(Species: Cotoneaster - Family: Rosaceae)
Cotoneaster and its origins
Cotoneasters are members of the rose family and comprise at least 50 species of hardy evergreen and deciduous shrubs that are native to Europe and Asia.
They vary from small, mat-forming shrubs to small trees. Cotoneasters are noteworthy for their red or black berries that follow on from small white flowers. The tightly-packed, alternating leaves on dense branches can be smaller than a fingernail or as large as finger-length.
The name cotoneaster derives from 'cotone', the Latin name for quince, and 'aster', meaning 'resembling'.
There are many ornamental species of cotoneaster that are useful in the garden, due to their attractive growth habit, tough disposition and colourful autumn berries. They are often the solution to a difficult spot where other plants and trees will fail to thrive.
In early summer the shrub produces a mass of pink-budded flat, white flowers and these are followed by berries that last through much of winter, as long as the birds don't eat them. The flowers also attract bees and butterflies, making this shrub a must for the gardener wanting to encourage wildlife.
Choose a cotoneaster to fit a purpose. The popular fishbone C horizontalis is ideal against a house wall; it has scarlet berries and red leaves in autumn. Although it loses its leaves in winter, the herringbone-style branches are still a feature.
For spreading groundcover in shady sites, Cotoneaster dammeri, a prostrate evergreen, is ideal, as it is only about 20cm tall, but will spread for a couple of metres. If you are looking for an attractive specimen tree, or a good screen, choose a Cotoneaster frigidus Cornubia, which is a vigorous plant that produces masses of white flowers in summer and an abundance of clustered red berries in autumn.
Semi-evergreen, autumnal tints appear on the foliage and barring heavy frosts, will continue to grow through winter.
How to plant: Cotoneaster
Cotoneasters are unfussy and accommodating plants. They will tolerate any garden soil and poor conditions, including windy sites and pollution. They are at their best in full sun, although they will thrive in a partly shaded site.
They need little pruning, but are easy enough to clip into shape without harming the growth of the plant.
Their one weak spot is a vulnerability to fireblight, but most garden cotoneasters remain unaffected.
Propagation of Cotoneaster
Take semi-ripe cuttings in late summer. On large-leaved varieties, cut the leaves to reduce transpiration.
Did you know?One kind of cotoneaster, C glaucophyllus, has become an invasive weed in both Australia and California, and another cotoneaster species, C simonise, has been banned from commercial use because of its invasiveness.