I am considering growing some pyrocantha - Zone 6, central Maryland.
Does anyone have some experience with this plant? I would like to know the
pros and cons. I plan to plant it along a wooden fence. I like the idea of
it being an evergreen - or nearly so - and having edible berries. Has
anyone actually made any jelly or jam or other things from the berries? I
read that it takes a frost or two to make them less acidic. How fast does
I'm interested in the replies you get. I've had one beside the house for many
years. A couple times we have cut it almost to the ground because it rubbed on
second story windows and kept the girls awake at night. I don't do any planned
trimming - just see a branch that is getting in my way and cut it after the
berries are gone.
Birds love the berries. Mockingbirds, cardinals, robins are ones I've seen
enjoying them. I never heard of anyone eating them.
I planted 2 more this year along a fence. You have to give them lots of room.
They get big and nothing kills them. Once in a while they get a harmless
Remember that they have thorns. This makes them hard to trim and get rid of
the trimmings. But it also makes a nice barrier where you don't want kids
taking a shortcut through your yard.
I am in love with pyracantha.
Marilyn in central Ohio kind of on a line between zones 5 and 6.
I planted one on a trellis a few years back to cover over a gap between ours
and the neighbor's home. It grew very well -- it looks fantastic IMHO.
This year is it's greatest berry production so far and it's also the first
time I've pruned it (late summer). It's actually right behind our AC unit
so it's a pretty tough plant.
They do like a fair amount of water -- we have a downspout from the roof
that empties nearby so it gets plenty of water during the rainy periods,
although the area does drain well so it's not wading in water mind you. I'm
seriously considering planting a few more of these in the yard. The only
down side is the thorns -- definitely made for an interesting pruning.
We're in SW Ohio, Zone 6. Temps here are very similar to Maryland -- we
just came back from Gaithersburg about a year ago, after being out there for
the winter. :-P
If you start with a good container grown plant or 2, you should have a berry
bearing bush in a couple of years. They can also be trained along fences and
Look at the 2nd photo down. This is 4 plants that cover the whole front of the
house. I am getting too old to climb the ladder and keep it trimmed, so this
will been the last year for them. I have already sawed the main trunks apart.
Hawthorne jelly is nothing to brag about other than it's something you only
get from county fairs and such. It grows wild in the deep south, so we do
have a plentiful supply of berries to make jelly here. I never gather the
berries from the ones on the front of the house. The birds eat the berries in
the spring as they build their new nest in the vines.
Now, if you want to make jelly or jam, put one measure of sugar for every
measure of berries in a stainless or glass covered container and let set 24
hours at room temperature. Bring to a boil and boil until the berries have a
"clear" look. I let this cool to just warm and then process in the blender on
high until completely pulverized. Add a little lemon juice and cook this to a
jam or strain and cook to a jelly. Like I said, not a lot of taste though.
I have made a spiced jelly very similar to cranberry sauce (but better)
from mixing together rowan berries, hawthorn berries, cotoneaster berries,
rosehips, highbush cranberries (viburnums), crabapples, & sundry
nasty-tasting berries that are quite edible cooked, sieved, sweetened, &
spiced. Though I have never happened to mix in pyrocantha drupes, they
certainly are just as useful. Resulting jellies or sauces are extremely
rich in Vitamin C. They will almost always "set up" without needing pectin
added because they have rather too much pectin naturally. If there's any
chance of the sauce not setting up properly, boiling the sieved-out skins
for a second straining will fix that problem, which can also be done with
You can't make jams from these berries because the seeds are hard &
potentially toxic & have to be carefully sieved out, but the tart jelly
when completed can be used to mix in with jams to help jams set up without
needing pectin added. Some of these bitter berries are toxic when green so
can only be used when definitely ripe, though if a few green berries do
get mixed in, cooking breaks down the toxins. I've been told that the one
winter berry you should never include in a tart sauce is English holly,
that it remains toxic when ripe and might still be toxic after cooking.
Though I suspect this isn't true & cooking would break down the toxins, I
wouldn't personally take the chance of finding out, as you can find
traditional recipes for sauces, syrups, or wine from all these other
berries, I've yet to stumble onto one that recommends holly.
Some clues to making these nasty-tasting berries great-tasting: 1) You
have to like cranberry-like sauce to start with, as nothing is going to
make these drupes completely non-tart. 2) They are less tart after they
have gone through a couple of frosts, & hawberries are almost
sweet-from-the-branches by the middle of winter, tasting like grainy old
apples. 3) Sometimes birds wait until after a couple of frosts, then eat
them up, so you can pick them before frost to beat the birds to them, then
frost them off yourself by putting them in the freezer for a couple of
days; this reduces the amount of pectin increasing the ratio of fructose.
4) Any recipe you would use to prepare fresh cranberries can be adapted
instantly to other tart winter berries. 5) If you're NOT a spicy tart
sauce fan, mixing the berries with apples or pears shifts them a little
bit away from the cranberry-sauce flavor to something more like
applebutter, but still rather "adult" in flavor & not guaranteed to make
The negative factor of growing pyracantha is it will stab you far worse
than do hawthorns. It is evergreen & the majority of these tart winter
berry shrubs are deciduous, so being evergreen might be an ornamental plus
for pyracantha. In sunny locations most of these shrubs grow rapidly &
produce copious amounts of berries which most people refuse to harvest. If
grown for the fruit mainly, I'd select highbush cranberry bushes or a
rowan tree before pyracantha because you get more or less the same fruit
but without having to harvest them through thorns.
-paghat the ratgirl
"Of what are you afraid, my child?" inquired the kindly teacher.
"Oh, sir! The flowers, they are wild," replied the timid creature.
Mine grow runners over a foot long annually, in fact I have to trim them
twice a year to keep them manageable. Full growth is more like 4"-6"
annually though. They have sharp thorns that are wicked and always find
your arms when trimming. Birds love to be in and around them for sfety
I guess, and they like the berries too. Mine get nothing but a lot of
hot Albuquerque sunshine daily and some water every week or two. They
are real healthy. My wife and grandaughter like to munch the berries
but we've not made any jam from them - yet. All in all they are a great
bush if you want a barrier between you and something or someone.
Albuquerque, NM - Zone 7
Paul E. Lehmann wrote:
<< Fast enough to post warning signs on the fence. You might want to let
your neighbors know about the thorns.
What bemuses me as why people who write about the bouganvillia so seldom
mention the thorns, which on a cane of any age are long enough and hard enough
to qualify as a lethal weapon.
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