Firethorn, or more properly Pyracantha, are a large dense evergreen bush with berries that continually look superb through all the seasons. Hardy from zones 5 through 9, they can be grown in full sun to partial shade in well drained humus-rich soil.
In late spring through early summer they are covered in clusters of sweetly fragrant white flowers. By early fall they are laden with either dazzling red-orange berries or gold berries straight into winter. Being evergreen they keep their leaves in winter, adding form to the winter garden.
When buying pyracanthas look for disease-resistant plants that are grown in containers. Do not choose balled and burlapped shrubs as they do not transplant as well. Check to make sure there are no brown spots on their leaves.
Once home plant them in well prepared soil and keep well watered throughout the first season. Place in full sun to partial shade. Pyracanthas will grow in fairly deep shade but flower and berry production will be very poor. Pyracanthas will require some pruning in late winter or early spring to keep out any dead wood. When planting leave enough room around them so you can get in to prune without being scratched by their thorns. In fall they will appreciate an organic mulch.
Pyracanthas are best planted where their beautiful shrub berries can be seen. They look great against a wall or fence, attached to a trellis or used as a cover for a difficult slope.
Firethorns can be susceptible to a bacterial disease called fireblight which blackens the leaves and stems. Should you spot such an area prune the affected stems out of the shrub and discard in the trash. Do not put these clippings in your compost. Use a little bleach or rubbing alcohol to disinfect your snips so as not to spread the bacteria.
The cultivar ‘Navajo’ is heavily berried with orange-red berries. ‘Scarlet’ firethorn (pyracantha coccinea) has bright red berries and grow up to 20 feet tall when trained against a wall. If the idea of thorns bothers you try ‘Waterei’ which is almost thornless and has bright crimson fruit. ‘Ruby Mound’ is low growing with arching stems for growing on slopes. If you would like gold berries then choose ’Golden Charmer’ or ‘Teton’. You might even like to grow several varieties together intermingling the berry tones.
If you enjoy bringing flower stems indoors, prune off a few long stems and place in a vase where they will last for several weeks.
( Some pictures are from Pixabay )
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