Pyracantha is a tenacious small-to-large shrub that grows well even in challenging planting sites. It produces showstopping clusters of bright red or orange berries beginning in late fall. Later in the year, the berries add bright pops of color to a quiet winter landscape. Also called firethorn, pyracantha produces sharp thorns, which make it a good barrier plant for the perimeter of a landscape.
Well-suited for a hedge, fast-growing pyracantha's thorns repel animal intruders. Use it near the perimeter of a landscape as a living screen. (Those same thorns mean this plant is best sited away from popular play spaces.) Birds love pyracantha; its bright berries serve as a food source and its dense growth serves as a nesting site. When using it as part of a wildlife garden, include easy-to-grow companion plants like weigela (Weigela florida), beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana), ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), and chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia).
Pyracantha Care Must-Knows
Pyracantha grows best in full sun to part shade and well-drained soil. It is a rampant grower—sometimes producing as much as 2 feet of new growth a year. Choose a planting location carefully to avoid the frustration of a plant that grows exceptionally large and overwhelms the space. Avoid planting pyracantha in highly fertile soil, which promotes rampant growth that makes the plant more susceptible to fire blight (a deadly bacterial disease that decreases berry production).
Fall is the best time to plant pyracantha, because the cool air and soil temperatures encourage the shrub to produce a strong root system. If berry color is important, buy plants when they have fruit. Sometimes plant tags don't accurately represent fruit color.
Prune this shrub anytime; it may be easiest to prune when the stems are semi-leafless in winter or early spring. Pyracantha only produces flowers and fruit on stems that are at least one year old, so leave some of the old growth standing each year.
Pyracantha is susceptible to two serious problems. Fire blight is a bacterial disease that plagues new and established plants; it kills individual branches first, followed quickly by the entire plant. Scab causes plants to drop their leaves and turns fruit a dark, sooty color. Choosing disease-resistant varieties is the best line of defense against these problems.
More Varieties of Pyracantha
Pyracantha coccinea is a dense shrub to 12 feet tall and wide that produces white flowers in summer and reddish-orange berries in fall. Zones 6-9
This variety of Pyrancantha coccinea is a large variety that grows 20 feet tall with a prolific crop of orange-red berries. Zones 6-9
Pyracantha x 'Mohave' has shiny dark green foliage and huge masses of bright red-orange berries. It grows 8 to 12 feet tall and wide. Zones 6–9