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Firethorn shrub covered with fruit.

Firethorn is a semi-evergreen shrub with shiny leaves that remain long into winter, white spring flowers, and brilliant orange berries in the fall. Plants can be unruly if not pruned regularly.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Pyracantha coccinea

All common names:

firethorn; scarlet firethorn

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Mixed border,
  • Screen,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8,
  • Zone 9

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Dry soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional drought,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay soil,
  • Road salt

Seasons of Interest:

  • early winter,
  • late spring,
  • late summer,
  • early fall,
  • mid fall,
  • late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Broad,
  • Irregular,
  • Multi-stemmed,
  • Open,
  • Oval,
  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate,
  • Fast

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

A semi-evergreen shrub in the northern climates, evergreen in the south. Firethorn reaches  10 to 15 feet high and wide.
Often used as a barrier screen because of the stiff thorny branches.
It makes an attractive shrub because of the persistent winter berries.
Can also be trained as a espalier vine up a wall.
Best planted in spring in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. Tolerant of part shade and dry conditions once established.
Flowers on old wood so  prune after flowering to keep in bounds, but watch out for thorny stems.

Disease, pests, and problems

Fireblight, leaf spots, scale, spider mites

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Very tolerant of  urban conditions, poor soil, salt, heat, and dry soil

Native geographic location and habitat

Italy to Caucasus

Attracts birds & butterflies

Birds are attracted to berries

Bark color and texture 

Glossy brown with 1/2-inch thorns

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate,  evergreen in warm climates, to semi-evergreen in cold climates.
Narrow, elliptical 1/2 to 1-inch long leaves, lusterous dark green in summer, brownish in winter.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Flat-topped, 2 to 3 inch clusters of white, malodorous flowers in later May.
Flowers bloom on last years growth. Prune after flowering.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Abundant, berry-like clusters of fruits ripen in September to a bright orange-red.
Persistent into winter.  
Best fruiting occurs on unpruned shrubs.

Cultivars and their differences 

Apache (Pyracantha 'Apache'): A hybrid of scarlet firethorn, bright red fruit, 5 to 6 feet high.
Yukon Belle (Pyracantha 'Monon'): A hardy upright hybrid with orange berries, 6 to 8 feet high.

Location of Pyracantha coccinea (Firethorn) at the Arboretum