Cotoneasters make useful garden shrubs and small trees, with most of them growing well in sun and partial shade. They bear a long season of interest thanks to their prolific summer flowers followed by deep red berries, which remain on the plant from autumn through winter. Many species have beautiful autumn foliage.
Cotoneaster flowers are a magnet for bees and the berries are eaten by birds.
How to grow cotoneasters
Most cotoneasters thrive in moist but well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Some require pruning back after fruiting. Mulch annually with well-rotted manure, compost or leaf mould.
More on growing cotoneasters:
While they make excellent garden plants, some species of cotoneaster are listed as an invasive, non-native species on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act in England and Wales. This doesn’t prevent cotoneasters from being sold in garden centres and nurseries, but we would encourage you to grow your plants responsibly, careful disposing of cotoneaster prunings within your garden rather than putting them in your green bin, and choosing alternative species where possible. We’ve listed six cotoneasters to grow, below, two of which are listed as invasive.
Himalayan cotoneaster is a semi-evergreen shrub with an upright habit. Like most cotoneasters, it bears pretty white flowers in summer, followed by large, red berries. Its dark foliage develops orange-red colouring in autumn. It can be grown on its own as a shrub but works well as a hedge. Native to the Himalayas, Cotoneaster simonsii is cold tolerant and will retain most of its leaves throughout winter in most regions of the British Isles.
Himalayan cotoneaster is listed as invasive in Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act in England and Wales. Take care when growing it, especially if you live near a waterway or in a rural area, or consider another cotoneaster as an alternative.
Height x Spread: 2m x 2m
Beautiful cotoneaster is a densely branched evergreen shrub, with arching stems and a low-growing habit. Its small, dark green leaves are covered in fine hairs when young, giving them a silvery sheen. White summer flowers are followed by red berries that last well into winter. Native to south-east China, it’s hardy in all but the coldest British winters. Best grown on its own as a shrub.
H x S: 1.5m x 1.5m
Cotoneaster rhytidophyllus is an evergreen cotoneaster, bearing long, pointed leaves with downy felting underneath, on arching stems. In late-spring to summer it bears clusters of white flowers, followed in autumn by orange fruit that ages to red. Hardy throughout most of the British Isles, it’s best grown as a shrub or small tree.
H x S: 2m x 2m
Tibetan cotoneaster is a low-growing, evergreen shrub suitable for growing en masse beneath trees or in hard-to-grow areas, or using as a low hedge. It has small, dark green, glossy oval leaves. In summer masses of tiny, white star-shaped flowers are followed by large, orange-red round berries.
H x S: 1.5m x 2m
Cotoneaster frigidus ‘Cornubia’
Cotoneaster frigidus ‘Cornubia’ is one of the largest cotoneasters available, often forming an enormous bushy shrub but it can also be trained into a standard tree. It bears masses of dense clusters of white flowers in summer, followed by large, vivid red berries in autumn and throughout winter. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
H x S: 6m x 4.5m
Cotoneaster horizontalis is typically grown against a wall or fence, due to the characteristic herringbone pattern of its stems. It grows well in shade, although it flowers and fruits much better in full sun.
Wall spray cotoneaster is listed as invasive in Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act in England and Wales. Take care when growing it, especially if you live near a waterway or in a rural area, or consider another cotoneaster as an alternative.
H x S: 1m x 2m