Content Detail

Rock cotoneaster is a low spreading shrub often used as a ground cover or left to spill over slopes and ledge walls. The densely branched plant has glossy, dark green foliage, deep red fruits and reddish purple fall color.

  • Family (English) Rose
  • Family (botanic) Rosaceae
  • Tree or plant type Ground cover, Shrub
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Low-growing shrub (under 3 feet), Small shrub (3-5 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Clay soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought, Road salt
  • Season of interest early fall, early summer, late fall, late spring, late summer, mid fall, mid spring, midsummer
  • Flower color and fragrance Pink
  • Shape or form Arching, Creeping, Mounded
  • Growth rate Moderate, Slow

Size and Method of spreading:

Rock cotoneaster is a low shrub reaching 2 to 3 feet tall and spreading 6 to 8 feet wide. The horizontal branches create a dense layer effect, similar to a ground cover.  This is a trailing plant that can be used as a low-growing shrub or ground cover.   Trailing groundcovers have trailing stems that spread out from the central root system.  These stems spread out horizontally over the ground, but do not root to the ground.

Native geographic location and habitat: 

Western China

Bark color and texture: 

Finely textured branching, in a herringbone that pattern creates a layered effect.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture: 

The alternate leaves are  rounded to elliptical, 1/2-inch long, dark green above, lighter beneath.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size: 

Small, 1/4-inch pink flowers in late May.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions: 

Bright red, showy, 1/4-inch diameter fruit (pomes) in late summer.

Plant care:

Rock cotoneaster does best in full sun. Good drainage is important. It can be used in container planting but will require winter protection.  Can be pruned anytime to keep in bounds.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

Leaf spots, cankers, rust and fire blight.  Tolerant of poor soil, salt and dry soils once established.

Hesse Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster x ‘Hessei’):

Hesse cotoneaster is considered a hybrid between Cotoneaster horizontalis and Cotoneaster adpressus var. praecox.  It is a low-growing shrub reaching 1 to 2 feet high.  A Chicagoland Grows™ introduction.


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