Content Detail

A semi-evergreen shrub in the northern climates, firethorn may be evergreen in the south.  Firethorn reaches 10 to 15 feet high and wide, carrying shiny leaves that remain long into winter, white spring flowers, and brilliant orange berries in the fall. Often used as a barrier screen because of the stiff thorny branches, it nevertheless makes an attractive shrub because of its persistent winter berries.  Can also be trained on a wall as an espalier. Plants can be unruly if not pruned regularly.

  • Family (English) Rose
  • Family (botanic) Roseaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • 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 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Alkaline soil, Dry soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought, Road salt
  • Season of interest early winter, late spring, late summer, early fall, mid fall, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Broad, Irregular, Multi-stemmed, Open, Oval, Round
  • Growth rate Fast, Moderate

Native geographic location and habitat:

Firethorn is native from Italy to Caucasus.

Attracts birds & butterflies:

Birds are attracted to the berries of this bush.

Bark color and texture:

The bark is glossy brown with 1/2 inch thorns.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Leaves are alternate, evergreen in warm climates to semi-evergreen in cold climates. They are narrow, elliptical and 1/2 to 1 inch long. Leaves are lustrous dark green in summer and brownish in winter.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Flowers are flat-topped and form 2 to 3 inch clusters of white, malodorous flowers in later May. Flowers bloom on last year’s growth. Prune after flowering.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

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


Plant Care:

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 in order to protect next year’s bloom and keep the plant in bounds. Watch out for thorny stems when pruning.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Common problems are fire blight, leaf spots, scale insects, and spider mites. It is very tolerant of urban conditions, including poor soil, salt, heat, and drought.


Apache firethorn (Pyracantha ‘Apache’):

This is a  hybrid of scarlet firethorn, has bright red fruit, and grows 5 to 6 feet high.

Yukon Belle fire thorn (Pyracantha ‘Monon’):

This is a hardy upright hybrid with orange berries, growing 6 to 8 feet high.


Your support is vital to the Arboretum, where the power of trees makes a positive impact on people’s lives.

Make a gift