One positive thing about cotoneasters is that many people call them cotton-easters, which is always good for a chuckle. But the party ends there. Except for a few species (noted below), cotoneasters typically look pretty dreadful in the Southern landscape. Prostrate types used for ground covers aren't dense enough to discourage weeds and grass. They mainly serve to snag litter. Young plants can look nice, as white or pinkish springtime flowers give rise to abundant orange or red berries in fall and winter. But susceptibility to spider mites, fireblight, and other pests send these Asian natives downhill fastwhich is ironic, considering that they're favorites for carpeting banks in front of hotels and shopping malls. Taller, arching types perform much better and are worthwhile additions to the home garden.
C. apiculatus. CRANBERRY COTONEASTER. Deciduous. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Best in cold-winter areas. Dense grower to 3 ft. tall, 6 ft. wide. Small, round, medium-green leaves turn deep red in fall. Clustered fruits are about the size of large cranberries. Can take some shade. Use as bank cover, hedge, background planting. Tolerates alkaline soil.
C. dammeri. BEARBERRY COTONEASTER. Evergreen. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Fast, prostrate growth to 36 in. tall, 10 ft. wide. Branches root along ground. Bright, glossy green leaves; bright red fruit. 'Coral Beauty' is 6 in. tall; 'Eichholz', 1012 in. tall with a scattering of red-orange leaves in fall; 'Lowfast', 1 ft. tall; 'Mooncreeper' grows 810 in. high and has large flowers. 'Skogsholmen', ft. tall. All are good ground covers in sun or partial shade and can drape over walls, cascade down slopes. Susceptible to fireblight, lacebugs.
C. franchetii. FRANCHET COTONEASTER. Evergreen. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Arching growth to 10 ft. tall, 69 ft. wide. Leaves are grayish green when new, maturing to bright green; undersides are fuzzy. Pink-tinged white flowers in clusters of up to 20 are followed by orange-red berries. Good performer in the Southeast.
C. glaucophyllus. GRAYLEAF COTONEASTER. Evergreen. Zones MS, LS; USDA 7-8. To 68 ft. tall and broad, with gracefully arching branches clothed in gray-green foliage. Dense clusters of white flowers are followed by dark red berries. Attractive in shrub beds or as informal hedge. Tolerates alkaline soil.
C. horizontalis. ROCK COTONEASTER. Deciduous. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Can be 23 ft. tall, 15 ft. wide, with stiff horizontal branches, many branchlets set in herringbone pattern. Leaves are small, round, bright green; turn orange and red before falling. Out of leaf very briey. Showy red fruits. Give it room to spread. Fine bank cover or low trafc barrier. 'Variegatus' has leaves edged in white. C. h. perpusillus is smaller, more compact than species.
C. lacteus (C. parneyi). BRIGHTBEAD COTONEASTER. Evergreen. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Graceful, arching habit to 8 ft. or taller, 10 ft. or wider, with dark green leaves 2 in. long, clustered white owers, and a heavy crop of long-lasting red fruit in 2- to 3-in. clusters. Best as informal hedge, screen, or espalier. Can be clipped as formal hedge, but form suffers. Best cotoneaster for the Southeast.
C. salicifolius. WILLOWLEAF COTONEASTER. Evergreen or semievergreen. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Erect, spreading shrub, 1518 ft. high and wide, with narrow, dark green, 1- to 312-in.-long leaves and bright red fruits. Graceful screening or background plant. Better known are trailing forms used as ground covers. Compact, small-leafed 'Emerald Carpet' is 1215 in. tall, spreading to 8 ft. wide; 'Autumn Fire' ('Herbstfeuer') grows to 23 ft. tall and 8 ft. wide. 'Repens' is similar; it is sometimes grafted to another cotoneaster species and grown as a weeping tree. Very susceptible to lacebugs.