Fall can be a remarkably colorful time of year, when many trees turn blazing colors of gold and red. This is very true in the colder northern parts of the country, but as we move south, fall color is reduced. This doesn’t mean you have to miss out if you live in a warmer area, because what your foliage may lack, berries make up for. There are few shrubs or trees with a more spectacular display of berries than the firethorns, and Victory Firethorn is not only outstanding among them, it is especially suitable for warmer parts of the country. This is exactly where its brilliant color will be most appreciated, and not obscured by vibrant leaf color from surrounding trees.
Victory Firethorn is a selected form of the Formosa firethorn (Pyracantha koidzumii). This plant is native to the Chinese island of Taiwan, and it is also sometimes called the Taiwan firethorn. In its native country it is an endangered species, found only in a single valley between Hualien and Taitung on the eastern side of the island. It has been over-exploited for the berries, used in traditional Chinese medicine. Growing this plant in your garden helps protect this species from extinction. Victory Firethorn is a selected form, with extra vigor, and larger, more abundant and more brightly-colored berries. Its exact origins are not known, but it is probably a garden selection made from a batch of seedlings grown from wild seed.
Growing Victory Firethorn Shrubs
Victory Firethorn grows rapidly into a large shrub, reaching 8 or 10 feet tall and up to 8 feet wide. It has narrow evergreen leaves 2½ inches long, in a rich glossy green. In spring the branches are smothered in clusters of white blossoms, making a lovely display. But this is just a gentle prelude to what is to follow. The flowers fade, and you may not notice much until cooler weather arrives in early fall. Then you will discover that those flowers have turned into large clusters of berries.
Each berry is almost ½ inch across, and flattened like a tiny satsuma fruit. In early fall the berries turn pinkish-red, but soon they are brilliant scarlet, smothering the branches in color. They last well into winter, before eventually being taken by birds. The berries are not very attractive to birds, and may even be mildly poisonous, so they are always left until late winter. You will not lose your fall display quickly, as happens with berries that birds love more. There is disagreement over whether these berries are safe to eat, but some people make a jelly from them.
Uses in Your Garden
Victory Firethorn can be used in many different ways in the garden. It can be grown as a specimen, in a bed or on the lawn, where its arching branches, laden with berries, will be widely appreciated. It can be grown up against a sunny wall or fence, tied to the wall as an espalier, taking up almost no room, but bringing a drab surface to life. It can be trained into a hedge anything from 3 to 10 feet tall, and forms a dense, impenetrable barrier, with interlacing branches. Since the branches have thorns on them, as a hedge this is truly resistant to anyone and even most animals, including deer, who do not generally eat this plant. Some gardeners plant firethorn beneath a window, training it up the walls on either side. This prevents anyone climbing in the window, as the thorns are a very effective deterrent.
Ideally, you should plant Victory Firethorn in a sunny place, but it will also grow in an area with some shade for part of the day. However, keep in mind that the more shade it has, the fewer flowers and berries will be produced. It will grow vigorously and easily in most soils, except for very alkaline ones (with a pH over 7.5). The soil should be well-drained, so avoid low-lying areas where the soil can often be wet.
Care and Maintenance
Once established this plant is drought-resistant, but when young remember to water it regularly until the roots spread out and become established. This is a fast-growing shrub, so give it sufficient room, and it will soon be a real focal-point in your garden. It can be pruned at almost any time, but avoid pruning too much, or you will reduce the berry crop.
Buying Victory Firethorn Plants at The Tree Center
Our plants are grown from stem pieces taken from correctly identified plants. These are very much superior to seedling plants, and Victory Firethorn is a selected special form that is different from common varieties of firethorn you may find available. Experts agree that it is especially suitable for growing in warm to hot parts of the country, but it is hardy into zone 6 as well. In colder areas some leaves may fall in winter, or some foliage may turn brown, but it will be quickly replaced with fresh, new leaves in spring.
For fall brilliance in your garden, Victory Firethorn cannot be beaten. The display of scarlet berries lasts for months, and you will be amazed at their profusion and vibrant scarlet coloring. This plant is not widely available, and we have a limited stock of vigorous plants from a reliable grower. Our stock will not last long – order now and bring color to your garden with an easy, reliable shrub you will love to grow.