Pyracantha

Pyracantha is also known commonly as firethorn. It is an attractive evergreen shrub with red, orange or yellow berries that come out in autumn and winter. It is a useful ornamental or can also be used as an evergreen hedge. Pyracantha is also excellent for use to obscure an unsightly wall or fence.

Growing pyracantha:

Pyracantha can be grown in any moderately fertile ground in sun or partial shade. It will even grow in dry, free-draining or heavy clay soils as long as there is no waterlogging. Though the plant will grow against north facing walls and in shady spots there will be fewer berries on plants that get less sun.

Pyracantha can be grown from seed but seeds require three months of cold stratification in order to germinate and cultivars won't come true from seed so it is far easier to propagate it from cuttings which, as with many shrubs, is fairly easy to do. Otherwise buy a young plant from a garden centre.

If you do plant your pyracantha up against a wall, be sure to plant it at least 50cm out from the wall to avoid the dry area at the base. Wall-trained specimens may need watering every ten days or so in dry weather conditions while for most plants, once they are established after a couple of years they should seldom require watering.

Mulch pyracantha well with organic material and you should find that no additional fertiliser will be required and the shrub will more or less look after itself. If you wish to encourage more berries then a potash rich fertiliser like comfrey can be used.

When pruning or working nearby, do watch out for the thorns which, as the name firethorn suggests, are very long and sharp. Gloves should be worn when pruning to avoid injuries. Prune out any shoots that have been affected by pyracantha scab (leaves and berries will have large unsightly black areas) and prune to shape. Pyracantha can be pruned heavily when overgrown and will respond well to a heavy hand during renovation.

Plants can be trained on wall trellises or round windows and doors. Just tie in new leafy shoots while they are still flexible.

Why grow pyracantha in the garden?

Pyracantha is excellent for vivid colour late in the year. It can hide an unsightly wall or be grown up round a doorway. The thorns can make a very secure hedge through which it is rather difficult for humans or foxes to pass through and is popular as a security measure for this reason.

It is also a useful shrub to attract birds, who like the berries, and other wildlife and provides nectar for bees in the UK during the June gap. 

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Pyracantha angustifolia (etc.)