Pyracantha is a plant genus that includes several different species of shrubs, also called firethorn shrubs. Pyracantha shrubs bear sharp, pronounced thorns, evergreen leaves, foul-smelling flowers and orange to reddish ornamental berries. The pyracantha is most commonly prized for its bright-coloured berries and you'll find that the shrub is easy to maintain.
Pyracantha shrubs are fast-growing and typically reach a height of 10 to 15 feet, depending on the particular species or variety. They grow up to 2 feet per year with a 10-foot spread, so you should plant pyracantha shrubs where there's sufficient space. You can plant pyracantha shrubs to form a hedge, barrier or slope cover, particularly in drier areas of your landscape. Avoid planting pyracantha as foundation plantings, because they usually grow too large. Select a planting site that has full sunlight, for best fruiting, and well-draining soil that stays drier in summer with a pH of 5.5 to 7.5. Plant pyracantha shrubs in spring or fall and avoid transplanting or moving them afterward. Pyracantha shrubs are more susceptible to diseases and experience reduced berry production when planted in very rich, fertile soils.
Mulching and Fertilizing
Spread a 2- to 3-inch-thick layer of mulch on the ground around the pyracantha to reduce stress on the shrub during droughts. Pyracantha shrubs are highly drought- and heat-tolerant, but some mulch will help them to thrive through dry spells. Feed the pyracantha a balanced fertiliser, such as an 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 NPK formula, in late spring. Apply a rate of about 1 tbsp of fertiliser per 1 foot of shrub height. Regular watering isn't necessary for pyracantha shrubs.
Prune the pyracantha during winter or early spring to cut back and remove the long shoots and shape the shrub. You can also shear the pyracantha if desired. Pyracanthas produce their flowers and berries on growth that's at least 1 year old, so try to leave some of the growth from each year to preserve the berry production. Wear leather or similarly heavy gloves when you're pruning the pyracantha, because the thorns can cause allergic reactions or skin irritation. The berries will remain on the shrub through winter and then you can brush off the old rotted or withered berries at the end of winter using a broom.
Pests & Diseases
Pyracantha shrubs are susceptible to several different insect pests and diseases. The fungal disease called scab and the bacterial disease fireblight can infect pyracanthas. Lace bugs, aphids, scale insects and spider mites are all common insect pests of pyracanthas. Certain cultivated varieties, or cultivars, are less susceptible to these kinds of problems. For example, the pyracantha cultivars named Aurea and Variegata are more resistant to lace bug infestations than other varieties. Disease-resistant pyracantha cultivars include Apache, Rutgers, Mojave, Navajo, Fiery Cascade, Pueblo, Teton and Shawnee. Additionally, insecticidal soaps can help control lace bugs, spider mites and scales. Contact your local agricultural extension office to learn about the proper treatment methods for insects and diseases that affect pyracantha shrubs.