How to Plant and Grow Cotoneaster

Many varieties of this plant show off spectacular colors in the fall.

Cotoneaster's small deep-green leaves make an attractive backdrop for many other plants. This perennial 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. Hardy in Zones 4-7, they usually last well into winter as long as birds don't eat them.

Many varieties of deciduous cotoneaster also exhibit spectacular fall color in glowing shades of orange, red, and purple.

Cotoneaster Overview

Genus Name Cotoneaster
Common Name Cotoneaster
Plant Type Shrub
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 5 to 15 feet
Flower Color Pink, Red, White
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Colorful Fall Foliage, Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom, Winter Interest
Special Features Attracts Birds, Low Maintenance
Zones 4, 5, 6, 7
Propagation Layering, Seed, Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant, Groundcover, Slope/Erosion Control

Where to Plant Cotoneaster

Opt for a site with well-draining soil. 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.

How and When to Plant Cotoneaster

Plant cotoneaster in the fall when the soil is still warm from summer. Make sure the soil is moist as well. Be thoughtful about where you plant cotoneaster because they don't do well if transplanted. Ground cover plants should be 3 to 5 feet apart, and hedges should be planted 6 feet apart to allow for the plant's natural spread. Use the container the plants came in from the garden store to measure the depth of the hole they need. Add mulch to prevent weeds since weeding will be challenging once they begin to grow as groundcover.

Cotoneaster Care Tips

Cotoneaster is a tough shrub that stands up to harsh conditions including drought, unstable soil,  salt spray, and chilling high winds.


Plant cotoneaster where there's full sun for the best berry growth, or partial shade. Full sun will also produce the most vivid fall colors.

Soil and Water

For best results, plant cotoneaster in average, well-drained soil that's amended with compost. Soil can have a pH of five to eight—this shrub will adapt to whatever it's planted in. Don't let cotoneaster remain too wet, as rot can be a problem. Water it when it gets dry, and if there's a prolonged period without rain, water it as needed.

Temperature and Humidity

Cotoneaster is hardy in cooler Zones 4-8 and does best in temperatures no higher than 68ºF. It's considered deciduous in Zones 4-6 and evergreen in Zones 7-8. It can withstand freezing temperatures through winter and reemerge healthy and ready to flourish in spring.


Other than compost, cotoneaster doesn't need fertilizer.


Prune cotoneaster for aesthetic reasons if it begins to look unruly or is spreading too much for your garden. It will plant roots when branches reach the ground, so periodically check for new rooting branches to keep its spread manageable. Be sure to trim branches at the base and not the tip to ensure a consistent look of your shrub.

It's easier to remove dead branches before new growth in early spring or late fall.

Potting and Repotting Cotoneaster

To plant cotoneaster in a container, choose one that's large enough to accommodate its growth habits. Depending on which type you choose, your plant will either grow horizontally as ground cover or vertically as a climber. Their root system needs room to grow, so space is essential.

When you grow cotoneaster in a pot, it will produce fewer flowers and trademark berries than when planted in the ground.

Pests and Problems

Some problems for cotoneaster include fireblight, leaf spot, and canker. Remove any branches with signs of fireblight or leaf spot to protect the plant from further infection, and spray with a fungicide for leaf spot. Root rot can occur with too much watering.

Pests that can be destructive to cotoneasters include cotoneaster webworm, sap feeders, leaf feeders, and borers. Use the appropriate insecticide to rid your shrub of these insects.

How to Propagate Cotoneaster

To propagate cotoneaster, take stem cuttings in the summer. Choose side shoots and cut beneath the leaf node. Strip the lower leaves off the stem and plant in a gripping plant medium. Cover the stem with a plastic bag or dome. Site it in a bright location, and when new shoots begin to appear, remove the plastic. Continue to grow indoors until spring, when it can be transferred to your yard.

Types of Cotoneaster

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 that can 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.

Cotoneaster dammeri

Cotoneaster dammeri
Denny Schrock

Cotoneaster dammeri is a low growing, spreading variety that makes a great groundcover. White flowers lead to red berries. Zones 5-8

Cotoneaster divaricatus

Cotoneaster divaricatus

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

Cotoneaster lucidus
Marty Baldwin

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

Cotoneaster procumbens
Marty Baldwin

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

Rockspray cotoneaster

Rockspray cotoneaster

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

Cranberry cotoneaster

Cranberry cotoneaster
Marty Baldwin

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

Creeping cotoneaster

Creeping cotoneaster
Peter Krumhardt

Cotoneaster adpressus features large, showy fruit and a mounding habit, making it a favorite of gardeners. It grows 1 foot tall and 6 feet wide. Zones 4-6

Companion Plants for Cotoneaster


lilac flowers
Ed Gohlich

Lilac is a tall-growing shrub and its scent adds a nice touch to a garden. Zones 3-7


Spiraea japonica 'Little Princess' with rose pink flowers
Lynn Karlin

The colorful foliage of spirea and its height makes it a good complement to cotoneaster groundcover. Zones 5-9

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do birds like cotoneaster?

    Cotoneaster will attract welcome wildlife to your yard. Birds are drawn to its berries, as are butterflies and pollinators like bees. Fortunately, deer don't eat these shrubs.

  • Can cotoneasters be grown indoors?

    Some cotoneasters can grow indoors and can be trained and pruned like bonsai. Cotoneaster microphyllus is a good option for bonsai.

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