Plant Hardiness Zones 6-9
|Pyracantha x ‘Mohave’|
As well as privacy in the garden, security is often a big concern. Numerous studies have shown that thorny plants beneath windows or on property boundaries are a great way to keep out two-legged and four-legged intruders. In the middle of the night no one wants to walk into a plant with serious 2 inch spines. Of course you don’t want to have the spines a noticeable feature either and the plant called Firethorn satisfies both those needs. It looks like a pleasant shrub with green leaves, white flowers and a big display of red fall berries, but hidden among that foliage are large spines that will deter anyone and anything from pushing through it.
Firethorn can be grown as a free-standing shrub that will reach 12 feet or more in height and as much across, or it can be tied in to a wall where it will grow up two stories if needed, or with pruning it can be kept to any area desired. Grown this way it will only take up a foot or two in width and it is a great way to make an ugly wall beautiful while taking up very little space in the garden. So it is a great choice for small gardens too.
Gardeners have grown Firethorn in this way for a couple of hundred years, but there is one problem. These plants are prone to a deadly disease called ‘fire-blight’ especially in areas with damp springs, so mature plants can suddenly become infected and rapidly die. However that is no longer a problem thanks to the Mohave Pyracantha.
The Mohave Pyracantha was developed by the National Arboretum in Washington D.C. as part of their plant introduction program. They wanted to develop a plant that was resistant to fire-blight, which destroys so many Firethorn bushes. They hybridized the common Firethorn, Pyracantha coccinea, with a species from Taiwan, Pyracantha koidzumii, and among the many seedlings they grew, one was outstanding. They named it ‘Mohave’ and it was released in 1970. Since then it has gone on to be the first choice when a Firethorn is wanted, combining vigorous growth with disease resistance and an outstanding flower and berry display.
Mohave Pyracantha grows naturally into a large shrub 13 feet tall and 13 feet across in just 7 years – this is a vigorous, fast-growing plant you won’t have to wait around for. It has dense, angular branches with short, leafy side-shoots that end in a sharp, hard spine. In zone 6 some or all the small, glossy leaves may drop for a brief time in mid-winter, but elsewhere it will be evergreen and leafy all year round. In spring it is covered in clusters of small white flowers which turn into bunches of berries that are at first green but then as fall approaches turn a brilliant orange-red, with a beautiful glossy surface. Berries can be so dense on a plant that the foliage is almost completely hidden. The berries last well into the winter as they are not popular with birds. Although they are not pleasant to eat raw, they can be picked and made into jellies, jams and sauces for an interesting garden harvest.
Because the Mohave Pyracantha was developed for vigor, disease-resistance and beauty, it is important to get the right plant. Our plants are grown correctly, from stem cutting of properly identified plants. Avoid cheaper seedling plants or plants just labeled ‘Firethorn’, as these will not have the desirable and important qualities of this special bush.
To create a solid security barrier, space plants 4 feet apart in a row, planting 2 feet from a fence or the boundary. Planted beneath a window as part of the foundation planting around your house, the Mohave Pyracantha is beautiful and also a good security measure. The more you clip this plant the denser and more impenetrable it will grow, so clip in late winter and lightly in mid-summer too. As the berries are carried on older growth, trimming the new summer growth will not remove berries and will actually encourage more the next year. Wear strong gloves when clipping or pruning this plant.
To train it as an espalier on a wall, allow 4 to 6 feet between each plant. If you have a wooden wall, just put in nails as needed and tie the plant loosely to the nails. On a brick or stone wall it is easier to stretch wires from one side to the other, spacing them around 2 feet apart, and tie the stems to the wires. Although this takes a little setting up, remember that self-clinging plants can damage mortar and brick-work and lead to future expenses, which will not happen with the Mohave Pyracantha. Prune in late winter and tie-in new shoots as they grow. Once the area is covered, prune regularly, shortening new growths back to an inch or two. This will develop a dense structure with lots of flowers and berries.
Choose a sunny location if possible, for the maximum flowering and fruiting, but the Mohave Pyracantha will also grow well in partial shade. It prefers a well-drained, sandy soil, but it will do well in most soils except for very wet ones. It is drought-tolerant and tolerant of urban conditions too, so this is definitely an easy, low-maintenance shrub. Dig a hole wider than the pot and use plenty of water when planting. Water your new plant each week during the first growing season. A little fertilizer in spring will also help encourage strong growth.
The Mohave Pyracantha is a very popular and desirable plant and although we constantly receive fresh, new plants to ship to our customers, shortage can occur, so order now to be sure you get this beautiful and useful plant for your garden.