Cotoneaster are popular for their year round interest which can include brightly coloured winter berries, pretty white flowers and evergreen foliage. They grow in a variety of architectural forms, from compact small trees to elegant weeping trees. Cotoneaster are also favoured because they are easy to grow and require minimal pruning which can be done at any time of year.
With around 300 species of Cotoneaster, this is a versatile genus that can differ hugely between varieties and is suited to a range of garden situations. Cotoneaster plants can be small trees, shrubs and ground cover, with some varieties suitable for training flat against a wall or used as hedging.
They are commonly used for landscaping due to their architectural forms, with weeping Cotoneasters boasting slender, arching branches and other varieties producing attractive ‘herringbone’ patterns with theirs. In gardens, they are favoured for their year round interest, with varieties being evergreen through to deciduous. Cotoneaster 'Juliette' is of particular note for its variegated semi-evergreen foliage.
Flowers are produced in late spring through early summer and can emerge as solitary flowers or clustered together in masses, depending on the variety. Often white, the flat-petalled flowers can have hints of cream, pink or red and attract both bees and butterflies. Cotoneaster frigidus 'Cornubia' is a favourite, producing an abundance of white flowers in clusters.
Colourful berries develop later in the year and on certain varieties are long-lasting, adorning the branches until the following year and giving great winter interest. Cotoneaster berries can be coloured bright red, orange, yellow or pink and are enjoyed by many birds, particularly thrushes and waxwings. We recommend Cotoneaster frigidus salicifolia 'Exburiensis' for unusual yellow berries.
Cotoneaster are renowned for being easy to grow and are hardy, with some species growing up to 4,000 metres above sea level in the Himalayas. They are suited to most soils as long as it is not waterloggged and require a position in full or partial sun. Water Cotoneaster when establishing, then going forwards they will only need watering in periods of drought.
Pruning can be carried out at any time of year, but the dormant season (autumn/winter) is preferable. Most varieties do not require frequent pruning, but they can withstand heavy pruning if desired.
The name Cotoneaster comes from the Latin for quince ('cotoneum') and for resembling ('aster'). They are flowering plants from the rose family, Rosaceae, closely related to Hawthorns, Firethorns, Rowans and Photinias. Unlike the related Hawthorn and Firethorn, Cotoneaster are delightfully thorn free. They are native to Europe, temperate Asia and North Africa.