Pyracantha and Cotoneaster
Pyracantha and cotoneaster are two kinds of evergreen shrubs belonging to the Rosaceae family; both genera originate from North America, Europe and Asia, with numerous species and varieties as widespread as garden plants. They develop erect or creeping shrubs, ranging in size from 35-45 cm of the prostrate cotoneaster, up to 3-4 meters of species used to create hedges. They have generally minute, oval leaves, although there are varieties of cotoneaster with fairly large leaves; in general the leaves of the pyracantha tend to light green, while those of the cotoneaster are darker in color. In spring they produce innumerable small white, star-shaped flowers, in some perfumed species, many honey-cells. The flowers are followed by small roundish fruits, fleshy, edible, which become red when ripe, although there are species with white, yellow, rosé or orange fruits.
The fruits of the cotoneaster and the pyracantha are tiny apples, sweetish in taste, which were once used for human consumption; they remain on the plant throughout the winter, giving the garden a touch of color.
Unlike the cotoneaster, many pyracantha species have sharp spines, to which care should be taken.
How they are cultivated
These two species of plants share many characteristics, and also the cultivation method. These are completely rustic shrubs, which are used extensively in the garden, as individual specimens, or typically to create borders or hedges.
They are planted in a good well-worked soil, with good drainage, in a very sunny place; positioning in the shade causes poor flowering resulting in a lack of colored fruit.
They are very vigorous plants, with fairly rapid growth, so they are used very often as hedges, as they quickly constitute an impenetrable barrier.
The young plants need watering in the first period after being placed dwelling; plants that have been staying for a long time generally are satisfied with the water supplied by the weather; in many areas of Italy these plants also grow in the woods, in nature, where they survive without human care. Let us therefore expect our cotoneaster or our pyracantha to survive even the hottest summer and the coldest winter.
The flowering takes place in spring, depending on the species from March to April until June July for the later species, or in areas with a cooler climate; if we wish to obtain many colored berries obviously it will be good to practice pruning in late summer, so as not to ruin the spring floral buds. If we prune our plant at the end of winter we will remove most of the flowers, if pruning takes place instead after flowering it will certainly remove part of the berries.
Generally only the pyracantha and cotoneaster hedges are pruned; a pruning not too vigorous, to be carried out after flowering, will keep a good part of the fruits.
These plants are vigorous and not very delicate; pruning can take place at any time during the vegetative period, to contain the exuberance of many species. There are also dwarf or particularly compact varieties, with less chaotic and disordered development, which may require less care. Typically the specimens used as hedges or as borders are pruned, while the individual specimens are left to grow naturally, in a more disordered manner.
Pyracantha and Cotoneaster: Growing in pots
There are many species and varieties of Pyracantha and Cotoneaster; if we want to grow them in pots it is advisable to choose species or varieties of small size, so as not to have to put them in containers of enormous dimensions. These shrubs are also very suitable for growing as outdoor bonsai, given the small size of leaves, flowers and fruits.