Pyracantha is a genus
of about 7 species of spiny, evergreen shrubs that have a spreading
to erect habit. Native to scrub and woodland margins from southern
Europe to SW Asia, the Himalayas, China and Taiwan where mature
specimens can reach heights of around 4 or 5 metres with a 5 metre
Pyracantha are commonly cultivated in the UK to grow up walls and other places where green coverage is needed but as bonsai, Pyracantha are eminently suitable for growth as erect trees. Pyracantha are especially favoured for their year-round broad-leaved foliage, their abundant flowering capabilities and for their numerous fruit in Autumn. The common name Firethorn is derived from the fiery berry colour and very sharp 1" long thorns that are carried on all branches. Leaves are narrowly ovate, dark-green to around 5cm.Small, typically white flowers are borne in corymbs in mid-Summer and can completely submerge specimens. The showy, spherical berries that follow by August/September are yellow, red or orange depending on the species or variety.
P. angustifolia (meaning 'narrow leaf') itself has orange-yellow berries but there are many varieties now available which carry different berry colours. P. angustifolia is native to W China and is only reliably hardy to -2°C when grown in a bonsai container.
Very similar to P. angustifolia varieties but more frost hardy. Native to SE Europe. Again there are a large number of varieties that carry different coloured berries. P. coccinea is widely naturalized on both coasts of the US, the Gulf states, & British Columbia.
POSITION Full sun or partial shade. Pyracantha's as a rule need winter protection. P. angustifolia varieties are regarded by some as indoor varieties during the Winter as they will not tolerate temperatures below -2 to -4°C. Inside, trees should be kept in a cool, unheated environment. P. coccinea varieties are more frost resistant and should be kept outside if possible, though protection against temperatures below around -5°C should be given. Also protect against strong freezing winds.
REPOTTING Repot every two to three years as leaf-buds extend. Pyracantha's resent repeated root-disturbance so try not to repot annually.
PRUNING Prune old wood in early Spring or late Summer. After flowering, trim back new growth to shape. On recently repotted or weak trees, dead flowers can be removed to encourage vigour at the expense of berry production. Remove any individual large leaves. Remove spent berries in early Spring.
WIRING Care must be taken when wiring as branches as young as 2 years old can be brittle. New shoots on Pyracantha's respond well to wiring but growth that has already hardened off can take a long time to set into a new position.
PROPAGATION Sow seed outside in Autumn. Root semi-ripe cuttings in Summer.
PESTS AND DISEASES Aphids, caterpillars, scale
insects, leaf miners, fireblight.
As an evergreen, Pyracantha's still replace old leaves with new over the growing season. Individual old leaves will occasionally be seen to turn yellow before dropping but are soon replaced with new growth.
STYLING Often seen with cascade forms, Pyracantha are also suitable for informal upright forms with single or multiple trunks. Suitable for all sizes.