why do I hate my cotoneasters?

mayalena(6 - MetroWest Boston)April 27, 2005

Because...they're taking room away from other shrubs and perennials, and they're woody and brownish -- but they're also easy. I am thinking of getting rid of it, but am I missing some other virtues?

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Glad you brought this up - I hate mine too! Mine are always getting out of bounds, and they usually look downright messy. Makes me wonder if they are supposed to be cut to the ground occasionally ... or at least near to the ground. Suppose this would be the time to try that.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2005 at 1:45PM
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mayalena(6 - MetroWest Boston)

Good idea. I think I'll try that!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2005 at 6:25PM
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Witchhazel_MA(z6 MA)

Wow. I love my cottoneaster! Especially paired with spreading blue juniper, euonymous and potentilla. I planted cotoneaster horizontalis (Rockspray) with great results.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2005 at 8:37PM
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They can be boring it's true, but flowers are loved by honey bees (in my Irish garden anyway) and the berries by birds in the winter. I have planted a clematis that I'm hoping with scramble through the cotoneaster during the summer and cheer it up during its dull summer stage.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2005 at 10:12AM
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smlechten(6 (STL))

I'm not overly knowledgeable about gardening, a recent and self-admitted "reluctant" gardener, but I'd like to share my opinion of cotoneaster. I inherited mine from the previous owner (and avid gardener) of my home. I hated them also, for all the same reasons: they looked brambly, woody and unkempt. I didn't know what they were, just that I didn't like them. I finally decided I must do something in the yard and started hacking away at whatever shrubs I didn't like or had started to die. I was too lazy to dig up the cotoneaster, so I hacked them down to the ground and removed as much of the quite thick stem systems as I could with a pruning shears, figuring that I'd killed them and would dig up the remaining root eventually. Well, don't you know they came back the following year, healthier and nicer than ever. So I took a clipping to the nursery and they explained what they were and that I was supposed to cut them back when they die (hibernate really) late each fall. They do have nice summer flowers and color, and appear to be very easy to grow, drought resistant, virtually indestructible. I'm still not overly partial to their branchy look and the sort of waxy leaf, so I'm not sure if I'll keep them forever, but they have a reprieve for now as they appeal to my desire for low maintenance landscape that is not delicate. I plan to cut back the entire stem (which is pretty thick now) late this fall and see how they look. They are much more appealing without that tall woody look and I do like them closer to the ground. Mine are growing and thriving on almost complete neglect in a partial sun area which has some shade from a gigantic spruce tree.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2005 at 9:11PM
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rockman50(6b SEMASS)

There is an evergreen variety cotoneaster I have seen growing quite nicely as a ground cover in the Bridgewater, MA area (zone 6). Last week it was quite spectacular-covered with small white flowers. And it hugs the ground and tends to stay more compact than others. NOt sure if this variety will survive in zone 5 however.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2005 at 3:28PM
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I have a large mass planting of C. 'Coral Beauty' on a sunny bank trailing over a short retaining wall. It serves as an eye resting place in between other busier gardens, so I guess it is doing its job, but it sure does take over. The more I trim it back to not totally hide the wall or to overtake the Japanese Maple at its other edge, the faster it seems to grow.

One late summer/fall I got really into cutting it back a LOT and removing huge chunks of it. Well, the next spring I saw that it had tons of winter dieback. That was the first time I ever had winter issues with it in 10 years. I surmised that it put out new growth late that did not harden off before winter. So if you are going to cut yours back, the earlier in the season the better.

It also is HORRIBLE (as are most groundcovers) for trapping fallen leaves. They are impossible to get rid of. I've tried many tricks but nothing works well. I guess this problem only applies to a large mass planting like I've got (10' x 30' or so)

    Bookmark   June 20, 2005 at 10:28PM
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I just noticed how nice my cotoneasters look - they're blooming now, and are actually pulling their weight in the garden! Next spring, at the first sign of growth, however, they're going to get lopped back to within an inch (maybe 2) of their trunks. I agree that the leaf-trapping thing makes them look pretty bad in late fall! Maybe a big net would work...

    Bookmark   June 21, 2005 at 10:00PM
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Re: netting for leaves. Tried it. The plastic bird netting type and also a cotton fishnet type. It certainly keeps the leaves off the cotonies, but putting it on (trying to minimize visibility) and getting the leaves off of it in the spring is horrible. My next tactic is looking for neighborhood kids :-)

if you cut them back early in spring, you will lose the flowers for the year and hence the berries in the fall. But its a good sacrifice once in a while to keep them in bounds.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2005 at 7:13PM
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Oh, I was thinking of putting the netting on above the foliage, sort of like row covers, just for the few weeks when the darn maple leaves are falling. I'm sure I'll never get around to trying it, always too busy in the fall!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2005 at 7:24PM
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Cotoneasters are actually WONDERFUL for birds. I'm looking forward to seeing winter birds feast on the berries. And I've planted mine along a fence on a slight slope, which means they'll fill that space very nicely.

loved them since childhood...

    Bookmark   June 22, 2005 at 7:47PM
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Yes, temporary fall netting would work. I get my falling leaves quite late - oak -- and I get snow quite early :-(

    Bookmark   June 22, 2005 at 8:29PM
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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

I feel guilty for feeling snarky about cotoneasters, but I regret putting in the low groundcover type I planted 3 years ago. They look ratty in the winter, and don't really add to the landscape the rest of the year. But I haven't had the gumption to pull them out.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2005 at 10:31AM
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smlechten(6 (STL))

I realize I'm not in NE, but I do have cotoneaster, and a similar climate here in Cleveland. My husband is originally from Boston, so we're all Patriots fans now and he is still a huge Red Sox fan if that helps. I've never seen any berries on my cotoneaster. I agree, mine seem to have come back stronger since I pruned to the ground this year. Mine stay pretty close to the ground, and have small coral flowers. They don't do much in winter and do trap leaves, so I plan to prune after the first leaf fall in Autumn. Then I can clean the bed nicely before the snows hit. I know the bed will look empty around my big Spruce, but who will know under our 6-8 inches of snow from Nov - April? Does anyone know if pruning them way back in the late fall will be a major problem or seriously harm them. I think I pruned them some in the fall before and they're still here. I suppose I can try it anyway, I'm not married to the idea of keeping them so I don't have much to lose.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2005 at 8:18PM
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mayalena(6 - MetroWest Boston)

SMLECHTEN -- see Wendy B's June 20th posting about winter dieback after fall pruning. You might not want to prune so hard then?
I did cut mine back fairly aggressively in late April after I got that advice on this post, and have since spent lots of time pulling out more and more and MORE dead leaves from under the remaining branches. But they do look better. I'll try harder to notice the berries and birds next winter, and maybe I'll like them more....
Right now, I am actually hating my roses instead! They are very light pink, and right next to a very native-looking, very creamy kousa dogwood. The colors and moods they evoke are so different, but that should be another post....

    Bookmark   June 23, 2005 at 8:42PM
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Am thinking of a combo of golden privet and cotoneaster for a long privacy hedge along the road in front of the house.
Is the main complaint that they look informal (ok by me I'm in the country) or that the leaves thin etc. ?
I am looking for a low to no maintenance hedge that will be dense enough at the bottom to keep the road ditch weeds from invading the front yard - and be ok in an exposed windy site in Nebraska which says to be 5a but is very close to zone 4.
Not many trees out here to catch leaves:) but I'm concertned it won't get high enough. The road is above the house and everyone coming down around the curve gets a nice long look:(

    Bookmark   October 9, 2005 at 12:10PM
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mayalena(6 - MetroWest Boston)

Hmmm. My cotoneasters are hardly 12 inches high -- at best -- so I probably wouldn't choose whatever variety I have for a privacy hedge. Is there a taller variety?
I no longer hate mine, btw. They just need to be in the right place...like everything else, right?

    Bookmark   October 9, 2005 at 9:46PM
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eata(15/16 Calif)

The Sunset Western Gardener has about 12 varieties of cottoneaster that varies in height from a few inches to eight feet and various growth patterns. Can't really decide what will look best for a ground cover between a wall and the edge of a road (~16'). Suggestions??

    Bookmark   December 25, 2005 at 10:44AM
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The cotoneasters at this site are gorgeous!!


Here is a link that might be useful: Google Images

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 9:27AM
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To those who have complained about winter dieback of cotoneasters: Take a close look at the lower stems of the affected branches. You may find the bark has been gnawed off, most likely by voles. This pesky (and under-estimated) varmint loves to hibernate under branchy shrubs, and can do all manner of destruction to plant branches. No real solution, but clearing away the leaves and litter under plants can reduce the problem, as well as not allowing snow to pile up over plants for long periods of time. Ground squirrels do the same damage. They also girdle lower branches of many spreading shrubs, like junipers. So don't blame the plant, if this happens.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 10:54AM
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20 years ago I battled rangy C.'s. Then I noticed the beauty of the berries and the symmetry of the branches when they grew against a wall and decided they would make a great plant along a gray concrete foundation. With pruning I was able to achieve an eye-catching solution out of an eyesore (the C.'s and the foundation). It's too much work, though, so when I moved, 16 years ago, it didn't make it to my 'must have' list for the new garden.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 3:45PM
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