Commonly known as firethorn or scarlet firethorn, Pyracantha coccinea constitutes a species of shrub native to North America. The plant reaches mature heights and spreads of 15 feet, although more commonly grows to heights of 12 feet and spreads of 6 feet. Firethorn, a member of the Rose family, bears clusters of small white flowers in the spring and bright red-orange berries in the fall. Pyracantha coccinea produces fertile seeds, through which it propagates.
Pyracantha coccinea qualifies as an angiosperm. This group of plants reproduces with seeds formed by flowers. Fertile Pyracantha coccinea seeds appear in the berries of the plants. These bright berries attract birds, which eat the fruit and spread the seeds via defecation. These seeds germinate in the soil and form new plants. Pyracantha coccinea exhibits the ability to create fertile seeds in a number of climatic regions. Its native range extends from British Colombia, Canada, to Texas, Southern California, Florida, Pennsylvania and New York state.
Seeds in Controlled Environments
Firethorn can propagate from seed in controlled growth areas such as greenhouses, nurseries, gardens and landscaping environments. The bush does well when planted in containers during the winter and allowed to germinate and establish roots before being transplanted to the earth for maturation. Firethorn seeds require long periods of cold dormancy to properly germinate. The authors of the book "Seeds: The Ultimate Guide to Growing Successfully from Seed" recommend picking seeds from Pyracantha coccinea berries in the fall. Plant seeds immediately in a pot for winter dormancy and germination, or store them in the fridge for planting in the spring.
Promoting Seed Germination
Pyracantha coccinea requires certain cultural conditions to germinate properly. Plant the seeds in a container in a mixed medium of horticultural sand and peat or another organic material at a ratio of 1:1. Never plant firethorn seeds in regular soil. When planting seeds in the fall, cover the peat/sand mixture with a layer of coarse grit, available at garden supply stores, and leave them outdoors for the winter. Seeds planted in the spring don't require coarse grit, though it helps. Germination takes one to two months to complete, at which point Pyracantha coccinea can be transplanted to the garden.
Other Methods of Propagation
Many hybrid and cultivar varieties of Pyracantha coccinea don't propagate well via seed. Most cultivars don't produce viable seeds. Those cultivars and hybrids that do produce fertile seeds often exhibit wildly varying traits, including size and colour. Growers combat these inconsistencies by ignoring Pyracantha coccinea seeds and propagating plants via cuttings. This method entails removing a section of rooted stem from an existing plant and replanting it. The planted section grows into a new specimen identical to the parent plant. Known as clones, new specimens created in this manner help growers create consistently desirable firethorn shrubs.