October's Garden Plant is Pyracantha

on Thursday, 11 October 2018. Posted in News

You can tell we are heading towards winter when the Joy of Plants focus on Pyracantha (also known as firethorn) for this month. This shrub has flaming berries in the autumn and green leaves in the winter and early spring. In May and June the plant blooms with a host of cream flowers, so that the shrub provides beauty in the garden all year round.

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Pyracantha loves to grow against a wall or frame, and is also suitable as a hedge plant. It’s a spectacular feature plant that can make an entire wall glow with the colour of its berries.

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Pyracantha trivia

  • Pyracantha’s berries are not very popular with birds, which means they remain on the plant for a long time, well into winter. Only when the supply of food for birds really starts to run short will blackbirds and thrushes in particular eat the berries.
  • The sturdy thorns mean that Pyracantha is not strokable, although small songbirds in particular like to hide their nest in the bush because the thorns protect them from cats.
  • The thorns also provide natural protection against burglars and vandals. It’s not pleasant to clamber across this plant to reach a window or get over a fence.

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Pyracantha is a member of the rose family, which explains the presence of thorns, and is a close relative of the thornless Cotoneaster. This garden plant grows wild from south-east Europe to south-east Asia, and has been cultivated since the 16th century. It’s widely used in gardens and parks as a colourful berry-bearing shrub because it lasts a very long time with comparatively little maintenance.

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Care tips

  • Pyracantha will do well in shade, partial shade and full sun.
  • Ensure rich well-draining soil.
  • Younger Pyracanthas and Pyracanthas that are used as container plants should be watered regularly. Older Pyracanthas planted in the soil can cope better with drought due to their extensive root system.
  • The plant can reach a height of 4 to 5 metres and can grow quite wild. The best time for cutting back is at the end of the winter. This encourages both flowering and the formation of berries.