With its sprawling, low-growing habit, cotoneaster makes an excellent groundcover. Some varieties of this versatile shrub have upright growth habits. No matter which variety you choose, cotoneaster boasts rich, deep-green foliage with colorful berries that last from fall through winter.
Cotoneaster's small deep-green leaves make an attractive backdrop for many other plants. This shrub can blend into the background or soften the edges of the garden. In spring, cotoneaster is covered in small 5-petal blossoms in shades of white and pink. As these flowers begin to fade, a heavy display of berries takes their place; sometimes the whole plant is covered with them. Most varieties bear red berries, although some types bear golden yellow berries. They usually last well into winter, as long as they are not eaten by birds. Many varieties of deciduous cotoneaster also exhibit spectacular fall color in glowing shades of orange, red, and purple.
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Upright and Creeping Types
Low-growing, spreading varieties of cotoneaster work well as woody groundcovers. Such plants typically feature stems that arch, cascade, and even grow horizontally. When these stems touch the ground, they often root. This characteristic helps cotoneaster form dense colonies with an ability to choke out weeds. Less common upright types of cotoneaster feature all the same characteristics but can be trained as hedges. Many of these species are evergreen or semi-evergreen in warmer climates, which means they can create long-lasting attractive screens.
Related: 30 Easy Groundcovers for Your Garden
Cotoneaster Care Must-Knows
Cotoneaster is known for handling tough conditions, including poor soil. For best results, however, plant cotoneaster in average, well-drained soil. Keep this plant from staying too wet, as rot can be a problem.
When planted in full sun, cotoneaster develops the densest branching, deepest green foliage, and largest amount of flowers and berries. Full sun also promotes the best showing of fall color. While this plant won't be at its best when planted in part shade, it will still manage to flower and bear fruit. Some cotoneasters can survive in conditions that border on full shade.
More Varieties of Cotoneaster
Cotoneaster dammeri is a low growing, spreading variety that makes a great groundcover. White flowers lead to red berries. Zones 5-8
Cotoneaster divaricatus is an upright form of cotoneaster that works well as a hedge. White flowers turn to red berries in the fall with lasting fall color. Zones 4-7
Cotoneaster lucidus is a shrub variety which tolerates shaping, making it an excellent hedge. Small pink blooms give way to dark red, almost black, berries in fall. Zones 3-7
Cotoneaster procumbens spreads to 6 feet wide but only 4 inches tall. The dark green foliage shows tinges of purple when young. It has white flowers in summer. Zones 6-8
Cotoneaster horizontalis offers a straight-as-an-arrow branch pattern, pink flowers, and purplish fall color. It grows 3 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Zones 5-7
Cotoneaster apiculatus forms shrubby, 3-foot-tall mounds of dense, dark green foliage, with long-lasting red berries in fall and winter. Zones 4-7