Pyracantha Hedging Guide

Pyracantha is a genus of thorny shrubs in the family, Rosaceae. It’s a popular, evergreen plant used profusely for its ornamental value and practical attributes. Also known as ‘Firethorn’, a name which originates from the Greek translation of ‘pyr’ being fire and ‘akanthos’ meaning thorn, its exciting appearance coincides with the dramatic tone created by its common name. Famous for its berries, the varieties we offer boast an abundance of colourful fruits in fiery shades of red, yellow and orange. The berries appear in late summer, ripen in autumn and if left untouched, can remain until early spring. Pyracantha is perfect for planting as a single variety, but to truly utilise the awe of this ornamental shrub, plant as a mixture and come summer, receive a bounty of berries and a wonderful explosion of vibrant colours.
Features of Pyracantha Hedging Plants
The luscious berries come after a decorative display of pure, white flowers that emerge in spring. The flowers appear in large clusters, completely covering the lush, evergreen foliage to create a snowy white canvas. The flowers consist of small petals with bright yellow stamens and also produce a highly scented fragrance. The contributing presence created by the fantastic flowers and fruits, sees this plant frequently used throughout the show garden community as it’s used for its ability to intensify a garden’s atmosphere and successfully draw attention to specific areas, making it the ideal focal feature. You can shape and trim Pyracantha to create formal appearance and bring structure to a garden, or leave to grow for a more natural, bushy look. The practicality of Pyracantha partners its beauty, as it uses within a garden are plentiful.
This species is one of our most popular, prickly hedge plants and is highly recommended for those wanting an intruder-proof barrier. Ideal for heights up to 3m, the dense structure of spiked branches makes this the ultimate, impenetrable, screening hedge with privatising, noise reducing and wind breaking abilities. It can also be trained as a climbing feature to add interest in the form of colour and texture, along walls and fences and can be positioned underneath windows to continue its intruder deterring capabilities. It’s the perfect, wildlife friendly hedge! The colourful berries are an important source of food for an array of British garden birds, who also construct their nests among the thorny branches. Pyracantha flowers often don’t get the recognition they deserve, but bees certainly love them. They provide a rich source of nectar for bees and other pollinating insects. Being evergreen, this plant plays an important role in the survival of garden wildlife as birds and other small garden critters use this plant as a safe and secure shelter during the winter. If you can get there before the birds, the eye catching berries can also be made into various jam, jelly, marmalade and sauce recipes. However, the berries mustn’t be consumed raw!
Pyracantha Pruning and Aftercare
Suitable for inland sites, Pyracantha will thrive in normal soil, sun or partial shade. It has an average annual growth of 30-60cm and is therefore considered a low maintenance plant, but for upkeep of shape, a prune after flowering is advisable.
Other Prickly Hedging
Many of our most colourful hedging shrubs happen to be the most prickly! For example, our range of purple Berberis includes some of the most popular spiky plants for security whilst providing colourful, rich shades of red and purple foliage and particularly prickly branches! Other species include Holly (Ilex Aquifolium), Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa), Dog Rose (Rosa Canina) and Gorse (Ulex Europaeus).

Pyracantha Orange BerriesFirethorn ‘Orange Glow’

Pruning of Pyracantha is not technically necessary unless you wish to keep it to a specific height and shape, which if grown as a hedge is usually the case.
When Pyracantha is first planted, ideally it should be left to develop for a couple of years in order to establish a good root system, unless the plant is already mature and you wish to keep it to the current height and shape. Pruning needs to be done at the right time of year however, otherwwise flowering and fruiting could be impacted the following year.
The ideal time for maintenance pruning is actually during flowering in the late spring. This may seem strange, however it is not with a view of cutting back the flowering stems themselves as these will go on to produce the lovely red berries. Pruning whilst flowering allows you to identify the stems that aren’t producing and to cut those particular stems back by around a third or a little more to encourage healthy growth which will then produce the following year. When cutting the stems, cut at a downward angle so that any water can run off the cut and the plant can heal quickly.
It is also important to maintain good airflow around the shrub so that disease can be prevented for the most part. To ensure good airflow, don’t allow the centre to become too dense. Simply look for the older stems coming from the centre and trim a few (not all) of the stems away to improve the air circulation around the plant. In the main this will help to prevent diseases such as scab or any fungal diseases from taking hold.
Finally, to maintain a good shape, you will need to trim some of the outer stems but usually only the ones most outward growing. These will be slightly older stems by a couple of years. Lightly trim these back to achieve the desired shape but don’t hard prune as it will take longer for the plant to recover and be productive.
If however your Pyracanthat is old, overgrown or unruly, it will stand a hard prune to bring it back to some kind of shaping and can be cut back by as much as half of its bulk. This can be done any time between March and October for best results. Although it may take a little while to recover, being quite a tough shrub it will inevitably bounce back.
Our top tip for Pyracantha pruning though is to invest in a very thick pair of gardening gloves. Pyracantha is also known as Firethorn, a name derived from its colourful nature but mostly the long thorns that adorn this plant but which make it ideal as an intruder deterrent. Care should always be taken when pruning but the rewards are plentiful, especially when the plant is in full flower or awash with a profusion of colourful berries.

What Are Those Berries From, Firethorn or Sea-buckthorn?

Like any other plant addict, I’m attracted to all plants, especially those with bright colored flowers or fruits. When I first saw this beautiful bush, with luscious leaves and lots of orange berry clusters, I knew I had to have one. I didn’t know what it was, nor did I know its name, but I liked it and that was enough. The opportunity came soon, in a gas station, while I was filling the tank of my car. It was fall and the huge bush they had there was full of orange berries. I was stunned and after admiring it for a few seconds, I quickly grabbed a small stem and brought it home with me. I put it in a glass of water to root and, after two years, the stem grew into a beautiful bush which repaid me with its first two clusters of flowers and then, of orange berries. I had been waiting for that moment eversince I took the stem from the gas station. I was in awe!
Just about the time my bush had its first orange berries growing, I watched a TV show about plants and they were talking about the sea-buckthorn and its miraculous properties. I was amazed to see how similar was the sea-buckthorn to my shrub, and the berries too, yet somehow different. I searched on the internet to see if my shrub was really a sea-buckthorn or not. After some research, I’ve found out that the sea-buckthorn has seven species. One of them, Hippophae rhamnoides, looked identical to my shrub on two websites: one of a nursery and the other one of some doctors offering medical advice. Bingo! This was what I wanted to find. I was so happy and excited to know that my plant was a sea-buckthorn!

I had heard about the sea-buckthorn’s amazing properties in treating and preventing the flu, cold, infections, heart disease, stress, tumors and liver disease. The discovery of having a sea-bucktorn shrub in my garden, from which I could harvest lots of berries with such healing properties – not to mention its beauty – was incredible. I was now anxious to eat those berries and feel the miraculous powers of the plant for myself. Since I was convinced it was a sea-buckthorn, I picked up the berries and mixed them with a few spoons of honey, then started to take one teaspoon of the mix every morning. This is how they said it should be done in order to prevent the flu during winter. I was very serious and thorough about it and, since no one else in the family wanted to have it, I made the “sacrifice” of taking the “medicine”. The treatment was short, only for a week, because that much honey and berries mix I had, but I already felt the miraculous powers over me – or so I thought.

Soon after finishing “the treatment”, I was talking to a friend and word came about the sea-buckthorn. She told me her shrubs never bloomed in four years since she has had them, not even once. She said she had two shrubs, one male and one female, for reproduction, but no results yet. I said I had never heard of such a thing and that my shrub bloomed and made berries, even though I only had one shrub. I told her I would research more about the plant and that is what I did.
I was surprised to find out that what my friend told me was true and that my shrub wasn’t really a sea-buckthorn. I didn’t know yet what it was, but I was now sure that it wasn’t what I thought. No need to say how dissapointed I was and somehow, frightened – I ate its fruits!!!!! More research cleared the matter up for me. I’ve found out out that those berries were from Pyracantha, an ornamental shrub which, luckily, has edible fruits. I found only one Romanian website, but more American websites which shared the same information about Pyracantha, also called the firethorn bush. The fruits look similar to the sea-buckthorn’s fruits, but they are different and, the most important thing, are edible. They say the seeds are poisonous if eaten too many at once, because they contain a small amount of cyanide or cyanogenic glycosides. Imagine that! And I ate about 2 tablespoons of fruits with seeds and all, but here I am, all alive and well. I must confess I was lucky my bush didn’t fruit more that year. But wait, they don’t say you can die of too many pyracantha berries, you can just have a mild gastro-intestinal problem, which I didn’t have at all, lucky me.

After discovering the true identity of my shrub, I’ve researched more about both Hyppophae rhamnoides and Pyracantha. The difference between the two shrubs is huge. One look at their flowers is enough: while Pyracantha has white small flowers, gathered in clusters, Hyppophae has unusual flowers, male and female type, growing on the stalk, each on different plants. The firethorn’s fruits are growing in clusters and they are pomes. This fall I bought sea-buckthorn fruits from the market and I could compare them with the firebush fruits I have in my garden. On a first look, the sea-buckthorn fruits are smaller, oval and luscious, while the firethorn fruits are twice as big, round and opaque, looking like a small apple.

Opening them both, the sea-buckthorn fruit is juicy, while the firethorn fruit is fleshy.

The seeds are also different: the firethorn’s are smaller than the sea-buckthorn’s. All in all, the two shrubs have visible differences between them, although the orange fruits might look similar in a picture or from afar. The medicinal properties are definitely different too, because the sea-buckthorn has supposed healing properties. I am about to find out – for real, this time – because I made a huge batch of sea-buckthorn fruits and honey mix and a juice with honey for my grandson, to prevent cold and flu for all in my family.

As for the firethorn fruits I am about to pick up from my bush, I’ll make a jelly with them. Some websites recommend a jelly recipe made with the fruits’ juice and pulp, well strained after boiled and crushed. I’m confident that now my information is accurate, since it comes from three different sources, one of them being the Texas University of Agriculture. And, just to be sure that no one gets fooled again, I posted requests for the two websites’ administrators, to change the wrong pictures with the good ones. I wouldn’t want to let this happen to other people too!

Important disclaimer: The information contained in this article is provided for your general information only. The author is not attempting to give medical advice or engage in the practice of medicine. You should consult your physician or local treatment center before pursuing any course of treatment.


Pyracantha Jelly and Santa’s Belly

Pyracantha coccinea berries. Photo by Green Deane

Firethorn: Pyracantha Coccinea, a member of the Rose Family.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that “Ho Ho Ho” bellies and Pyracantha jelly jiggle into the season just before Thanksgiving.

While there is no explaining plump Santa, the Firethorn in Florida, Pyracantha coccinea, (pye-rha-KAN-tha cok-SIN-i-a) puts on its second crop of red berries about the same time the frozen Tom turkeys are being delivered to grocery stores. Firethorn’s two fruitings are thoughtful, feeding beast and man, spring and fall. Incidentally, Pyracantha comes from Greek and means literally “fire thorn.” Coccinea means scarlet.

A thorny evergreen, the Firethorn has been under Western cultivation since 1629 when it was first introduced into English gardens. Its native range is from southern Europe to the Caucasus Mountains. The Firethorn can make a very showy stand-alone small tree, a stunning hedge, an espalier to crawl along walls, or be potty trained as patio topic of preoccupation. It can also be a natural barrier grown outside windows that few trespassers would cross to get inside. You’ll also probably get a birds for entertainment because the species’ thorns keep predators of birds away.

Decades ago when I first saw the lanky Firethorn I asked about it and was told it was poisonous. “All red berries” the person said, “are poisonous.” That clearly is not true, nor is “all black berries are edible” true. These sayings are almost always wrong, but one, for practical purposes is close to true: Almost all white berries are toxic. There are a few white berries that are edible but they are so uncommon one might as well think all white berries are poisonous. Just avoid them

Firethorn blossoms resemble apple blossoms

There are references to Pyracantha as a famine food, and that might be true. However, the seeds, like the apple seeds, should not be eaten in quantity. My mother, who lived to 88, ate every seed of every apple she ever ate. She also ate the core as well: The entire apple was hers. When she is done there was nothing left. So a few apple seeds at a time appears to be fine. I asked her one time why she ate the entire apple. She said that’s what her mother did. Her mother also saved the seeds of virtually every fruit, dried them, cracked them and ate them, a few at a time. Back then they never heard of avocados or loquats, so don’t try it with those. However, loquat seeds, also in the Rose Family, can be used to make a cherry-flavored liquor. For that story, look at the article for Loquat Grappa.

The berries of the Firethorn — high in Vitamin C — are actually pommes which is a fleshy fruit with seeds at the core, like apples. They are greatly favored by Black Birds and Cedar Waxwings, which have been know to strip a tree of all its berries. To the human pallet, the berries are soft and mealy — like an apple that should have been eaten last week. They are mild flavor and have several seeds. The seeds are shaped like tiny angular Brazil nuts. Some report the berries are bitter but that has not been my experience. They are, however, sometimes slightly astringent. Like many soft berries they don’t keep well and that’s probably why they service man as jelly.

If you do any research on the internet for Pyracantha jelly you will find the following recipe:

Place 7 cups washed Pyracantha berries in a very large pan with 5 cups of water. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Strain through a cloth. Measure 3 cups berry juice, 1/2 cup lemon juice and 7 cups sugar into a very large pan. Over high heat, bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Immediately stir in one bottle liquid pectin, bring to a full rolling boil and boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, skim off foam and pour into sterilized glasses. Cover With 1/8 inch melted paraffin. Prepared berry juice may be refrigerated or frozen prior to making jelly.

Firethorns puts on a brilliant dispay of fruit. Photo by Green Deane

While that’s a good starting point I have not found it a satisfactory recipe. It produces an edible but weak-flavored jelly with anemic, runny texture. Here is what I do: I start with two quarts of cleaned and washed berries (no leaves, minimal bugs.) I boil them in six cups of water for at least 30 minutes. Then I mash the berries and cook for five minutes more. Strain. That gives you six or so cups of infusion. I put that in a new pot and bring to boil. I premix eight cups of sugar with TWO — not one — but TWO packages of Sure Jell (twice the standard portion in other words) and I add one half teaspoon of citric acid. A half cup of lemon juice also works but I like to thoroughly mix my dry ingredients together ahead of time. It reduces clumping. Once the infusion is boiling, I add the dry mixture and then bring to boil again and boil for two minutes. This will make 12 to 13 cups of jelly. Then I can it the usual way using sterilized jars and paraffin. I haven’t tried it but I am tempted sometime to add a teaspoon of cinnamon to the infusion because the jelly has a hint of apple flavor. Here’s my video link to making Firethorn sauce:

Of course, making Firethorn jelly is more than just making jelly. While there have been many changes since the days of our grandparents, or great grandparents, one of them is we have become removed from the dynamic of food. Ask kids where milk comes from and too many will say a bottle. Food is the intimate link between us and the earth and in our preprocessed, prepackaged world we lose a bit of our grounding when everything comes off a shelf, or worse, out the drive-in window. It is surprising how many of us actually don’t eat much food these days but rather preprocessed food substitutes that proudly state what has been removed. When you identify a fruit grown by nature, not man; harvest it, prepare it, and then let it help sustain your life, you realize you are part of this planet and very dependent upon it. I would also add our ancestors got along quite well without nutritionists or botanists. Fortunately, artificial food has been around less than a century. If the ingredients reads like a chemistry set, you might want to consider not eating it.

One of my grandfathers who lived into his high 80s liked two things and had them nearly every day of his adult life: A pint of cream and a piece of homemade jelly roll. Owning a succession of cows took care of the cream, and my grandmother was constantly making jelly and jam out of most conceivable and inconceivable things: Hawthorn jelly, Chokecherry jelly, and Gooseberry jam come to mind. I think she even made tomato jelly (and why not? After all, tomatoes are actually fruits, not vegetables.) Besides putting a little nature in one’s life, jellies and jams that you can’t buy can be come seasonal events, family traditions and tastes that last from generation to generation. I can hardly wait until spring to make pindo palm jelly.

Pyracantha Sauce

by Green Deane

3 pints ripe pyracantha pommes

Water to cover

Juice and zest of one lime

One (or more) minced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce

Sugar to taste

Two tablespoons corn starch

Salt optional

Put whole pommes and water in a sauce pan, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes, mash. Add lime juice, zest, and chipotle pepper, simmer 30 more minutes. Filter the liquid, discarding all solids. Reserve 1/2 cup liquid. By simmering again reduce liquid down to about two cups. Taste. Add sugar to desired taste. Mix the corn starch in the now cool reserve liquid then mix that a little at a time into the sweetened sauce until thick. Use or refrigerate.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: Thorny evergreen shrubs with serrated leaf margins and numerous thorns. They have white flowers and either red, orange, or yellow berries.

TIME OF YEAR: In northern climates the flowers come out in late spring and early summer; the berries develop from late summer, and mature in late autumn. In Florida this happens in spring and fall, sometimes continuously throughout the year.

ENVIRONMENT: Not particular about soil, refers full sun but will grow in partial shade. A common landscape plant

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Berries can be used for jelly. They can also be used for a sauce, marmalade, wine and extender. The seeds are not edible in quantities more than a few.

Happy New Year, everyone!

As you may have noticed, 2012 got a little bogged down toward the end, and poor Mendel was woefully neglected. But, while I abhor resolutions, I have come into 2013 with new enthusiasm, and have been reminded that I’m actually quite fond of my little blog. So, in the spirit of things that deserve another chance, here are two seasonal favorites you may have been judging unfairly for as long as you’ve known them.

1. Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)

I certainly was raised in the firm belief that poinsettias were basically a festive holiday deathtrap. Which even as a child I found a bit baffling–“Here kids! Eat all these holiday cookies and brightly colored candies and look at these gorgeous, enticing bright red flowers that we’ve put all over the house but OMG DON’T TOUCH THEM THEY’LL KILL YOU!”

Looks…so…tasty…must…not…eat…Oh! Not poisonous after all you say? Just nauseating and mildly irritant? Fantastic! (Photo by Scott Bauer, via Wikimedia)

It was a lot like the extremely fragile but extremely appealing delicate glass ornaments hung all over the Christmas tree, against which my brother and I perpetrated a small-scale accidental genocide over the course of several years (now the only surviving heirloom ornaments are my grandmother’s needlepoint ones, which we were unable to break).

But, reprieve! Poinsettias, while not edible, are not actually very toxic at all. Of the various articles I read about poinsettia toxicity, I liked Snopes’ the best. Like many plants, they can cause nausea, so if your child eats a lot of leaves you may be in for a colorful cleanup session, and the sap can sometimes cause a rash (similar to latex allergy, from what it sounds like). But they won’t kill you or your kids. Or even your pets–the toxicity to cats and dogs is pretty mild (and here I have to ask–are cats who compulsively eat houseplants a thing? I mean dogs…omnivores…fine. My dog eats grass all the time. But cats are strict carnivores, aren’t they? How did evolution let this happen? All cat owners whose pets eat their poinsettias please weigh in).

Poinsettias are only mildly toxic to cats, and can cause stomach upset. (Photo from

One reason that poinsettias may have gotten a bad rap is that the genus Euphorbia to which they belong does contain a number of other toxic species (and also, I was surprised to find, a lot of succulents! Who knew? Since they’re Mexican natives, perhaps I should have suspected that their nearest relatives would be inventively drought-tolerant).

2. Pyracantha (genus)

This one is probably less well-known, but like poinsettias and holly, pyracantha (aka firethorn) boasts a very holiday-appropriate combo of red berries, green foliage and white flowers. We had hedges of them around my house when I was a kid, which made prolific quantities of gorgeous red berries that I was firmly (verging on hysterically, given my predilection for consuming landscaping plants) urged not to ever, ever eat. Though native to Asia, Pyracantha angustifolia is a very common invasive shrub in California, and several species are commonly used as ornamentals.

Pyracantha angustifolia growing wild near Cesar Chavez park

Unlike poinsettia, pyracantha’s relatives should have had us thinking better of it. Pyracantha belongs to the Rosaceae family, along with many of our best-loved fruit bearing plants: apples, pears, cherries, peaches, plums (Malus, Pyrus, and Prunus genera), loquats, blackberries/raspberries (Rubus), Strawberries…anyway, yeah. Lots of things that we like to eat. If you look at the fruit of Pyracantha, you can see the family resemblance to a tiny apple or rosehip.

One of many clusters of fingernail-sized berries on a Pyracantha bush.

Pyracantha is not totally harmless; many species do contains traces of hydrogen cyanide (like bitter almonds and apple seeds), which renders the fruit very bitter–like a worse version of a crabapple. I’ve been trying to determine whether the cyanide can be found in the flesh of the fruit, or only in the seeds, due to our old friend amygdalin. But so far I haven’t found a reliable answer. In any event, you shouldn’t eat the raw fruit in large quantities (not that you’d be tempted, since they taste just awful). Cooking neutralizes the cyanide, and improves the flavor, so a modestly popular use for pyracantha berries is to make them into jelly, or add them to other cooked fruit dishes. Of course, given how tiny the fruit is and the poor taste, you could certainly argue it’s not worth the effort. But the bushes make such huge quantities of the tiny berries that jelly might be worth a try if you have them in your yard.

3. (Bonus!)

If you want to be paranoid about holiday plant poisoning, your best bet remains mistletoe (which is really ruining my alliteration scheme). We use several species of mistletoe for holiday decor, and they can contain several toxins including phoratoxin, a protein that depolarizes cell membranes and causes nausea, vomiting, dizziness, weakness and blurred vision.

FDA Poisonous Plant Database

AUTHOR(S): Anonymous
TITLE: Toxicity studies of Arizona ornamental plants. Progress report from the Ariz Poisoning control information center at the Univ of Ariz, Coll of Pharm, 1 June 1958.
YEAR: 1958 CITATION: Ariz Med, 15(9), 672-674
FDA #: F05502
ABSTRACT: Article: Pyracantha cocinea, Fam. Rosaceae: The ingestion of the bright red, berry-like fruit of the Pyracantha shrub has resulted in numerous inquiries at the Arizona Poisoning Control Information Center. It is estimated that during the 1957-58 fruit-bearing season of this shrub (November to March) an average of eight inquiries per week seeking information as to the potential toxicity of the Pyracantha berries were received from parents at the information center. The major portion of the incidents involved small children who obtained the fruit directly from the shrub. Sub-acute toxicity studies were carried out by the pharmacology division with four species of animals, namely – three dogs, two rabbits, six white rats, and six guinea pigs. These animals were fed Pyracantha berries ad libitum for a period of 10 days. it was found that all consumed the berries readily with no need for forced feedings. For example, each dog ingested at least 300 Gms. of the berries each day. Frequently, a dog would eat this quantity within one hour. The average daily diet of the berries for a white rat was 75 Gm. (One adult handful of berries weighs approximately 20 Gms.) A total of 13.7 Kg. (30 pounds) of Pyracantha berries were fed to these animals during the test period. The result of these tests revealed that no animal displayed ill effects from the ingestion of the large amounts of the berries. From these experimental animal studies, it appears that Pyracantha berries are not harmful, especially in a relatively small amounts which might be consumed by children. However, the toxic potential of garden sprays used to combat red spiders on Pyracantha shrubs must not be overlooked when parents are given toxicity information concerning the fruit of this shrub. Lindane, Malathion and DDT are common constituents of thes insecticide sprays. If a child should ingest the berries from a Pyracantha shrub that has been recently sprayed, treatment should be directed to the insecticide with less concern over the Pyracantha berries.

The 30 plants that can help protect your home against burglary

It adds: “One of the best ways to keep thieves out is to use nature’s own defence mechanisms to stop intruders.

“A barrier of prickly hedge may be all the protection you need around your property.”

It then lists all 30 plants, stating ‘Here are some suggestions for plants to use’, adding jokingly: “We have tried to identify the plants mentioned by their correct botanical name, but we cannot guarantee that the plant you buy will not grow into a small, fragrant flowering shrub with no more thorns than a daisy.”

The first 16 plants on the list give detailed description of the plants and is as follows;

1 – Creeping Juniper – Juniperis horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’ – Also known as ‘Blue Rug’ because it has long branches and its prostrate shape forms a flattened blue carpet. It has a thorny stem and foliage.

3 – Common Holly – Ilex agulfolium – Large evergreen shrub, dark green spiked leaves. Large red berries on female plants only. Any well drained soil. Plant with garden compost and bone-meal.

4 – Giant Rhubarb – Gunnera manicata – Giant rhubarb-like leaves on erect stems, abrasive foliage. Can grow up to 2.5m high. Plant by water-side for effect.

5 – Golden Bamboo – Phyllostachys aurea- Very graceful, forming thick clumps of up to 3.5m high. Less invasive than other bamboos. Hardy. Young shoots in spring.

6 – Chinese Jujube – Zizyphus sativa – Medium sized tree with very spiny pendulous branches. Leaves glossy bright green. Bears clusters of small yellow flowers.

7 – Firethorn – Pyracantha ‘Orange Glow’ – Flowers white in June, with bright orange-red berries. Thorny stem. Height 10-15ft. Suitable for north or east-facing wall or as impenetrable hedging.

8 – Shrub Rose – Rosa ‘Frau Dagmar Hastrup’ – Excellent ground cover, pale pink flowers, very thorny stem. May to September. Plant with garden compost and bone-meal.

9 – Pencil Christmas Tree – Picea abias ‘Cupressina’ – Medium-sized tree of columnar habit, with ascending spiky branches. Attractive form with dense growth. Avoid dry chalky soils.

11 – Purple Berberis – Berberis thunbergil ‘Atropurpurea’- Rich purple foliage. Thorny stem. Medium-sized deciduous. Any soil sunny position.

13 – Blue Pine – Picea pungens ‘Hoopsii’- Small to medium-sized tree, spiky needled stem, densely conical habit, with vividly glaucous blue leaves. Likes moist, rich soil.

14 – Oleaster – Elaeagnus angustifolia – Small deciduous tree, about 4.5 to 6 m (15 to 20 feet) high. Smooth, dark brown branches that often bear spines and narrow, light green leaves that are silvery on the undersides. The flowers are small, greenish, fragrant, and silvery-scaled on the outside, as are the edible, olive-shaped, yellowish fruits, which are sweet but mealy. Hardy, wind resistant, tolerant of poor, dry sites, and thus useful in windbreak hedges.

15 – Blackthorn – Prunus spinosa – Also called Sloe; spiny shrub. Usually grows less than 3.6 metres (12 feet) tall and has numerous, small leaves. Its dense growth makes it suitable for hedges. White flowers. Bluish-black fruit is used to flavour sloe gin.

16 – Fuschia-flowered Gooseberry – Ribes speciosum – Fruit bush, spiny, produces greenish to greenish-pink flowers in clusters of two or three. Extremely hardy, thrive in moist, heavy clay soil in cool, humid climate.

The advice continues, stating: “Although they will take some time to grow, the end result justifies the effort. They should deter even the most determined burglar.

“Hedges and shrubs in the front garden should be kept to a height of no more than three feet in order to avoid giving a burglar a screen behind which he can conceal himself.”

Thorny plants doesn’t sound like the most appealing category, but it includes some of the most beloved species around homes and gardens. Plus, sometimes a thorny plant is exactly what is needed – they make hedges much more difficult for intruders to penetrate, for example.


Numerous trees have thorns, some on their trunks, but usually only on their branches or leaves.



People often think of hollies as shrubs, but that only applies to certain cultivars. The American holly that grows wild throughout the eastern U.S. can reach 50 feet or more and is commonly used as a specimen tree or a tall hedge in home landscapes.

The thorns are on the leaves of these trees, making them very difficult to pass through when planted as a dense hedge. They are evergreen, known for their red berries in winter and are one of the few plants of this size that is fully shade tolerant. Hollies will tolerate full sun, however, but they do best in places with acidic soil. It is usually necessary to plant more than one in order to get fruit.

  • Nellie Stevens is a fast-growing holly with a pyramidal growth habit.
  • Argentea marginata is a variegated cultivar with silver margins on the leaves.
  • Croonenberg is a self-fertile holly, meaning it will make fruit without a second tree planted nearby.


Red hawthorn

These shrubby trees reach from 12 to 50 feet in height, depending on the species, with thorns on the branches that can be several inches in length. To make up for their thorny character, however, hawthorn trees bear a profusion of white flowers in early spring, followed by red fruit – which is edible in some species, such as the mayhaw, but insipid on most others. There are numerous improved cultivars that are delightful flowering trees for use as a focal point in small yards. Average garden soil and water are sufficient.

  • Pendula has weeping branches.
  • Stricta is a variety with a narrow, upright growth habit.


Honey locust

There are two trees that go by the name of locust, both of which are covered in thorns: black locust and honey locust. They are both quite large, reaching up to 100 feet in height, though the black locust stays fairly narrow, while the honey locust can grow almost as wide as it does tall. Thorns cover the branches on these trees, though they are sometimes seen on the trunk of young trees all the way down to ground level. Both trees have clusters of honey-scented white flowers in early spring, giving way to seedpods later in the year. Despite their thorns, locusts are commonly used as shade trees. They are tough and adaptable, thriving in modest soils with minimal irrigation once established.

  • Purple Robe black locust has lilac-colored blossoms and bronze-tinged foliage.
  • Sunburst honey locust has yellow foliage.


Look to some of these thorny shrubs as potential barrier plantings, as well as plantings for their beauty and fragrance.

Natal Plum

Natal plum

If you are looking for a hardy, drought-tolerant barrier shrub producing evergreen foliage and edible fruit, look no further than natal plum (Carissa marcocarpa). Hardy in USDA zones 9 and 10, the shrub produces 2-inch forked thorns along branches covered in glossy green foliage that exude a poisonous white sap when broken. Fragrant white, star-shaped flowers bloom year-round and give way to reddish plumlike fruits resembling a cranberry in taste. It can grow up to 20 feet tall planted in a sunny location and in well-drained soil.

It works well in the landscape used as a thick, thorny screen or hedge and its high tolerance to salt spray makes it a suitable addition to seaside gardens. Prune throughout the year to keep the shrub’s size maintained.



Also known as firethorn, pyracantha is not as evil as it sounds. In fact, it’s an ornamental shrub with evergreen foliage and bright red berries that persist through the winter. Growing from six to 12 feet in height, pyracanthas are tolerant of intense heat, drought and poor soils and are an excellent choice for making an impenetrable hedge. They are also amenable to shearing as a formal hedge, allowing them to be kept less than five feet tall – they tend to look better this way than as the sprawling leggy shrub that develops when they are left unpruned. You’ll want to wear heavy leather gloves when pruning pyracantha as the thorns cover all the stems and are notoriously sharp.

  • Silver Lining is a variegated form with silver margins on the leaves.
  • Prostrata is a dwarf, spreading selection.
  • Gold Rush bears yellow berries, instead of the typical red fruit.



This is one of the many species of eleagnus and the only one known particularly for its thorns, which are stout, up to two inches long, and cover the larger stems of the plant. Silverthorn is an enormous evergreen shrub, reaching up to 15 feet tall and wide, though it can be maintained at almost any height with pruning. It is one of the fastest growing shrubs available and will form a head-high hedge within two years of planting. Thriving in sun or shade and dry, infertile soil, silverthorn grows profusely without any fertilizer or care, making it arguably the most adaptable hedge plant available. It sometimes grows a little too well, however, and spreads itself by seed, making it an invasive species in some areas. It even has fragrant (though inconspicuous) flowers and edible berries.

  • Nana is a dwarf variety.
  • Maculata is known for its variegated yellow leaves.


Numerous succulents bear thorns, including the many species of cactus available from specialty growers.



These are truly dramatic plants often used in southwestern-themed landscapes. Agaves look like something from the age of the dinosaurs with their enormous, tough, leathery leaves. On the edges of those leaves are sharp thorns, giving the impression that they are not plants to tangle with. After many years of growth, agaves send up a flower stalk that may reach 20 feet in height, putting on a final extravagant display before setting seed and dying. Excellent drainage is essential; plant agaves in sandy soil, if possible, and do not water or fertilize.

  • Marginata has yellow margins on its leaves.
  • Alba has a white stripe in the center of each leaf.

Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly pear cactus

By definition, cactuses have thorns, but most species cannot be easily grown in the ground outside of arid environments, such as the Southwest. Prickly pear is an exception to this rule, however, thriving in most parts of the country – places with wet summers and cold winters where most cacti don’t stand a chance. Plus, they produce an edible fruit, called Indian fig or tuna in Spanish. The cactus pads, called nopales, are also edible and are a common vegetable in Mexican cuisine. Prickly pears grow without effort by the gardener, as long as they have full sun and good drainage. Do not water or fertilize.

  • Quillota is a spineless variety, cultivated specifically for its top quality fruit.


There are relatively few vines that bear thorns, but those that do have some notable qualities.



Bougainvillea is known for its colorful flower bracts, but its thorny stems make it an excellent species to consider for making a fence line more secure. It is a Mediterranean plant that requires full sun, loves hot weather and needs only modest amounts of fertilizer and irrigation. Bougainvillea needs excellent drainage, so many people choose to grow it in a pot, which also gives the option of bringing it indoors for the winter, as it is a frost-sensitive species. Plant one every eight feet along a fence for complete coverage – they will grow as tall as the support structure they are given up to a height of about 15 feet.

  • Bagen Beauty is a common variety with rose-crimson flower bracts.
  • Apricot Dream is a light orange variety.
  • Blondie is covered in yellow flower bracts.



Brambles refers to plants in the rubus genus, including raspberries, blackberries and their many relatives – most of which have stems covered in thorns. That doesn’t stop people from enjoying the fruit, however, which is produced in mid-summer. Brambles fruit best in full sun, though partial shade is also acceptable. A good support structure is essential to keep them from sprawling across the ground. Fortunately, they are not very heavy vines, so two-inch wooden posts with wire strung between them at 12-inch intervals is generally sufficient.

  • Blackberries are the largest of the bramble vines, reaching 10 feet or more if their growth is left unchecked.
  • Raspberries are more modest growers, typically staying under six feet.

A Thorn Garden

Some plants are so beautiful or bear such delicious fruit that people are happy to tolerate the inconvenience of their thorns, while others are planted specifically for the message that their thorns will send to potential intruders. Either way, thorniness provides an interesting way to categorize plants and represents a unique form of beauty in the botanical world.

Mohave Pyracantha (Firethorn) Shrub

Vivid Red and Green Color + Hardy Growth

Why Mohave Pyracanthas?

With the Mohave, also known as the Firethorn, you get hardy evergreen growth, shade tolerance and adaptability to challenging conditions…all with exotic color that’s second to none when it comes to evergreens. Our Mohave offers classic green vibrancy with the twist of vivid red berries – and tons of them.

Initially, the berries emerge as a deep burnt-orange but soon turn to a bright fire-engine red. And when spring arrives, white flowers will burst onto the scene and cover your shrub. Plus, the Mohave’s tough nature makes it a wonderful shrub for a variety of planting options.

With a high tolerance to shade and wind exposure, this hardy evergreen works well when used to create a screen or hedge throughout the landscape. In addition to its ability to adapt to difficult conditions, the shrub is highly productive, yielding tons of flavorful fall berries, perfect for making homemade jellies and jams to enjoy throughout the holiday season.

Why is Better

But the best part of all is our Firethorn is prepared for strong, consistent growth. Because we’ve planted and nurtured each Mohave at our nursery, you get a well-developed root system and healthy branching. We’ve put in the extra work so that you get amazing results in your own landscape.

When your planting needs call for attention, turn to the Mohave Pyracantha. And add a splash of color to your landscape today with our Firethorn!

Planting & Care

1. Planting: First, select an area with full sun (6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day) and well-drained soil. Pyracantha Shrubs grow in most soil types but prefer moist, well-drained conditions.

When you’re ready to plant, dig a hole that’s large enough to accommodate the shrub’s root ball (with some extra width to make room for mature growth), place your shrub and backfill the soil. We recommend watering to settle the roots and mulching to conserve moisture.

2. Watering: Occasional deep watering from early spring to late fall with 1 inch of water per week or more during hot, dry periods of weather provides enough moisture for the shrub. Use a garden hose and water at the soil level.

If you’re not sure when to water, check the soil with your index finger, about 3 inches down. If the soil is dry, water until it’s moist. Stop watering during the winter months.

3. Fertilizing: Annual fertilization when new growth begins in late winter can help boost the growth of your Pyracantha. A balanced, slow-release fertilizer such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 at a rate of 1 tablespoon per foot of height is sufficient for each plant.

4. Pruning: Prune Pyracantha during the spring after it finishes blooming. Remove any dead or diseased wood at its point of origin. To maintain shape, select wayward or leggy side shoots and cut them back to the first three leaves or cluster of berries. Remove lower branches for a treelike form or leave them in place for a more natural shape. The Pyracantha has sharp thorns, so wear thick gloves while pruning to avoid injuries.

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Pyracantha, Firethorn ‘Mohave’

View this plant in a garden



Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade



Foliage Color:

Unknown – Tell us


10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)


12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)


USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone


Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

White/Near White

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Bloom Size:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer

Other details:

Unknown – Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:

Unknown – Tell us

Propagation Methods:

From softwood cuttings

From semi-hardwood cuttings

From hardwood cuttings

Seed Collecting:

Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

China Lake Acres, California

Ridgecrest, California

Wilmington, Delaware

Hughesville, Maryland

Wellfleet, Massachusetts

Aurora, Missouri

Mullica Hill, New Jersey

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Floral Park, New York

Cincinnati, Ohio

Fayetteville, Pennsylvania

Florence, South Carolina

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

North Augusta, South Carolina

Summerville, South Carolina

San Antonio, Texas

Richmond, Virginia

Springfield, Virginia

show all

Pyracantha ‘Mohave’ (Firethorn ‘Mohave’)

Botanical name

Pyracantha ‘Mohave’

Other names

Firethorn ‘Mohave’


Pyracantha Pyracantha

Variety or Cultivar

‘Mohave’ _ ‘Mohave’ is an upright, evergreen, thorny shrub with shiny green ovate leaves. In late spring, it bears clusters of white flowers that are followed by a large number of orange-red berries in autumn.




Bushy, Compact


The seeds may cause mild stomach upsets if ingested.

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White in Spring

Dark-green in All seasons

How to care

Watch out for

Specific pests

Aphids , Brown scale , Caterpillars , Leaf mining moths , Woolly aphid

Specific diseases

Fireblight , Pyracantha scab

General care

Propagation methods

Semi-hardwood cuttings

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Where to grow

Pyracantha ‘Mohave’ (Firethorn ‘Mohave’) will reach a height of 3m and a spread of 2.8m after 10-20 years.

Suggested uses

City, Cottage/Informal, Drought Tolerant, Hedging/Screens, Low Maintenance, Resistant to pollution, Wallside and trellises, Wildlife


Plant in fertile soil in sun or part shade. Tolerates air pollution.

Soil type

Chalky, Clay, Loamy, Sandy (will tolerate most soil types)

Soil drainage

Moist but well-drained, Well-drained

Soil pH

Alkaline, Neutral


Partial Shade, Full Sun


South, East, West


Exposed, Sheltered

UK hardiness Note: We are working to update our ratings. Thanks for your patience.

Hardy (H4)

USDA zones

Zone 10, Zone 9, Zone 8, Zone 7, Zone 6, Zone 5, Zone 4

Defra’s Risk register #1

Plant name

Pyracantha ‘Mohave’ (Firethorn ‘Mohave’)

Common pest name

grape ground pearl

Scientific pest name

Margarodes vitis



Current status in UK


Likelihood to spread to UK (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

Impact (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

General biosecurity comments

Main pathway; Vitis spp. plants for planting; already prohibited. However; further consideration of other pathways is required.

Defra’s Risk register #2

Pyracantha ‘Mohave’ (Firethorn ‘Mohave’)

Japanese long scale; Japanese maple scale; Long scale; Japanese; Pear white scale

Lopholeucaspis japonica



Regulated only on Citrus at present; regulation on other hosts needs to be considered. Only likely to be a pest under glass in UK.

Defra’s Risk register #3

Pyracantha ‘Mohave’ (Firethorn ‘Mohave’)

Lance nematode; Nematode; Lance

Hoplolaimus spp.



Nematode species potentially affecting a wide variety of crops; prohibition of soil likely to mitigate risk substantially; keep under review in light of interceptions or findings should they occur in the EU.

About this section

Our plants are under greater threat than ever before. There is increasing movement of plants and other material traded from an increasing variety of sources. This increases the chances of exotic pests arriving with imported goods and travellers, as well as by natural means. Shoot is working with Defra to help members to do their part in preventing the introduction and spread of invasive risks.

Traveling or importing plants? Please read “Don’t risk it” advice here

Suspected outbreak?

Date updated: 7th March 2019 For more information visit:

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