April, 2020: Cotoneaster
Longmont Colorado area landscapes – plant of the month
Cotoneaster is a diverse genus of shrub. There are perhaps as many as 300 species of Cotoneaster described, some of which are low growing and will creep along the ground, others are more upright, growing to 12-15’ in height. They are characterized by a small ovate leaf, usually darker green in summer and somewhat leathery in texture. Their fall color is reddish to yellow/orange turning bronze in late fall. Some try to hold leaves late into the fall and early winter, but in Colorado eventually fall off with heavy freezes and wind. They are also characterized by beautiful spring flowers, either white, or pink, that give way to bright red berries in summer that turn dark in fall.
Cotoneaster are rather easy to establish in our Longmont, Colorado landscapes, are drought tolerant once established, and are adaptable to a wide variety of soil types. They do best with a rich, loamy soil mixture and don’t like to be too wet. Their care is rather easygoing. The upright shrub pictured here was heavily pruned 3-4 years ago, and has resumed a nice shape. In a few more years, it will take on a nice vase shape naturally. It can be important to rake up the berries and leaves under the tree in late fall due to the possibility of fireblight, though it is less common in Colorado than other wetter parts of the country. The low, spreading species will often re-root as the leaders leap to the surrounding ground and it can spread and become a nice 2’ high ground cover. With so many species of Cotoneaster, every landscape should have one or two varieties. Plant a few in your landscape and see how they add character, color and texture.
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Photos by Leonora Enkingon on Flickr and Keith Williamson of Little Valley Wholesale Nursery in Brighton, CO near Longmont.