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Cotoneaster horizontalis
Cotoneaster horizontalis

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Zones A3, 2B, 3-11, 14-24, 31-41
Full Sun
Regular WaterMinimal Water
Moderate, Minimal

Cotoneaster horizontalis

Rock Cotoneaster
Deciduous, Ground covers, Decorative fruit or berries


Varied natives to China, Himalayas, and northern India. Plants range from low types used as groundcovers to small, stiffly upright shrubs to tall (25 ft.) shrubs of fountainlike growth with graceful, arching branches. White or pink springtime flowers resembling tiny single roses are pretty because of their abundance, though not especially showy. Berries (typically red or orange-red) follow the blossoms in fall and winter. Some species can be invasive, spreading by seeds into wild areas.

Cotoneasters are useful, if not striking, shrubs and can be good-looking in the proper setting. Some are especially attractive in form and branching pattern (C. congestus, C. horizontalis), while some others (C. microphyllus) are notable for colorful fruit that is long lasting if birds don’t get it. Trailing varieties make excellent groundcovers. Low horizontal kinds die out in desert heat.

All cotoneasters thrive with little or no maintenance. In fact, they look better and produce better crops of berries if planted on dry slopes (where they can reduce erosion) or in poor soil rather than in rich, moist garden soil. While some medium and tall growers can be sheared, they look best when allowed to maintain natural fountain shapes. Prune only to enhance graceful arch of branches. Keep medium growers looking young by pruning out portion of oldest wood each year. Prune groundcovers to remove dead or awkward branches. Give flat growers room to spread. Don’t plant near walk or drive where branch ends will need stubbing. Some cotoneasters are susceptible to fireblight.

Cotoneaster horizontalis (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)
Cotoneaster horizontalis (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)

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Cotoneaster horizontalis

Deciduous. Grows to 2–3 ft. tall and 15 ft. wide, with stiff horizontal branches and many branchlets set in a herringbone pattern. Small, roundish, bright green leaves turn orange and red before falling. Leafless period may be brief. Showy red fruit. Effective when given enough room to spread; disfigured by cutting branches short to accommodate traffic. Fine bank cover or low traffic barrier.

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