Pyracantha coccinea - Scarlet Firethorn
Family: Rosaceae

Hear the scientific name

Pyracantha coccinea is an urban-tolerant shrub with spiny branches, showy white malodorous late spring inflorescences, broadleaf, evergreen, dense foliage, spire-like upper branches, and orange autumn fruits.

F   E   A   T   U   R   E   S
  form2 form Form

-medium-sized to large-sized ornamental shrub

-species form matures at about 15' tall x 15' wide, but cultivars are usually smaller, and most shrubs are frequently pruned to smaller dimensions anyway

-upright oval growth habit in youth, becoming open, straggly, and spreading

-medium growth rate (rapid rate if pruned back hard)

foliage2 foliage Foliage

-dark green, broadleaf evergreen to semi-evergreen, and becoming unattractively bronzed in winter

-densely alternate (clustered on the short spur shoots), lanceolate to narrow elliptical, and lightly serrated


-white, somewhat malodorous, in late May to early June, as flat-topped to slightly curving 2-3" diameter inflorescences, derived from floral buds on the previous year's spur shoots


-orange, orange-red, or yellow, depending upon cultivar

-heaviest ornamental fruiting occurs on unpruned shrubs of scab-resistant cultivars sited in full sun, and can be ornamentally outstanding in early autumn when contrasted against the dark green foliage

-maturing in Sept. as pendulous clusters from the numerous spur shoots, and usually persistent only into late autumn, before abscission or being eaten by wildlife


-pubescent purple-green when emergent, changing to brown but often obscured by the dense foliage

-spines often terminate the spur shoots, with the spines also obscured by the dense foliage


-multi-trunked, brown, and somewhat rough, but seldom noticed due to the low branching and evergreen foliage

C   U   L   T   U   R   E


-full sun to partial shade

-very tolerant of urban conditions and adaptable to poor soils, compacted soils, soils of various pH, heat, drought, and heavy pruning

-propagated by seeds or rooted stem cuttings

-a number of minor disease and pest problems affect this plant, but the 2 major diseases are scab (primarily affecting the fruits) and fireblight (affecting the newly emergent leaves and stems)

-commonly available in the trade

-in moderate to severe zone 5 winters, the bronzed broadleaf evergreen foliage will "burn" or die

-best time to prune vigorously growing specimens or espaliers is either right after bloom (to set up flower buds and fruits for the following year) or in autumn or early spring (to gain firm control with heavy pruning, and forego flowering and fruiting for an entire year)


-zones 5 (or 6) to 9


-native to Southern Europe

U   S   A   G   E


-showy autumn true-orange fruits (some forms are red-orange or yellow-orange)

-showy late spring white inflorescences

-broadleaf evergreen foliage

-dense spiny growth serves as a bird refuge and as a barrier to traffic


-many old and new cultivars are prone to unsightly and sometimes lethal fireblight and fruit scab

-inflorescences are somewhat malodorous

-spines are sharp and mostly hidden by the foliage

-unnattractive bronzed foliage may "burn" or die in severe winters

-fruits are not persistent into winter

-most forms get far too large and spreading for the site in which they are located, and require frequent pruning to keep them in-bounds (which reduces flowering and fruiting the following year)


-formal or informal thorny barrier hedge, visual screen, specimen, or wall espalier; often incorrectly used as a foundation shrub (where it gets too large)


-medium texture

-thick density

S   E   L   E   C   T   I   0   N   S

Varieties and Cultivars - Search OSU PlantFacts for additional plants in this species


-barrier shrubs/hedges with spines/thorns/prickles (Acanthopanax sieboldianus, Berberis koreana, Berberis x mentorensis, Berberis thunbergii, etc.)

-shrubs with ornamental autumn and winter fruits (Aronia arbutifolia, Ilex verticillata, Myrica pensylvanica, Rosa rugosa, etc.)


Press the Back button in your browser.