Firethorn - Pyracantha garden hybrids

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'Orange Charmer''Orange Charmer'Condensed Version:

These thorny evergreen shrubs are related to Cotoneaster and look very similar; except that Pyracantha has serrated leaves and numerous thorns, while Cotoneaster is thorn-less, with smooth leaf margins. These evergreen plants are very ornamental in the garden, providing year round interest with their glossy evergreen leaves and masses of small white flowers in spring and early summer; followed by showy clusters of berries in late summer, autumn and winter. All bear white flowers, but the berries can be red, yellow or orange, depending on variety. The fruits are long lasting on the plants and retain their fresh appearance. If left un-pruned they can grow very large, +-3 to 4m tall and 3 to 4m wide, but they are very beautiful shrubs, with their strong upright and widely spreading arching branches, which give the plants a fountain shape.

They look lovely planted next to a wall and trained as an espalier; and make wonderful specimen plants in the mixed shrub border. They also grow easily in large pots and make good bonsai specimens. Because they are thorny and grow densely, they make an impenetrable security barrier for large properties and are immune to vandalism. Pyracantha is easy to grow and requires very little maintenance. They grow well throughout the country but don't like high humidity. They are heat tolerant, fully hardy to frost, thrive in full sun or light shade, and will grow in any fertile, well-drained garden soil. Although they are quite drought tolerant, they respond well to moderate watering in the garden, and must be watered regularly in dry areas.

'Soleil d'Or''Soleil d'Or'Full Version:

Description, History & Interesting Facts:

Pyracantha is a genus of large thorny evergreen shrubs in the family Rosaceae, which originate in an area extending from Southeast Europe to Southeast Asia. They are related to Cotoneaster and look very similar; except that Pyracantha has serrated leaves and numerous thorns, while Cotoneaster is thorn-less, with smooth leaf margins. These evergreen plants are very ornamental in the garden, providing year round interest with their glossy evergreen leaves and masses of small white flowers in spring and early summer, followed by showy clusters of berries in late summer, autumn and winter. All bear white flowers, but the berries can be red, yellow or orange, depending on variety. The fruits are long lasting on the plants and retain their fresh appearance. If left un-pruned they can grow very large, +-3 to 4m tall and 3 to 4m wide, but they are very beautiful shrubs, with their strong upright and widely spreading arching branches, which give the plants a fountain shape.

In the Garden:

Firethorns are excellent ornamentals for many situations; they look lovely planted next to a wall and trained as an espalier; and make wonderful specimen plants in the mixed shrub border. They also grow easily in large pots and make good bonsai specimens. Because they are thorny and grow densely, they make an impenetrable security barrier for large properties and are immune to vandalism. When planting as a hedge, space the plants +-60 to 90cm apart; the young plants will need a support such as a fence of timber or wire for the first few years, until the stems are strong enough to support the plant. Pruning back each year will also encourage stability as it will encourage the plant to bush out. If planted closely together they will form a dense privacy hedge that is totally impenetrable. Pyracantha is a fantastic food source for birds during autumn and winter when food is scarce; and the network of armoured stems make great nesting sites for small birds, as well as providing dense cover for roosting. The flowers also provide a valuable food source for bees.

'Santa Cruz''Santa Cruz'Cultivation:

Pyracantha is easy to grow and requires very little maintenance. They grow well throughout the country but don't like high humidity. They are heat tolerant, fully hardy to frost, thrive in full sun or light shade, and will grow in any fertile, well-drained garden soil. Although they are quite drought tolerant, they respond well to moderate watering in the garden, and must be watered regularly in dry areas. They grow quickly, and if left un-pruned can reach +-3 to 4m tall, with an equal spread.
 
Firethorns flower on last season's growth, so care should be exercised when pruning. Wear long sleeves and thick gloves as the spines are very sharp. Pruning is best done when the plants are in flower so that you can select your branches carefully, cutting back to the flowers where you want berries to be produced later in the year; this method also reduces the amount of flowering branches being pruned off. Remove all old fruit trusses to make room for new growth. If you want a more compact growth habit, cut back long shoots.

 If you are pruning a Pyracantha hedge, it should ideally be done at least three times during the growing season, starting in spring. This will affect the amount of berries the plants produce, but there is no other alternative if you want a tightly cut hedge. If you have a Firethorn that is very overgrown and you want to cut it back hard, don't worry about damaging or killing the plant. Hard pruning will only cause the plant to bush out more.

If you are planting Firethorns to be trained against a wall, position the plants approximately 30-40cm away from the wall. The plants are strong enough to hold themselves upright against a wall, but would benefit from being tied to the wall or other support when they are still young. You can run wires along the wall to tie the branches onto, or you could use a plastic or wooden trellis. Be careful that you don't tie the branches too tightly, or the ties will damage your plant; you may want to remove the ties every year and replace them with new ones.

Propagation:

Propagation of 'Orange Charmer' is always by semi-hardwood, hardwood or softwood cuttings because the flowers are sterile and do not set seeds. 'Soleil d'Or' and 'Santa Cruz' can self-seed but also strike well from cuttings.

Pests & Diseases:

These plants are virtually disease free but can be susceptible to aphids, caterpillars, scale insects and leaf miners.

Warning:

The flesh of Pyracantha berries is not poisonous as many people believe; the seeds however, may cause mild stomach upset if ingested. The flesh is very tart but edible when cooked, and is sometimes made into jelly.

Additional Info

  • Common Name: Firethorn
  • Latin Name: Pyracantha garden hybrids