Firethorn bonsai care
Firethorn (Pyracantha) bonsai care
The care of Firethorn bonsai is easy. They willingly sprout out of the old wood and form quickly strong trunks. Repotting, watering and fertilizing are also not complicated so that the firethorn can be described as a good bonsai for beginners.
Firethorn (Pyracantha) bonsai care in a nutshell:
- Fertilisation: If strong growth is desired in the growing phase, a nitrogen-rich bonsai fertilizer such as Biogold and Hanagokoro is recommended. In finished styled bonsai, the flower and fruit formation can be improved by adding liquid bonsai fertilizers that contain only little nitrogen.
- Irrigation: A firethorn bonsai should be kept evenly moist. Especially in spring and early summer during flowering and fruit ripening. In winter in a plastic tent or greenhouse, the firethorn needs less watering due to the high humidity.
- Overwintering: A bright and very cool wintering at temperatures of 0-5°C is optimal. Only severe permanent frosts over many days should be avoided.
- Repotting: Every 3-4 years, firethorn bonsai are repotted with a light root cut into a well-drained bonsai soil like Akadama. The best time for this is in early March.
Diseases, Pests |
Firethorn bonsai are supplied with the usual bonsai fertilizers during the growing season from March to early September. It is often recommended not to fertilize before and during flowering. From our experience, we can see no influence of the fertilizer (e.g. dropping the flowers) during the flowering.
However, please note: If rapid growth is desired, a bonsai fertilizer with a high nitrogen content (e.g. Biogold, Hanagokoro) is recommended. If you value abundant flowering and fruits, a fertilizer with a low nitrogen content should be chosen from June. All liquid bonsai fertilizers are suitable. These liquid fertilizers do not contain a lot of nitrogen (mostly 3%).
Potash-magnesia, bone meal or fish meal may be given in early autumn. There is no need to fertilize in winter./p>
A Mediterranean firethorn bonsai should be watered evenly so that the bonsai substrate never dries out. A firethorn can withstand short periods of drought. However, this should be avoided, especially in spring, as otherwise the flowers and fruits may fall off and the leaves may wither.
In winter, a firethorn bonsai needs to be watered much less, especially if it is overwintered in an unheated greenhouse or foil tent with high humidity.
If a firethorn blooms, make sure that the flowers do not get wet when watering. If the flowers get too wet too often, the fruiting can suffer.
Firethorn bonsai should not be cared for in the apartment as an indoor bonsai. They belong to the Mediterranean bonsai (or outdoor bonsai) and a full-sun to half-shady location (in midsummer) outdoors is beneficial for the flowering and fruiting.
The best location in winter should be bright and very cool. An unheated greenhouse with high humidity is optimal in winter. Short-term temperatures below 0°C are better tolerated than a dark and warm location in the house.
The Mediterranean firethorn bonsai (Pyracantha coccinea) can be overwintered well in an unheated plastic tent or greenhouse. Here it tolerates temperatures down to -5°C. The first damage occurs from -10°C. That it should be protected from severe frost during permafrost periods. Then it may have to be heated for 1-2 weeks.
Wintering in the apartment is not recommended. This weakens a firethorn because if it is overwintered too warm it consumes its storage substances (sugar) and the shoots are weaker in spring. Wintering in the coolest possible room is only appropriate during short periods of permanent frost. As soon as the permafrost is over, it is best to put it back in the unheated greenhouse.
The firethorns (Pyracantha angustifolia) imported from Asia need to be maintained a bit warmer in winter. Here temperatures should not fall significantly below -2 to -3°C.
The firethorn needs a well water and air permeable bonsai soil like Akadama. Often, some organic substrates are added to improve the blooming capability. Since firethorn bonsai also blooms abundantly in pure Akadama, in our experience it can be dispensed with.
Older firethorn bonsai are repotted every 3-4 years. Younger bonsai trees are repotted a little more often. The best time for repotting is in early march. A root cut is possible, but should not be too radical. Removing 20-30% of the roots is not a problem.
With proper care, firethorn bonsai are not very susceptible to pests and diseases. Sometimes there is aphid infestation, which can be treated well with commercially available pesticides against sucking insects. Aphid infestation occurs especially when fertilizing is very rich in nitrogen. Aphids love and need nitrogen.
The firethorn is one of the plants that can be affected by fireblight. But this happens very rarely. We have not heard of any case of Firethorn bonsai with fireblight in the past 20 years. The fireblight is a bacterial disease and not a fungus, as often can be read. Accordingly, treatment with anti-fungal agents is unsuccessful. If a fireblight is detected on a firethorn, the bonsai must be destroyed immediately.
The firethorn can be propagated via seeds, cuttings and by air layering. Firethorn seedlings are also available in many varieties in every garden market or in nurseries. Since the cultivation from tree seeds is difficult, it is advisable to buy young plants.
Firethorn (Pyracantha) bonsai styling
Firethorn species (Pyracantha) are ideally suited for the design of interesting and showy flower bonsai. Already in spring, firethorn bonsai attract attention with their lush, white flowers - followed by a myriad of fruits in the summer months. In autumn, depending on the variety, the berries turn from bright yellow to deep red. The fruits usually hang on the tree for a long time.
What are the advantages of a firethorn for bonsai design ?
- Firethorn bonsai with their white flowers in spring are very attractive flower bonsai.
- Depending on the variety, the yellow, orange or red fruits make a firethorn an eye-catcher in a bonsai collection.
- The fruit hangs on the bonsai tree for a very long time. This means that you can enjoy a Firethorn bonsai even in late autumn into the winter.
- A firethorn can be styled only by pruning the bonsai.
- After bonsai pruning, this type of bonsai sprouts out well and quickly. This makes it a good bonsai for beginners.
- The bark of the firethorn is dark in age and slightly cracked. This fits very well for an attractive bonsai.
- A firethorn quickly forms a thick trunk.
- As an evergreen mediterranean bonsai it does not shed its relatively small leaves in winter.
Firethorn (Pyracantha) bonsai styling in a nutshell:
- Wiring: Firethorn bonsai can be wired, but somewhat difficult. On the one hand, the thorns disturb, the hard branches break easily when bent and the leaves of the evergreen firethorn disturb something when working. For beginners, bonsai styling is advisable only by pruning.
- Pruning: Firethorn bonsai should not be cut too late in the year, otherwise you will remove a large part of the flower buds. Since the firethorn sprouts well even on old wood after a drastic structural cut, bonsai cutting is uncomplicated.
Bonsai pots |
Flowers, Fruits |
Bark, Roots |
Firethorn bonsai can only be shaped very well by pruning. But wiring a bonsai enables a much more precise design. Therefore, even with a firethorn, wiring the bonsai should be considered as a design technique.
However, caution is required when wiring a firethorn. First, the branches quickly become hard and brittle and break so easily during forming (bending). On the other hand, the thorns can prick properly. Since the firethorn is evergreen the leaves also interfere a little when applying the bonsai wire.
A good way to apply the bonsai wire is to do it after a defoliation of a bonsai. But it is also possible without. The new shoots are best wired at the end of summer. Then they are not too hard yet and the wire can remain on the bonsai tree until next spring.
It is best to use bonsai wire cutter to unwire the bonsai. It is a good way to cut and remove the wire into small pieces.
Most varieties of firethorn have small leaves and, as a bonsai, tolerate a radical cut very well. You can use a sharp bonsai scissors or a concave bonsai cutter to cut the firethorn back into the old wood. The plants then willingly sprout out again. This makes compact growth easy to achieve.
Untrimmed in the field or larger nursery containers, the shoots grow briskly in summer with good fertilization. In this way, a new main branch can be quickly built up or the thickness of the trunk can be improved through sacrificial branches. Varieties with smaller leaves usually grow somewhat slower.
If you are looking for plenty of flowers and fruits next year do not cut too drastically too late. If you cut too much in July-August, you often remove many of the flower buds.
Any shoots that forms far below on the trunk or on cut wounds should be removed early. They can be broken out easily.
The broom shape (Hoki-zukuri) is unsuitable for firethorn bonsai. This type of bonsai is usually designed freely upright (Moyogi) or in the inclined form (Shakan style). But the semi-cascade style, possibly even the cascade style, is suitable, especially if the firethorn bears plenty of fruit.
Matching bonsai pots
Firethorn bonsai with its white flowers and colorful fruits are best to be potted in a glazed bonsai pot. For red fruits, bonsai pots in a shade of blue (complementary color) work well. Firethorn bonsai belong to the mediterranean bonsai, which also tolerate light frosts. Therefore, a frost-proof, handmade bonsai pot should be selected if possible. In our experience, the inexpensive bonsai pots (made for indoor bonsai) are almost 100% frost-resistant. With these pots, however, the frost resistance cannot be 100% guaranteed.
Unglazed bonsai pots are less suitable, but not excluded. If unglazed then the color should match the dark stem. Dark gray or dark brown unglazed pots would fit in some cases. For large bonsai, suitable pots can be found under Large bonsai pots.
Firethorn bonsai with their rounded crown fit quite well in an oval bonsai pot. Rectangular bonsai pots are also suitable, especially if the corners are somewhat rounded. Higher, Bonsai pots plastic round bonsai pot are particularly suitable for firethorn bonsai in a semi-cascade or cascade style. Flat pots should be avoided. The firethorn likes a little more substrate in the pot. Drip trays for bonsai pots are not required because firethorn bonsai should not be cared for in the apartment.
Plastic bonsai pots are suitable for prebonsai in the growing phase. The dark brown color of the pots does not perfectly match the trunk of a firethorn. But these plastic pots are frost-resistant and UV-stable. For 2-3 year old young plants in the cultivation phase, it is best to use plastic plant pots.
Both the white flower umbels in spring and the fruits (depending on the variety yellow, orange or red) are very attractive. The fruits hang on the tree for a very long time (if they are not eaten by birds).
The bark of the firethorn is gray as a young tree. In old age the trunk becomes darker and a little cracked, which is very suitable for a bonsai.
Firethorn has a multitude of different varieties with different colored fruits. It is often difficult to determine the exact varieties.
Two species of bonsai are mostly used: Pyracantha angustifolia from China and Pyracantha coccinea (Mediterranean firethorn) from southern Europe. The Mediterranean firethorn is a little bit more hardy in winter than P.angustifolia. Otherwise, both types are best suited as bonsai.
The firethorn (botanical Pyracantha) belongs to the rose family (Rosaceae). It is in nature a small, evergreen, densely branched shrub with a height of up to 5m. The growth is not too strong.
The Pyracantha genus includes approximately 10 tree species that occur in sparse forests or forest edges from southern Europe to China. The name Pyracantha is derived from Pyros (fire) and Acanthos (thorn) and indicates the red fruits and the presence of pointed thorns.