Cotoneaster Guide: How to Grow & Care for These Evergreen Shrubs

Guide to Cotoneaster - everything you will ever need to know! Tips for growing and caring for this evergreen shrub.
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Cotoneaster is a genus that contains about 300 species of familiar-looking flowering plants in the Rosaceae family. These species are native to several Palaearctic regions of north Africa, Europe, and temperate Asia. They have a strong concentration of diversity and can be found growing in the Himalayas and the mountains of southwestern China.

From a large number of species, only a few are highly popular in the gardening world and cultivated as houseplants. These adorable shrubs are grown mostly for their alluring overall look and decorative fruits. Many growers prefer to use them in their gardens as excellent ground covers, formal hedges, or tall foundation plants.

The most common species of Cotoneaster are C. dammeri (Bearberry), C. apiculatus (Cranberry Cotoneaster), C. divaricatus (Spreading Cotoneaster), and C. lucidus (Hedge Cotoneaster). However, one species goes beyond the basic appearance specific to this genus: Cotoneaster horizontalis. This plant mesmerizes gardeners with its shiny foliage, pink to white flowers, and masses of bright red berries, features that gave it the prestigious Award of Garden Merit.

About Cotoneaster Shrubs

  • Cotoneaster species play a big part in the well-being of the environment. They are often used as food by several Lepidoptera larvae, such as winter moth, grey dagger, hawthorn moth, short-cloaked moth, and mottled umber.
  • Their mesmerizing flowers are very attractive to butterflies and bees. Moreover, the fruits are a nice source of food for many species of birds including thrushes and blackbirds.
  • Cotoneaster Microphyllus is often harvested from the wild and used traditionally in several culinary recipes, medicine, and as an excellent source of materials.
  • Due to the interesting color mix between their green leaves and red berries, these plants can look very glamorous in several landscapes and holiday decorations.
  • Cotoneaster plants love days with lots of sunlight, but many species can also tolerate partial and even full shade during hot summers.
  • They are very tolerant of freezing conditions and harsh winters. For optimal growth, slightly cooler temperatures are most suited.
  • These shrubs are pretty strong, but they can fall victims to fire blight. When this disease occurs, survival chances are very low.
  • Although most parts of Cotoneaster plants are not so poisonous, their berries can be quite toxic to children and pets if eaten in large amounts.
  • Cotoneaster species are best suited for perennial borders and rock gardens. They can be grown among other species of flowering plants that have similar environmental requirements.
Cotoneaster Shrub
Cotoneaster Shrub

Cotoneaster Features: An Overview

  • Cotoneaster species are either prostate or large plants. The prostate species are usually alpine plants that occur at high elevations of 9.800-13.100 feet (3.000-4000 m), while the larger ones grow in woodland gaps and scrubs at lower elevations.
  • The species from the Cotoneaster genus are shrubs or small trees that can reach between 1.6 and 16.4 feet (0.5-5 m) in height.
  • These plants produce long shoots that measure from 3.9 to 15.7 inches (10-40 cm) in length and also shorter shoots of 0.20 to 2 inches (0.5-5 cm).
  • The overall growth of branches is structural and appears on the long shoots, while the shorter ones produce lovely flowers. This pattern of branching often develops a ‘herringbone’ form.
  • Their ovate to lanceolate leaves are alternately arranged on stems. Depending on the species, their size can vary and ranges from 0.2 to 5.9 inches (0.5-15 cm) in length.
  • During their blooming period, from late spring to early summer, Cotoneaster plants exhibit solitary or corymb inflorescences of up to 100 flowers. They have five petals that can be half or fully open.
  • Their blooms are very small and come in various shades of white to creamy white, light to dark pink, and even reddish. Sometimes, their foliage can turn into a beautiful mix of red and pink.
  • Cotoneaster plants bear fruits that can resist, on some species, until the following year. They are small pomes of 0.2 to 0.5 inches (5-12 mm) in diameter and tinged orange, bright red, pink, or maroon to black when ripe.
  • Their fruits contain one to three seeds (sometimes five) that can be collected in autumn and used in propagation. The seeds germinate easily in warm and shaded locations.

Growing Cotoneaster

Let’s just take a moment to appreciate these friendly shrubs! Not only do Cotoneaster plants look absolutely splendid, but they are also very easy to grow and care for. As long as you pay attention to their particular demands, you will have no problem with these companions.

In terms of light conditions, most Cotoneaster species grow at their best under full sun exposure. However, several species can also thrive in locations with partial shade. Your shrubs will bloom sporadically and bear fruits if they are protected from harsh sunlight. It is suggested you grow them in a place where they can receive plenty of morning sunlight with some shade in the afternoon.

Cotoneasters are hardy plants that can withstand temperatures that drop to -10 °F (-23 °C). To grow healthy and happy, these shrubs prefer temperatures that range from 41 to 68 °F (5-20 °C) all-year-round.

Berries of the Cotoneaster Shrub
Berries of the Cotoneaster Shrub

Planting Cotoneaster

These shrubs can tolerate a wide range of soil types, from sand to clay, as long as they have excellent drainage. They are susceptible to root rot, so you must plant them in containers with drainage holes at the bottom. For ground cover plants, it is suggested you apply a generous layer of mulch above the substrate when first planting.

Cotoneaster shrubs will benefit from regular fertilizing once every year to boost their growth. Feed your shrubs with compost, commercial sludge, or a slow-release fertilizer that is high in nitrogen during their active growing season.

If you want to maintain a certain size or shape for your Cotoneaster, you can prune it whenever you feel like it. Most species only require light trimming to control diseases or to remove unhealthy and old branches. As a general rule, it is always better to cut off the branches down to the base rather than making them shorter or shearing them.

Although Cotoneaster plants are quite resistant when it comes to pest infestations, they can be occasionally bothered by mealybugs, aphids, or scale insects in summer. If you notice any suspect sign of infestation, you can treat the unhealthy parts with rubbing alcohol, neem oil, or suitable insecticides/pesticides.

Cotoneasters: A Comprehensive Guide to Shrubs for Flowers, Fruit, and Foliage

Watering Cotoneaster Shrubs

In general, all species of shrubs have reasonable demands when it comes to watering and Cotoneasters are no different! These plants require extra attention and regular watering only when they are younger or until they are settled in their new environment. In the first year after planting, you must provide your plants with constant watering.

The best thing about these shrubs is the fact that they are pretty tolerant of drought and can do well with regular watering only once every week. However, if you live in a region with hot climates, things may be slightly different. During the summer months, the ground is usually dry, so your Cotoneaster plants will need water more often than usual.

When you grow Cotoneaster plants indoors in pots, they may require frequent watering. Make sure you always check the soil in-between waterings to avoid soggy conditions. Although they are thirsty plants, you should water them only when the top layer of soil feels dry to the touch.

Propagating Cotoneaster

We know that these shrubs are fabulous and pretty hard to resist, so you surely want to learn more about propagating them. This will be a great way to share these plants with your family members and friends. Thanks to their festive appearance, they can make for an excellent gift to surprise your beloved ones for the holidays. Well, we come along with great news! Cotoneaster plants can be propagated pretty easily through softwood cuttings no matter how experienced are you in the garden!

Cotoneaster cashmiriensis
Cotoneaster cashmiriensis

The cuttings will respond well to propagation if they are taken in early summer when the plants are most vigorous. Look for long, healthy stems and cut them from the mother plant using a sharp and sterilized knife. Remove the leaves found on the bottom half of the stems, making sure you let six to eight pairs of leaves untouched. For optimal results, the cuttings must be dipped in rooting hormone before planting.

Fill a container with fresh potting soil and place the cuttings in the substrate. You should provide the branches with a natural material that can serve as a support. If you place the propagating medium in a warm and bright location, the cuttings should develop a healthy root system after five to seven weeks. Once this period has ended, you can transplant each baby Cotoneaser into the garden or its own pot.

In Conclusion

With their lovely foliage and blooms, Cotoneaster plants are a must-have in every gardener’s collection. They are very easy to grow and care for, making them the perfect choice for any type of gardener, especially beginners.

With proper care and lots of love, these shrubs can be the center of interest both indoors and outdoors. And the most important detail: they are loyal lifetime companions that will show their gratitude through gorgeous flowers and colorful fruits!

Are you growing Cotoneaster? Share your experience in the comments!


Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact

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