Plants in the garden serve several purposes, and sometimes we want security in our gardens, security from intruders, and security for vulnerable windows. If we can have that with a beautiful plant, so much the better. An often-recommended plant for a secure hedge, or to prevent intruders entering windows, is the firethorn bush. This plant is beautiful, but it hides long, sharp thorns, that can make a plant almost impenetrable. Besides its protective value, this a very beautiful plant, with rich-green, glossy foliage, smothered in white flowers in spring, and laden with bright orange-red berries in fall and winter. It makes a very attractive addition to the garden, even if you don’t care about its protective thorns.
A serious problem with firethorn bushes is their susceptibility to disease. The fruit can be disfigured by a disease called scab, and even worse, a disease called fire-blight can quickly kill a plant, once it becomes infected. So growing firethorn bushes is risky – they can be lost too easily. To overcome this, plant breeders have developed disease-resistant forms, and you should always choose to grow one of these, not an unnamed plant, which has probably been simply grown from seed. An ideal choice is the Mohave Pyracantha.
The Mohave Pyracantha puts on a spectacular spring flower display, followed by a profusion of orange-red berries that last well into winter. It grows to around 10 feet tall, or even more if it is tied to a wall or trellis. It is evergreen, with narrow leaves about 2 inches long, in a rich, glossy green. It is hardy from zone 5 to zone 8, so it can be grown in many areas. It will grow in most soils, tolerates both full sun and partial-shade and is usually free of pests, This terrific plant makes a colorful addition to any garden and it can be used in many different ways to provide color and interest as well as security.
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 – they are not popular with birds, who leave them until later, choosing other berries first. Although they are not pleasant to eat raw, they can be picked and made into jellies, jams and sauces for an interesting garden harvest.
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.
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 an easy 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 Mohave Firethorn satisfies both those needs. Hidden among the dense, attractive foliage, the spines will deter anyone and anything from pushing through it, but they are not obvious.
Firethorn can be grown as a free-standing shrub that will reach 10 to12 feet and 6 feet across, or it can be tied in to a wall where it will grow even taller if needed, or with pruning it can be kept to any area desired. Grown attached to a wall or trellis, it will only take up a foot or two in width. This is a beautiful way to make an ugly wall attractive, while taking up very little space in the garden. Even in a small garden you can grow this plant, covering a large area, but leaving the rest of the garden free for other plants.
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 a good security measure too. 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 for the next year. Wear strong gloves when clipping or pruning this plant.
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 become the first choice when a firethorn is wanted, combining vigorous growth with disease resistance and an outstanding flower and berry display.
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. The Mohave Pyracantha is a very popular plant and although we constantly receive fresh, new plants to ship to our customers, shortage can occur, so order now to be sure you have this beautiful and useful plant for your garden.