Pyracantha coccinea 'Rutgers'

Common Name: scarlet firethorn 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Rosaceae
Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 8.00 to 9.00 feet
Bloom Time: May
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest, Thorns
Tolerate: Clay Soil


Grown in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Best in fertile soils with sharp drainage. Good tolerance for clay soils as well as drought conditions. Not reliably winter hardy throughout the St. Louis area where shrubs should be sited in protected areas sheltered from cold winds.

This cultivar has better cold hardiness than most pyracanthas.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Pyracantha coccinea, commonly known as scarlet firethorn, is native from southeastern Europe to the Caucasus. It is an evergreen to semi-evergreen shrub that typically grows to 8-10' tall and to 12' wide. It is noted for spring white flowers in drooping clusters, glossy green leaves, needle-like spines, and orange-red berries in fall. Foliage is evergreen in mild climates, but semi-evergreen to mostly deciduous in the St. Louis area.

Genus name comes from the Greek pyr meaning fire and akantha meaning a thorn in reference to the thorny branches and the showy crimson fruit.

Specific epithet comes from Latin coccineus (scarlet).

‘Rutgers’ is a hybrid pyracantha introduced in 1980 by Dr. Elwin Orton of Rutgers University. It is a compact, sprawling shrub which typically grows to 3’ tall and spreads to as much as 9’ wide. It is noted for its narrow glossy dark green leaves (to 2.5” long), its abundant orange-red berries (larger than P. coccinea) and its needle like spines to 3/4” long. Foliage is evergreen in mild climates but mostly deciduous in the St. Louis area. Profuse clusters of tiny white flowers appear in spring on spurs along the prior year’s wood. Flowers are unpleasantly aromatic. Flowers give way to pea-sized orange fruits which ripen in September and persist into winter.


Susceptible to scab. Additional disease problems include fireblight and wilt. Potential insect pests include aphids, lacebug and scale. Deer tend to avoid this plant.

‘Rutgers’ is noted for its good resistance to both scab and fireblight.


Impenetrable shrub for informal hedges, hedgerows, dense screens or property lines. Also effective when massed to cover slopes. Group or accent in shrub borders. May be sheared as a hedge, but severe pruning performed after flowering will adversely affect fruit production. Espaliers trained on wall or fence. Best planted in areas where the thorns will not present a problem.