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Creeping cotoneaster

Creeping cotoneaster growing over a low wall.

Creeping cotoneaster is a dense, low-growing, spreading shrub used as a ground cover, in rock gardens, or cascading over stone walls. Valued for its tiny white flowers, excellent glossy foliage and attractive red berries.


This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Cotoneaster adpressus

All Common Names:

Creeping cotoneaster, early cotoneaster

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Ground cover,
  • Shrub

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Foundation,
  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Patio/sidewalk

Size Range:

  • Low-growing shrub (under 3 feet),
  • Large plant (more than 24 inches)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7

Soil Preference:

  • Alkaline soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Alkaline soil

Season of Interest:

  • Mid spring,
  • Late summer

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Arching,
  • Creeping,
  • Mounded

Growth Rate:

  • Slow

More Information:

Size and Method of Spreading

A low-growing, spreading shrub or ground cover reaching 1 to 2 feet high and 4 to 6 feet wide.  It is a trailing-rooting ground cover.  Trailing-rooting ground covers have trailing stems that spread out from a central root system.  These stems spread out horizontally over the ground and can root where they come in contact with the soil.  New shoots will be formed at the point where rooting occurs.

Tree & Plant Care

Best in full sun, tolerant of part shade.
Requires well-drained, moist soil, pH adaptable.
Give enough space to grow to its full width.
Water well to establish, roots are coarse and penetrate deeply into the soil.
Apply mulch around base of plant to moderate soil temperatures.
Will benefit with a layer of loose leaf mulch after ground freezes for winter protection. Remove in the spring.

Disease, pests, and problems

Scale, leaf spots, spider mites, fireblight

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Dry soil once established.

Native geographic location and habitat

Western China

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

Butterflies and birds.

Bark color and texture 

Tan to grayish-brown.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, 1/4 to 1/2 inch oval, glossy dark green turning a reddish color in the fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Solitary, small 5-petaled, white with pink tinge.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

A 1/4-inch pome, showy bright red, often heavy fruiting.

Cultivars and their differences 

Little Gem creeping cotoneaster (Cotoneaster adpressus 'Little Gem'): A low-growing, mat forming shrub reaching 8 to 12 inches tall. Syn. with 'Tom Thumb creeping cotoneaster.

Tom Thumb creeping cotoneaster (Cotoneaster adpressus 'Tom Thumb'): A low-growing, mat forming, creeping shrub reaching 8 to 12 inches tall and 4 to 6 feet wide. Branches form a herringbone pattern, shiny miniature green leaves turn red in fall.


Location of Cotoneaster adpressus (Creeping cotoneaster) at the Arboretum