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Highlight: Late cotoneaster

Late cotoneaster berries last through winter.

The bright red berries of late cotoneaster, Cotoneaster lacteus, that ripen in autumn may not be as profuse or as bright red as those of firethorn, but they last longer, and even into winter. Birds strangely seem to avoid them.

Although the clustered small berries can look just like firethorn berries, they are usually less shiny and darker red. Clusters of tiny pale white flowers bloom in spring. The small evergreen leaves have a nice glossy and veined texture on top, with hazy gray or tan tomentum (fuzz) below. The grayish brown bark of old stems resembles that of apple or pear trees.

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Tall arching stems can get just tall enough to reach first-floor eaves or taller if they happen to be shaded or leaning onto other larger shrubbery for support. In full sun, growth is more dense. Mature plants get a bit broader than tall. Unlike firethorn, late cotoneaster lacks thorns, which make it easier to work with as an espalier or informal hedge. Growth is a bit too irregular for a formal hedge.

Established plants do not need much water, and in some situations can do well without any watering. Unfortunately, late cotoneaster has naturalized as an invasive exotic weed in some regions. -- Tony Tomeo

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