The interesting branching patterns of cotoneasters make attractive bonsai.

Cotoneaster Varieties

by Lynn Doxon

Ornamental cotoneasters (Cotoneaster spp.) range from very low-growing, spreading groundcovers to tall specimen and hedge plants. They may be evergreen, semi-evergreen or deciduous. Cotoneasters are members of the rose family and have tiny single or double white or pink flowers. Most are native to Asia. All grow well in moist, well-drained alkaline soil.

Groundcover Cotoneasters

Rockspray cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis) grows 12 to 18 inches high and spreads up to 8 feet. Small pink flowers in the spring produce bright red fruit in the fall. It is deciduous, showing off a herringbone branching pattern when the leaves fall. The evergreen creeping cotoneaster (Cotoneaster adpressus) also grows 12 to 18 inches tall but spreads 4 to 6 feet. Both grow best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 though 7. Another spreading evergreen, bearberry cotoneaster (Cotoneaster dammeri) is hardy in USDA zones 5 to 7.

Short Spreading Cotoneasters

Some cotoneasters are taller than groundcovers but still spread over large areas. Wintergreen cotoneaster (Cotoneaster conspicuous) is semi-evergreen and hardy in USDA zones 6 and 7. It grows 3 to 4 feet tall and can spread up to 8 feet. Littleleaf cotoneaster can be 3 feet tall and 10 feet across. It is evergreen and grows in USDA zones 5 to 7. Deciduous Hessei cotoneaster (Cotoneaster x Hessei) is one of the most cold hardy. It grows in USDA zones 3 to 7, becoming 2 to 3 feet tall and 5 to 6 feet wide.

Medium-Height Cotoneasters

Medium-height cotoneasters make good specimen plants, borders or trimmed hedges. Spreading cotoneaster (Cotoneaster divericatus) grows 5 to 6 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide. The outer branches tend to be long and arching. It grows in zones 4 to 7 and is deciduous. Black cotoneaster (Cotoneaster melanocarpa) grows in USDA zones 5 to 7. This deciduous plant is 3 to 6 feet tall and wide with black-red fruit.

Tall Cotoneasters

Willow leaf cotoneaster (Cotoneaster salicifolia), hardy to USDA zones 6 and 7; Parney cotoneaster (Cotoneaster lacteus), in USDA zones 6 to 8; many-flowered Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster multiflorus), USDA zones 4 to 7; and hedge cotoneaster (Cotoneaster lucidus), zones 3 to 6, all grow to more than 10 feet tall. These taller plants tend to be upright, arching shrubs for borders, hedges and and screens. Willow leaf and Parney are evergreen; many-flowered and hedge cotoneasters are deciduous.

About the Author

Lynn Doxon has a Ph.D. in horticulture, is a retired cooperative extension specialist and teaches courses in urban farming. She is the author of three books: "The Alcohol Fuel Handbook," "High Desert Yards and Gardens" and "Rainbows from Heaven." Doxon wrote the Yard and Garden column for the "Albuquerque Journal" and numerous magazine and newspaper articles and cooperative extension service guides.

Photo Credits

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