Bushes with orange berries

Pyracantha, Friend or Foe?

The Firethorn Shrub Choice

The firethorn bush, Pyracantha coccinea ‘Mohave’, grows clambering up my house and I love it. I wouldn’t be without this prickly shrub, but it is quite wicked with long thorns all along branches that are stiff and very sharp, and shows no mercy to the unprepared gardener. When working around a Pyracantha, gloves and long sleeves are a necessity.

As a child I used to see a healthy pyracantha trained up a brick house wall along the walk to school. It was almost the height of the second story roof, and it is that picture in my mind that caught my fancy.

Knowing what I now know of its tearing thorns, my memory might not be so kind, but I was a child at the time and the changing colors and beauty of this sight always attracted me.

Bright Orange Berries

It is the firethorn’s autumnal, bright orange berries persisting into winter that first caused me to choose to plant it in my own garden, and now the winter visits of birds in my window are what I most enjoy. Birds love the berries of the pyracantha and take shelter from wintry blasts all through the long cold season of Ohio. The spring bloom is just the icing on the cake.

The leaves, branching, and berries

Pyracantha, commonly called the firethorn bush, is a sprawly, rangy shrub. I have seen some people hack it into hedge shapes of privet-like form, but really that is an atrocity I couldn’t impose upon it. Where would be the beauty of the foam of creamy flowers in the spring, or the gorgeous and gaudy berries in the autumn?

Pyracantha pruned with an espaliera restricted form of training stems and branches method is much more pleasing form. Although it is during pruning that those sharp thorns thorns will get you.

What is “espalier”?

Bright berries for the birds

Thorns, though, do have their uses. They prove to be good barriers where trespassers are not wanted (home security qualities), and give protective cover to birds.

The semi-evergreen leaves are polished and shiny, giving fine texture and the branches are craggy with interesting juts and turns. A fine garden companion from a distance.

Good Color Combinations In The Garden

  • Presently I have some butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa at the feet of the firethorn along with a stand of lily of the valley. The color of the butterfly weed is just the shade of orange as the berries and I’m very happy with the pairing.
  • There are also Echinacea purpurea in that bed, the central cones of the blooms reflect the oranges of the firethorn berries while its warm pink petals contrast without clashing, although their blooms barely overlap in season.
  • Asters in deep purple make a nice contrast to the berries in late summer/early fall. Calendulas are an annual that bloom very late into the growing season and have just the right colors of yellow, apricot, and orange to harmonize with pyracantha shrubs.
  • A tip-off to a good flower combination is to see if one of the companions colors are found somewhere in the stamen or pistil, or as an accent on a petal or sepal, in the other flower.
  • The coneflowers and butterfly weeds are native to prairies, so they get along well together. The lily of the valley is the upstart, but it is a welcome one.
  • The Alchemyst rose is also nearby, with its climbing habit and apricot blooms, but it flowers earlier than the appearance of the orange shades.

Chasmanthe floribunda + Pyracantha photo by Seán A. O’Hara

How To Grow Pyracantha

  • soil: well drained, tolerates alkaline soil
  • moisture: average, but tolerates drought once established
  • sun: full to part sun
  • hardiness: Zone 5a to 8b

Although we have cold snaps which dip quite low for a pyracantha, the protected site I gave my firethorn shrub, on the leeward side of the house, has resulted in this somewhat borderline hardy plant being quite happy here.

View through the window

Its growth is strong and regularly needs pruning. It is the bane of my husbands effort to paint the house, and we have had to severely cut it back during those years. But It seems to thrive and the birds appreciate it. I think it lends great beauty to the places where the gardener chooses to grow it.

Plant Description

  • spring blooms of creamy white
  • leathery, good looking, deep green leaves, small ovate shaped
  • strong, rangy branching system
  • semi-evergreen
  • beautiful berries (berry-like pomes), often orange but sometimes ochre yellow, or red orange
  • height/width: 6-12 feet or more but easily shaped and kept in bounds with pruning
  • naturally upright

Choose among numerous varieties of Pyracantha, with size, growth and berry color differences, a collection of Pyracantha named varieties for your landscape.

Fun Facts

Good for birds, providing food and nesting source. Plant one by a window and watch the birds in all sorts of weather.

For more information on pyracantha varieties, their berry color, and hardiness, see this page: Pyracantha Varieties Light Up A Fall Landscape .

Firethorn – Red Cushion

Small Gallery of Photos

View through the windowPyracantha in bloom, usually grown for fall berries.
Pyracantha berries
More about prairie flowers like coneflowers, mentioned in this post.

The Pyracantha ‘Mohave‘ is an Elisabeth Carey Miller Botanical Garden “Great Plant Pick”.

10 Berry Producing Shrubs

Top 10 Shrubs for Berries VIDEO

  1. Low Scape Mound® Aronia

One of the toughest and most durable shrubs we offer is also one of the best for multi-season interest. Low Scape Mound aronia looks great starting in early spring, when it is covered in neat white flowers with prominent pink pollen in the center. By late summer, those have developed into deep purple-black berries. While they are technically edible, they come by their common name of “chokeberry” earnestly: they have a powerful tartness that sucks the moisture out of your mouth. But no worries: birds and other wildlife will happily take care of them in time. Hardy in zones 3-9.

Pollinating variety required? No. Low Scape Mound aronia is self-fruitful, so even if you plant only one, you’ll still get berries.

  1. Pearl Glam® Callicarpa

Once you’ve seen a beautyberry in real life, you simply must have one for your garden. Those amazing pink berries just look too good to be true! The trouble is that conventional beautyberry varieties are often really large, taking up a lot of space, and up until they start to flower in fruit in late summer, they definitely don’t look like anything to get excited about. But that’s exactly what makes Pearl Glam beautyberry so distinctive: it has a narrow, upright, space-saving habit and deep purple foliage that makes it an engaging member of the landscape well before berry season. Hardy in zones 5-8.

Pollinating variety required? No. Pearl Glam beautyberry is self-fruitful, so even if you plant only one, you’ll still get berries.

  1. Winterberry Holly

Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) is a bit unusual in that unlike the more traditional types, it loses its leaves over winter. But rather than a liability, it’s a benefit, as it gives the plump, closely-spaced berries even more impact in the landscape, and makes a long-lasting cut stem for arranging indoors. This native shrub is also one of our most wide-ranging, thriving from chilly USDA zone 3 through steamy USDA zone 9. We offer one of the most comprehensive selections of winterberry hollies on the market, from our classic Berry Heavy series (featuring both red and yellow selections!) to our space-saving dwarf Poppins and Little Goblin series. Winterberry holly is extremely shade-tolerant and deer resistant, but it definitely does best in average to wet soils. Berries last through mid-late winter in most years: after cold temperatures have softened them considerably, they sustain birds through the last lean weeks of the season. Hardy in zones 3-9.

Pollinating variety required? Yes. Like other hollies, winterberry holly plants are either male or female, and both are required for berries to develop on the female. One male plant can pollinate up to five female plants, and they should be planted within 50’/15.24m of one another. Mr. Poppins holly is a suitable pollinator for Berry Heavy and Berry Poppins; Little Goblin Guy is best used for the other Little Goblin varieties. If you cannot find one of our recommended pollinators, ‘Jim Dandy’ will do.

  1. Gin Fizz Juniperus

For berries well before and after autumn, plant Gin Fizz juniper. This distinguished evergreen was selected for its abundant crop of hard blue fruits that nestle among the foliage from early summer all through winter. Juniper berries are, of course, the main flavoring in gin, and they have a host of other aromatic and culinary use as well. But even if you have no intention of using them in that way, you’ll enjoy the texture and color they contribute to this sun-loving, deer resistant evergreen. A fantastic choice for a hedge! Hardy in zones 4-8.

Pollinating variety required? No. Fruits will develop even if there’s only one Gin Fizz juniper in your yard.

  1. Castle Blue Hollies (Ilex x meserveae)

Here are the traditional hollies you know and love: glossy blue-green foliage and cheerful red berries. Our Castle series of hollies were selected from the world-renown Meserve hollies (aka blue holly) developed by amateur plant breeder Kathleen Meserve in her Long Island backyard in the 1950s. Look to the Castle hollies for a range of different heights and sizes to accomplish any landscape role, from a stunning specimen to a lush hedge. The berries on blue holly are typically green until early autumn, when they start taking on their red tones, so don’t look for these plants to become super showy until the season is winding down. Hardy in zones 5-7.

Pollinating variety required? Yes. Like all hollies, blue hollies are either male or female, and both must be present for the berries to develop on the female. One male can pollinate up to five female plants, and they should be planted within 50’/15.24m of one another. Castle Wall holly is the male pollinator for Castle Spire and Castle Keep, our two female selections.

  1. Black Lace Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)

Black Lace elderberry got kicked out of an edible elderberry breeding program in England for being too beautiful: they were trialing plants for heavy fruit production, and while Black Lace sets a nice amount of deep black berries in autumn, it was clear that its elegant foliage and dramatic color made it better suited to the garden than the orchard. Lucky for all of us! This big, bold flowering shrub will draw tons of compliments in your landscape, with lacy black foliage all season, big, lacy pink and white flowers in early summer, and juicy black berries in early autumn. Plant in at least 6 hours of sun or bright filtered light all day for best performance. Hardy in zones 5-7.

Pollinating variety required? Yes, if you want fruit. This plant offers a lot more than berries, but if you want berries to form, whether for you or the birds, a different variety of Sambucus nigra is required. You can plant Black Beauty, Instant Karma, or Laced Up elderberry; in some areas where the North American native Sambucus canadensis grows wild, it can serve as a pollinator. In the case of elderberry, all plants will form fruit.

  1. Cardinal Candy linden viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum)

When it comes to autumn berries, viburnums reign supreme! Though many varieties are grown only for their handsome foliage or lacy flowers, no small number boast those qualities and boldly colorful berries too. Cardinal Candy viburnum is such an example: it’s smothered in white blooms in late spring, has big, thick, leathery leaves, and winds up the year with a truly impressive crop of lustrous red berries. Like most viburnums, it is very deer resistant and thrives even in shaded conditions. Hardy in zones 5-8.

Pollinating variety required? Not required, but recommended. Cardinal Candy will set some fruit if a compatible pollinator isn’t in the vicinity, but you’ll get a whole lot more if there is. We recommend planting Tandoori Orange within 50’ of it for a memorable display of colorful berries on both plants. In this case, maintaining a 1:1 ratio would be advised.

  1. Tandoori Orange linden viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum)

Light up the landscape with the lustrous orange berries of this very unique viburnum. The fruits are beautiful on their own but are especially glorious when they’re set off by the changing tones of the autumn foliage. Like its sister plant Cardinal Candy, you get to enjoy a spectacular display of white spring flowers, handsome foliage, and glossy berries, so it delivers a lot of beauty over a very long period each season. Hardy in zones 5-8.

Pollinating variety required? Not required, but recommended. Tandoori Orange will set some fruit if a compatible pollinator isn’t in the vicinity, but you’ll get a whole lot more if there is. We recommend planting Cardinal Candy within 50’ of it for a memorable display of colorful berries on both plants. In this case, maintaining a 1:1 ratio would be advised.

  1. All That Glitters + All That Glows arrowwood viburnum (V. dentatum var. deamii)

There are lots of shrubs that you could plant for privacy, but these two viburnums are at the top of our list of recommendations. They derive their name from their extremely lustrous, glossy foliage, which truly stands out in the landscape or garden. Tight bunches of white flowers appear in late spring, and they develop into a crop of dusky blue berries that last through winter. These two viburnums are ideal for a hedge, or plant them as anchors or focal points in your home’s landscape. Their distinguished good looks are suited to any style. Hardy in zones 4-8.

Pollinating variety required? Yes. Both All That Glitters and All That Glows viburnum must be planted within 50’ of one another for fruit to develop; however, both will get a bumper crop of fruit in such conditions. We selected these two varieties and introduced them together specifically for this purpose. Note: though they are closely related to our long-time favorite Blue Muffin viburnum, neither of them are suited to pollinating it, since they are a Southern variant of the species and bloom later.

  1. Brandywine Viburnum (Viburnum nudum)

Tim Wood, our plant hunter, likes to call Brandywine viburnum “the most beautiful berry display in the plant kingdom,” and it’s hard to argue with him. It’s something you have to watch for yourself to fully appreciate: lacy late spring flowers develop into fairly non-descript green berries during summer. By about early September, they start to make themselves known by turning a distinctive ivory. Soon after, they become a brilliant pink before finally going blue-purple. As the changes take place, you’ll often see multiple colors in each berry cluster at once. All that would make this a superlative flowering shrub, but when you add in the beautiful maroon-red color its glossy foliage takes on along with the berries, it’s a plant you’ll treasure in your landscape for years to come. Hardy in zones 5-9.

Pollinating variety required? No. Brandywine is a rare viburnum in that it is self-fruitful and does not require a different variety for berries to develop, so even if you only plant one, you’ll see a memorable performance each year. Brandywine viburnum can also serve as a pollinator for ‘Winterthur’ viburnum.

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What Are Those Berries From, Firethorn or Sea-buckthorn?

Like any other plant addict, I’m attracted to all plants, especially those with bright colored flowers or fruits. When I first saw this beautiful bush, with luscious leaves and lots of orange berry clusters, I knew I had to have one. I didn’t know what it was, nor did I know its name, but I liked it and that was enough. The opportunity came soon, in a gas station, while I was filling the tank of my car. It was fall and the huge bush they had there was full of orange berries. I was stunned and after admiring it for a few seconds, I quickly grabbed a small stem and brought it home with me. I put it in a glass of water to root and, after two years, the stem grew into a beautiful bush which repaid me with its first two clusters of flowers and then, of orange berries. I had been waiting for that moment eversince I took the stem from the gas station. I was in awe!
Just about the time my bush had its first orange berries growing, I watched a TV show about plants and they were talking about the sea-buckthorn and its miraculous properties. I was amazed to see how similar was the sea-buckthorn to my shrub, and the berries too, yet somehow different. I searched on the internet to see if my shrub was really a sea-buckthorn or not. After some research, I’ve found out that the sea-buckthorn has seven species. One of them, Hippophae rhamnoides, looked identical to my shrub on two websites: one of a nursery and the other one of some doctors offering medical advice. Bingo! This was what I wanted to find. I was so happy and excited to know that my plant was a sea-buckthorn!

I had heard about the sea-buckthorn’s amazing properties in treating and preventing the flu, cold, infections, heart disease, stress, tumors and liver disease. The discovery of having a sea-bucktorn shrub in my garden, from which I could harvest lots of berries with such healing properties – not to mention its beauty – was incredible. I was now anxious to eat those berries and feel the miraculous powers of the plant for myself. Since I was convinced it was a sea-buckthorn, I picked up the berries and mixed them with a few spoons of honey, then started to take one teaspoon of the mix every morning. This is how they said it should be done in order to prevent the flu during winter. I was very serious and thorough about it and, since no one else in the family wanted to have it, I made the “sacrifice” of taking the “medicine”. The treatment was short, only for a week, because that much honey and berries mix I had, but I already felt the miraculous powers over me – or so I thought.

Soon after finishing “the treatment”, I was talking to a friend and word came about the sea-buckthorn. She told me her shrubs never bloomed in four years since she has had them, not even once. She said she had two shrubs, one male and one female, for reproduction, but no results yet. I said I had never heard of such a thing and that my shrub bloomed and made berries, even though I only had one shrub. I told her I would research more about the plant and that is what I did.
I was surprised to find out that what my friend told me was true and that my shrub wasn’t really a sea-buckthorn. I didn’t know yet what it was, but I was now sure that it wasn’t what I thought. No need to say how dissapointed I was and somehow, frightened – I ate its fruits!!!!! More research cleared the matter up for me. I’ve found out out that those berries were from Pyracantha, an ornamental shrub which, luckily, has edible fruits. I found only one Romanian website, but more American websites which shared the same information about Pyracantha, also called the firethorn bush. The fruits look similar to the sea-buckthorn’s fruits, but they are different and, the most important thing, are edible. They say the seeds are poisonous if eaten too many at once, because they contain a small amount of cyanide or cyanogenic glycosides. Imagine that! And I ate about 2 tablespoons of fruits with seeds and all, but here I am, all alive and well. I must confess I was lucky my bush didn’t fruit more that year. But wait, they don’t say you can die of too many pyracantha berries, you can just have a mild gastro-intestinal problem, which I didn’t have at all, lucky me.

After discovering the true identity of my shrub, I’ve researched more about both Hyppophae rhamnoides and Pyracantha. The difference between the two shrubs is huge. One look at their flowers is enough: while Pyracantha has white small flowers, gathered in clusters, Hyppophae has unusual flowers, male and female type, growing on the stalk, each on different plants. The firethorn’s fruits are growing in clusters and they are pomes. This fall I bought sea-buckthorn fruits from the market and I could compare them with the firebush fruits I have in my garden. On a first look, the sea-buckthorn fruits are smaller, oval and luscious, while the firethorn fruits are twice as big, round and opaque, looking like a small apple.

Opening them both, the sea-buckthorn fruit is juicy, while the firethorn fruit is fleshy.

The seeds are also different: the firethorn’s are smaller than the sea-buckthorn’s. All in all, the two shrubs have visible differences between them, although the orange fruits might look similar in a picture or from afar. The medicinal properties are definitely different too, because the sea-buckthorn has supposed healing properties. I am about to find out – for real, this time – because I made a huge batch of sea-buckthorn fruits and honey mix and a juice with honey for my grandson, to prevent cold and flu for all in my family.

As for the firethorn fruits I am about to pick up from my bush, I’ll make a jelly with them. Some websites recommend a jelly recipe made with the fruits’ juice and pulp, well strained after boiled and crushed. I’m confident that now my information is accurate, since it comes from three different sources, one of them being the Texas University of Agriculture. And, just to be sure that no one gets fooled again, I posted requests for the two websites’ administrators, to change the wrong pictures with the good ones. I wouldn’t want to let this happen to other people too!

Important disclaimer: The information contained in this article is provided for your general information only. The author is not attempting to give medical advice or engage in the practice of medicine. You should consult your physician or local treatment center before pursuing any course of treatment.

– http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyracantha


Article by David Marks
Pyracantha originate from Southern Europe (Mediterranean areas in particular) spreading eastwards into Asia. They are equally at home in high daytime temperatures and low night time ones. Their flowers and berries make them stand out as exceptional ornamental plants in small and large gardens. Their dense growth, combined with vicious thorns also make them ideal hedging plants. Even the most determined intruder would not wish to cross a fully grown Pyracantha!

This article should answer all your questions about choosing and caring for pyracantha. Occasionally however our readers have very specific questions about this shrub. So if up can’t find the answer to your question on this page then check out our “question and answer” page dedicated to pyracantha. It can be found here.

They have been popular plants in gardens for centuries and remain so for very good reasons.

Use the checklist below to decide if a Pyracantha is suited to your preferences and garden conditions:

  • An evergreen shrub which, if not pruned, reaches a height of 4m / 13ft with a similar spread. They respond exceptionally well to pruning and can easily be kept to a height and spread of 1m / 3ft.
  • It is fully hardy in almost all areas of the UK withstanding temperatures down to -18°C. In a protected position, it is hardy to a few degrees lower.
  • Main interest is from the masses of white flowers in May / June followed by red, orange or yellow berries in September to February.
  • All soils except waterlogged conditions are suitable. It does best in a deep loam type soil although this is not essential.
  • It prefers full sun although also does well in partial shade. Avoid full shade positions.
  • Once established, it rarely requires watering and will tolerate drought. If grown against a wall, watering will be required during extended drought periods.
  • A very versatile shrub, it can be grown as a specimen plant, singly in containers, as a hedge or against a wall / fence. It is very suitable as a barrier hedge because it has lots of very sharp thorns and cannot easily be parted.
  • Disease resistance is good with the exception of scab and fireblight. See our section below on pests and diseases of this shrub for top tips about avoiding this problem. The more recent ‘Saphyr’ series of Pyracantha show significant resistance to both these diseases.
  • These are very low maintenance shrubs. When established their only care need is pruning to keep them to size and shape you require.
  • Birds love to nest in pyracantha because not only are they protected from predators by the thorns but they also feed on the berries. The flowers are also attractive to bees.


Follow the steps below to ensure your Pyracantha is planted correctly and in the best position:

  • Choose a full sun to partial shade position. The plant needs some air circulation so although it will thrive against a wall or fence, avoid planting it in the corner of two walls fences.
  • If the soil is heavy or is not free draining add lots of well rotted compost to the area and dig it in well.
  • It can be planted all year long if the soil is not frozen and you can water well when conditions are dry. Mid March to April and mid September to October are the best times to plant this shrub.
  • Dig a hole twice the width of the rootball. Sprinkle in a handful of blood, fish and bone and work into the ground.
  • Place the plant into the hole, filling in with soil so that it is at the same depth as was in the pot. Fill around the rootball and firm the soil down gently but firmly. Water well to settle the surrounding ground around the rootball.

If you want to grow Pyracantha as a dense hedge, individual plants should be about 60cm / 2ft apart.


Pyracantha are long-lived shrubs and the only care required after they are established is to prune them (see section below). They are naturally deep rooted an will search out moisture well below the soil surface. On poor soils a couple of handfuls of blood, fish and bone per plant in April time will help feed the finer roots near the soil surface.

For younger plants up to two years old, water if conditions become dry. A twice yearly feed with blood, fish and bone in spring and autumn will help it to establish a good root system. Keep the area around the base of the plant free from weeds and grass.


The frequency of pruning depends on the shape and size you want the plant to grow to. Without pruning, Pyracantha will grow quite happily and form a bush sized about 4m / 13ft.

For those of you who prefer a smaller shrub then pruning is more a matter of when to prune rather than how. If pyracantha are pruned at the wrong time of year they will fail to flower and will not produce many berries the next year.

Pyracantha produce most of their new stems in spring but these will not flower or produce berries in that first year, they flower and produce berries in the next year. Combine that piece of information with the fact that a stem will produce flowers and berries along almost its entire length and you are in possession of the key facts behind pruning a pyracantha.

Pyracantha pruned as a column

For the first two to three years after planting a new pyracantha, let it fill out and don’t prune it. This will help it establish a good root system.

In the third or fourth year start pruning it as follows:

  • The best time to prune a pyracantha is when it is in full flower, normally around mid to end of May in most parts of the UK. The reason for this is that the stems with flowers on will produce berries later in the year. At flowering time you can easily identify them and avoid heavy pruning of those stems.
  • The first step it to prune out some of the older stems which are not producing flowers any more and therefore will not produce any berries. You don’t want to prune out these stems completely because they will still produce leaves and contribute to the evergreen appearance. Prune away a third to one half of the length of non-flowering stems.
  • The second step is aimed at opening up the centre of the shrub to allow air circulation. Some varieties of pyracantha are prone scab, fireblight and fungal diseases. Maintaining good air circulation in the centre of the shrub will contribute greatly to preventing these problems. Look for the oldest stems coming from the centre stems of the shrub and prune away completely about one of five of these.
  • The final step is to ‘shape up’ the shrub. If your pyracantha has been pruned correctly in previous years, one or two year old stems will be the ones which are growing out further than others. Trim some of these back to maintain the shape and encourage new stems to form during the next year. Don’t hard prune these, just cut them back to shape.
  • When pruning pyracantha remember to use thick gardening gloves to avoid damage from the thorns. Cut the stems to a downward angle to allow water to drain off the top of the cut. Use sharp secateurs to avoid crushing the top of the pruned stems.

Remember the basic pruning principles identified at the beginning of this section and then combine them with the steps explained above. Refine the pruning process to suit the growing conditions of your particular pyracantha.

If you have an overgrown, wild or out of control Pyracantha, remember they are tough shrubs and will survive hard pruning at most times of the year. Cutting the plant down by a half is fine. March to October is as good a time as any.

The flowers and berries will no doubt not be as good in the year of pruning but will improve by the next year. Be careful when you prune it, falling stems can damage you with their vicious thorns.


A single Pyracantha will grow very happily in a large container. A diameter of 45cm or more is about right. Fill with either standard multi-purpose compost or a John Innes type loam.

A container grown pyracantha should be fed monthly between mid March to mid August with a handful of blood, fish and bone. It will of course require regular watering. Wait each time until the top 3cm of the compost is dry and then water well.

Pruning is as described above although you may to prune more frequently to keep the plant to shape and an appropriate size for the container. It does help if the shrub is in a heavy container to avoid it easily being blown over.


Pyracantha can suffer from two main diseases, scab and fireblight, both are described below. If you are choosing a new pyracantha our strong advice would be to select one from the ‘Saphyr’ series which show significant resistance to both diseases.


Scab is a fungal disease which causes black marks on the leaves and berries of pyracantha. It also damages the flowers although this is often not so visible. The life cycle of Pyracantha Scab is described below.

The initial infection normally occurs in summer but the effects are not particularly noticeable in the first year.

In first autumn and winter the infected leaves fall to the ground and the fungus overwinters overwinter.

In Spring spores are released from the fallen leaves and they spread to new leaves both on the wind and via water splashing. Secondary spores are release in late spring which causes further infection. The higher the humidity and temperature the quicker the spores are released and the more damage they can cause.

The damage becomes apparent in mid summer to winter on leaves and berries. The cycle repeats itself with more vigour if not treated.

The first preventative measure is to plant scab resistant varieties such as the ‘Saphyr’ series to prevent the problem occurring in the first place. The next preventative measure is to clear up and burn fallen leaves during the year, especially in autumn.

Several fungicide sprays were available in the UK prior to 2016 but these are no longer considered safe and should have been withdrawn from sale in November 2015.


Fireblight is a bacterial infection which causes the same symptoms as described above for scab. The key noticeable difference is that fireblight of pyracantha appears far quicker than the symptoms of scab and they are worse in severity.

See our page dedicated to identifying and treating fireblight here. It’s also important to understand that infections of fireblight can be transferred to pyracantha from and to many other common plants such as apples, pears and hawthorn.


Because of the difficulty in treating scab and fireblight we strongly recommend the ‘Saphyr’ series of pyracantha. They offer the same qualities as regular varieties but were bred in France to offer good resistance to both diseases.

Three varieties are commonly sold, those with red, orange or yellow berries. When young it is very difficult to distinguish between regular varieties and the resistant varieties. We suggest therefore you buy from a reputable supplier in order to avoid disappointment in later years. The resistant varieties cost a couple of pounds more to buy but they are well worth it in the long term.

We recommend Crocus, click on the link below to see their selection of disease resistant Pyracantha.


Below we list the key strengths and weaknesses of Pyracantha.

HARDY (to -18°C)
SHADE Yes, partial, full sun


Pyracantha is also called firethorn. The three most popular species, scarlet firethorn (Pyracantha coccinea), Formosa firethorn (P. koidzumii), and Roger’s firethorn (P. rogersiana), vary mostly in berry size and color.

Despite its fierce thorns, pyracantha is an important shrub in the South Carolina landscape.

Bright red berries are the main feature of pyracantha.
Photo by Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Mature Height/Spread

This broadleaf, evergreen shrub grows to 10 to 15 feet and spreads 10 feet. All species have glossy green leaves, which are ½ to 1 inch wide and 1 to 4 inches long. All bear flowers and fruit on spurs along the wood of last year’s growth. Flowers appear in spring. They are small, white and have an unpleasant smell. The red berries are the main reason for the shrub’s popularity. They appear in thick clusters and are orange to red in color, depending on the species and variety. Most berries last until late winter.

Growth Rate

Pyracantha grows very fast, sometimes more than 2 feet a year.

Landscape Use

Pyracantha makes an excellent hedge. The shrub can also be used as a barrier or as cover for slopes in hot, dry areas. Pyracantha grows well in containers. It is not recommended for planting around the foundation of a single story building, because it grows too large, too fast.


Pyracantha prefers full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. Planting in highly fertile soil will produce rampant growth, which makes the plant more susceptible to fire blight and decreases berry production.

It is best to plant pyracantha bushes in the fall. If berry color is important, buy the plants when they have fruit. Pyracantha resents transplanting. Once you plant it, leave it alone.

Even though pyracantha is resistant to heat and drought, it is a good practice to mulch around the shrub to reduce stress from dry weather.

Pruning can be done during almost any season, but winter or early spring pruning is recommended. If you wait until early spring when flowering occurs, you can selectively prune to leave some flowers so you will have berries in the fall. Flowers and berries are produced only on growth that is at least one year old. Always leave some of the growth made each year so that you will have flowers and berries.

Dislodge old withered or rotted berries with a broom at the end of winter.


Two serious problems on pyracantha are fire blight, a bacterial disease that can kill the plant, and scab, a fungal disease which causes defoliation and turns fruit a dark, sooty color.

To minimize problems, choose disease-resistant selections such as ‘Apache,’ ‘Fiery Cascade,’ ‘ Mohave,’ ‘Navaho,’ ‘Pueblo,’ ‘Rutgers,’ ‘Shawnee’ and ‘Teton. ‘

Insect pests include aphids, scales, spidermites and lace bugs. Some selections that are resistant to lacebug are ‘ Variegata’ and ‘Aurea.’


Hybrids of pyracanthas include some of the most desirable firethorns.

  • ‘Apache’ grows to 5 feet high and 6 feet wide and has large, bright red berries that last well into winter. This selection is resistant to fire blight and scab.
  • ‘Fiery Cascade’ grows to 8 feet tall and 9 feet wide, has orange berries that turn red during the winter and has good disease resistance.
  • ‘Gnome’ is very cold hardy and grows to 6 feet high and 8 feet wide. The berries are orange. This selection is very susceptible to scab.
  • ‘Lowboy’ is a spreading plant, which reaches a height of only 2 to 3 feet. The berries are orange, and this s election is also prone to scab.
  • ‘Mohave’ grows to 12 feet tall and wide and has many, big orange-red berries, which last well into winter. This selection is resistant to fire blight and scab.
  • ‘Teton’ is very cold hardy and grows to 12 feet high and 4 feet wide. The berries are golden yellow. This selection is also resistant to fire blight and scab.
  • ‘Tiny Tim’ is a compact plant to 3 feet high with small leaves and few or no thorns. The berries are red.

Pyracantha seeds have a deep dormancy within them, this requires a degree of patience to overcome and it is usually quite easy to get good levels of germination if the correct procedures are followed.
To begin soak the seeds in warm water for 24 hours and then drain away the water.
Next prepare a free draining substrate into which the seeds are to be mixed, this can be a 50/50 mixture of compost and sharp sand, or perlite, vermiculite.The chosen substrate needs to be moist (but not wet), if you can squeeze water out of it with your hand it is too wet and your seeds may drown and die. Mix the seeds into the substrate, making sure that their is enough volume of material to keep the seeds separated.
Place the seed mixture into a clear plastic bag (freezer bags, especially zip-lock bags are very useful for this -provided a little gap is left in the seal for air exchange) If it is not a zip-lock type bag it needs to be loosely tied. Then write the date on the bag so that you know when the pretreatment was started.
Next the seeds require a cold period to break the final part of the dormancy, this is easily achieved by placing the bag in the fridge (4 Celsius or 39F) for around 12 weeks.
It is quite possible for the seeds to germinate in the bag at these temperatures when they are ready to do so, if they do, just remove them from the bag and carefully plant them up.
Once the pre treatment period has finished the seeds can be sown. Plant them about 5mm deep in a pot containing good quality compost. Keep them in a warm place at around room temperature and germination should begin within 1 or 2 weeks.
Do not expose newly sown seeds to high temperatures (above 25 Celsius) otherwise a secondary dormancy may be induced and the seeds will not germinate until they have been pretreated again.
Keep the seedlings well watered and weed free. Growth in the first year is usually between 15 and 30cm and usually trouble free. Allow them to grow for 1 or 2 years before planting them in a permanent position.

Mohave Pyracantha (Firethorn) Shrub

Vivid Red and Green Color + Hardy Growth

Why Mohave Pyracanthas?

With the Mohave, also known as the Firethorn, you get hardy evergreen growth, shade tolerance and adaptability to challenging conditions…all with exotic color that’s second to none when it comes to evergreens. Our Mohave offers classic green vibrancy with the twist of vivid red berries – and tons of them.

Initially, the berries emerge as a deep burnt-orange but soon turn to a bright fire-engine red. And when spring arrives, white flowers will burst onto the scene and cover your shrub. Plus, the Mohave’s tough nature makes it a wonderful shrub for a variety of planting options.

With a high tolerance to shade and wind exposure, this hardy evergreen works well when used to create a screen or hedge throughout the landscape. In addition to its ability to adapt to difficult conditions, the shrub is highly productive, yielding tons of flavorful fall berries, perfect for making homemade jellies and jams to enjoy throughout the holiday season.

Why Fast-Growing-Trees.com is Better

But the best part of all is our Firethorn is prepared for strong, consistent growth. Because we’ve planted and nurtured each Mohave at our nursery, you get a well-developed root system and healthy branching. We’ve put in the extra work so that you get amazing results in your own landscape.

When your planting needs call for attention, turn to the Mohave Pyracantha. And add a splash of color to your landscape today with our Firethorn!

Planting & Care

1. Planting: First, select an area with full sun (6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day) and well-drained soil. Pyracantha Shrubs grow in most soil types but prefer moist, well-drained conditions.

When you’re ready to plant, dig a hole that’s large enough to accommodate the shrub’s root ball (with some extra width to make room for mature growth), place your shrub and backfill the soil. We recommend watering to settle the roots and mulching to conserve moisture.

2. Watering: Occasional deep watering from early spring to late fall with 1 inch of water per week or more during hot, dry periods of weather provides enough moisture for the shrub. Use a garden hose and water at the soil level.

If you’re not sure when to water, check the soil with your index finger, about 3 inches down. If the soil is dry, water until it’s moist. Stop watering during the winter months.

3. Fertilizing: Annual fertilization when new growth begins in late winter can help boost the growth of your Pyracantha. A balanced, slow-release fertilizer such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 at a rate of 1 tablespoon per foot of height is sufficient for each plant.

4. Pruning: Prune Pyracantha during the spring after it finishes blooming. Remove any dead or diseased wood at its point of origin. To maintain shape, select wayward or leggy side shoots and cut them back to the first three leaves or cluster of berries. Remove lower branches for a treelike form or leave them in place for a more natural shape. The Pyracantha has sharp thorns, so wear thick gloves while pruning to avoid injuries.

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Planting Firethorn: Growing Tips And Care Of Firethorn Bush

Pyracantha is the scientific name for firethorn plants, which are hardy from USDA plant hardiness zones 6 to 9. Firethorn is an evergreen plant that is easy to grow and provides seasonal interest and berries. Even the most novice gardener can handle the simple care of firethorn bush.

About Firethorn Plants

Firethorn is a tall shrub or small tree at 6 to 16 feet tall and almost as wide. There is a variety of conditions suitable for planting firethorn. This versatile and colorful shrub may be used as an espaliered specimen, in containers, as a hedge or just as a bright season-long addition to a border or bed.

Enjoy the shiny leaves year around with small white flowers appearing in early summer. These develop into red or orange berries that persist well into winter.

Growing Firethorn Shrubs

Pick either a sunny, shady or a partially sunny location for growing firethorn shrubs. They also thrive in either dry or moist soils, although damper areas produce bigger plants. Therefore, you may want to choose a fertile, moist location when planting firethorn.

Consider the location of your shrub carefully. The plant’s spectacular looks are paired with prickly leaves that snag and scrape. Plant the shrub away from doorways, gates and entryways.

Dig the hole twice as large as the root ball when planting firethorn and provide consistent water while establishing. Install firethorn in fall for the healthiest plant and best results.

Firethorn Care

Care of firethorn bushes is low-maintenance and they are prone to few pests and disease problems. Firethorn can even tolerate short periods of freezing and drought conditions once established with mulch around the root zone.

The plant may get fire blight disease if it sits in an overly moist area. Plants that get too much nitrogen and grow excess leafy tips will not form dense clusters of fruits. You can choose a number of varieties of the plant resistant to disease and problems. Check to see which ones are most suited for your zone when growing firethorn shrubs.

Firethorn care is almost foolproof as long as you follow a few important tips. Firethorn plants grow quickly and benefit from occasional pruning. You can trim them at any time of the year as long as you take no more than one-third of the growth. To ensure fruits, prune in early spring before the flowers form.

Varieties of Firethorn

A low, spreading variety perfect for borders is ‘Lowboy’. One of the fastest and tallest cultivars is ‘Mohave’, with ‘Teton’ a close second. Both ‘Apache’ and ‘Fiery Cascade’ are resistant to many different diseases.

One primary concern when choosing a firethorn plant is berry color. ‘Teton’ gets bright vibrant golden berries. Red forms include ‘Tiny Tim’ and ‘Apache’. The rich sunny red-gold berries of ‘Mohave’ cannot compete with the startling orange fruits on ‘Gnome’, ‘Lowboy’ and ‘Fiery Cascade’.

Whichever variety you choose, be assured that the birds will flock to your garden. The clusters are also excellent in wreaths and as part of everlasting bouquets. This easy to care for plant is a gem for the landscape and will reward you with a variety of uses.

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