas, plums, yews, and tulips.

Keeping Deer Away From Flowering Quince

Avoid attracting deer to the landscape by selecting plants like flowering quince that deer do not find particularly appealing. If deer start to bother your quince, a fence or other barrier will exclude any browsing. Rabbits, however, are a more likely threat to your quince than deer. To deter them, use wire mesh or tree wrap to protect the lowest 2 to 3 feet of the flowering quince. Apply the barrier in late fall, when rabbits have fewer foraging options. 

Deer or rabbit repellent sprays are another option to make flowering quince less attractive over the winter. These typically require reapplication every two weeks or following snow or rain events. 

Will Flowering Quince Come Back After Deer Eat Them?

Occasional deer browsing on a flowering quince will not cause serious harm to the plant. Browsing damage to the plant in winter will, however, reduce the number of flower buds in the spring. In the case of deer feeding, tidy up any damaged branches just after flowering and consider applying a slow-release, balanced fertilizer around the base of the plant. Also, provide supplemental irrigation during extended dry spells to encourage plant re-growth. 

Rabbit damage to the base of the shrub can cause much more serious damage. If these pests eat the bark layer completely around the circumference of the stem, the plant will die back above the girdle; however, flowering quince is resilient and may re-sprout from the roots. For minor damage, the quince is likely to recover fully over the next growing season.

Sources: Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station ‘Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance’ 2018

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