Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Pyracantha Coccinea

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch

Pyracantha coccinea berries (15/08/2011, London)

Pyracantha coccinea berries (15/08/2011, London)

Position: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: well drained soil

Flowering period: Summer

Eventual Height: 4m

Eventual Spread: 4m

Hardiness: USDA Zone 5a-8b

Family: Rosaceae

Pyracantha coccinea is an evergreen shrub with a dense, bushy habit. Its leaves are oblong, glossy and dark green, with a serrate margin. The plant produces numerous large thorns from the stem. In early summer it bears dense clusters of small, five petalled, hermaphroditic, white flowers, which are followed by spherical, bright red fruits.

P. coccinea, commonly known as Firethorn, is native to southern Europe and parts of south western Asia. It has also naturalised readily in the UK. It has been cultivated in gardens since the late 16th century. The berries of this plant are very bitter when eaten raw, but are not poisonous.

Pyracantha is derived from the Greek pyr, meaning ‘fire’, and akanthos meaning ‘thorn’, with coccinea being derived from the Latin meaning ‘deep red’ or ‘scarlet’.

Pyracantha coccinea (15/08/2011, London)

Pyracantha coccinea (15/08/2011, London)

The landscape architect may use this plant as a fast growing evergreen impenetrable hedge. It may be pruned in either a formal or informal form. It is tolerant of droughts once established. It may also be trained up against walls.

The Royal Horticultural Society gave the cultivar Pyracantha ‘Orange Glow’ their prestigious Award of Garden Merit in 1993 and the cultivar Pyracantha ‘Golden Charmer’ gained the award in 2002.

This plant will tolerate almost any soil conditions; it will be happy at neutral, acid or alkaline pH levels, in loam, chalk, clay or sand based soils, facing any sheltered or exposed aspect.

Ecologically this plant will attract many species of pollinating insects such as honey bees and butterflies. It will also attract various species of birds which will feed on its fruit and shelter from predators in its foliage.

Maintenance: Pruning P. coccinea as a hedge should be carried out in spring and two other timed during the growing season, this will reduce the number of flowers and berries. Care should be taken generally when pruning P. coccinea as it flowers on the previous years growth. It is therefore best to prune when this plant is in flower to reduce the loss of flowers and subsequent berries. This plant responds well to heavy pruning to rejuvenate a plant.


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