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Rockspray Cotoneaster Accents Walls, Covers Slopes

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'Cotoneaster'Photo by Todd Lasseigne

Photo by Todd Lasseigne

Rockspray cotoneaster, Cotoneaster horizontalis, is a lovely plant to consider when you are looking for a plant to cover a bank or drape over a wall. The stem grows in an interesting fishbone or herringbone pattern which creates a flat growth and layered effect that makes it an excellent choice. The plant is also a good selection for rock gardens or to espalier.

This versatile plant brightens fall and winter with its red berries that decorate the stiff, spreading branches. It is generally thought of as semi-evergreen though it sometimes is considered evergreen or deciduous. The plant grows to a height of about 2 to 3 feet with a spread of 5 to 8 feet and has a small, fine-textured green leaf that turns purplish red in fall. In May, it has small, ¼” diameter, whitish pink blooms.

Cotoneaster horizontalis, widely used in England, is worthy of more frequent consideration in our landscapes, particularly for its hardiness and nice features throughout the year. It is related to apples, pears and hawthorns. This cotoneaster grows in zones 6, 7 and 8, and tolerates coastal areas. Because of its sparse root system, plant container-grown plants in well-drained fertile soil in either full sun or partial shade. The plant is a slow grower.

'Cotoneaster'Photo by Robert E. Lyons

Photo by Robert E. Lyons

Some of the possible insect problems are lace bugs, mites and scale. Fire Blight can be a disease problem. If you have a deer problem, though, this plant is a good one to consider as it is not a deer favorite.

A variety to look for is ‘Variegatus’, named for its variegated leaves edged in white which turn to rose red in the fall. Other varieties include ‘Ascendens’, ‘Dart’s Splendid’, ‘Robustus’ and ‘Wilsonii’.

The multiseason landscape value of the cotoneaster sets it apart from many other plant choices. Visit the JC Raulston Arboretum for a look at the rockspray cotoneaster as well as other species worth discovering. Learn more at

Emily Revels