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, whilst other varieties produce an attractive ‘herringbone’ pattern with their branches.
Evergreen, semi-evergreen and deciduous varieties are available, with Cotoneaster 'Juliette' being a fine variegated semi-evergreen. For winter interest, Cotoneaster Lacteus is an excellent choice, being both evergreen and having red berries that often last into winter.
The 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 also come in shades of cream, pink and red tones. The 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. We recommend Cotoneaster frigidus salicifolia 'Exburiensis' for unusual yellow berries.
Cotoneaster are renowned for being easy to grow and are suited to most soils. They are hardy, with some species growing at up to 4,000 metres above sea level in the Himalayas. Most varieties require a position in full or partial sun. Pruning can be carried out at any time of year, but the dormant season (autumn/winter) is preferable.
Cotoneaster are of huge value to wildlife, with the flowers attracting bees and butterflies, the fruits being eaten by birds and the plants being popular amongst moths.
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.