Scarlet Leader CotoneasterCotoneaster salicifolius ‘Scarlet Leader'
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Cotoneaster salicifolius ‘Scarlet Leader'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Scarlet Leader Cotoneaster is a low-growing evergreen shrub that spreads fast, but won’t become invasive. It forms a low carpet just a foot or two tall, but spreading to about 6 feet wide, so just a few plants will cover a large area. It is fast-growing and has attractive slender leaves a little like willow. White flowers in spring are followed by clusters of red berries in fall and early winter. The foliage can turn bronzy purple-red in winter, adding extra interest. Use it to cover bare banks and sloping ground, along or beneath larger shrubs and trees. It will grow over rocks and cascade over retaining walls and terracing.
Full sun is best for the Scarlet Leader Cotoneaster, but it will take a little shade as well. It grows vigorously and easily in most soils, just as long as they are well-drained. It is usually free of pests or diseases, and needs no particular attention. Longer shoots can be trimmed as needed to keep it dense and neat, but don’t trim too often, as this will reduce flowering and berry production.
There is a wide range of plants suitable for groundcovers, but few can rival the Scarlet Leader Cotoneaster for combining, vigor, fast-growth and beauty. If you have banks and slopes to cover with a weed-resistant carpet of green, then look no further than this plant, that will cover 8 feet of space, and sometimes even more, while staying just a couple of feet tall. It makes a solid carpet of attractive evergreen leaves that turn bronzy-purple through the winter months, accented by small white flowers in spring and red berries in fall. Here at the Tree Center we feature several different spreading cotoneasters. We love them all, and all of them have value, depending on where you live and what you need. For covering large areas quickly, in areas with mild winters, this is the one you need – the Scarlet Leader Cotoneaster.
The Scarlet Leader Cotoneaster is a broad, spreading, evergreen bush that grows between 1 and 3 feet tall, and quickly spreads out to cover an area of 6 to 8 feet wide, and even more in time. The branches grow close together, laying on top of each other, making a very solid covering that makes the growth of weeds almost impossible. The evergreen leaves are larger than we see in most spreading cotoneasters, adding to the dense, leafy look. The leaves are 1 to 3 inches long, and almost an inch wide, and they taper to a point, looking a little like the leaf of a willow tree. They are a lovely soft dark-green, and if you stroke them you will see that the underside is covered in fine gray hairs. In winter they often turn bronzy shades of purple-red, depending on your climate, but this plant keeps its dense, leafy covering throughout the winter months.
In spring the branches are studded with 2-inch wide clusters of small white blooms, and by fall these have become rich red berries, about one-fifth of an inch across. These add a lovely brightness, and a season color for early winter.
When it comes to covering larger areas of ground quickly, this bush is unbeatable, yet it is not invasive, and its dimensions can easily be controlled by trimming or pruning. It usually doesn’t root as it goes, simply lying on the ground, making it easy to remove if you need to. Unlike some other dwarf cotoneasters which are relatively slow growing, this one is fast, and a spring planting of a bank will be full and dense within a season or two.
The Scarlet Leader Cotoneaster grows best in zones 6, 7 and 8. Too cold and it will probably lose its leaves in winter. Too warm and it may suffer in the heat if summer, and even not flower successfully.
For the best growth, the Scarlet Leader Cotoneaster is best grown in full sun, but it will take a little partial shade, such as a couple of hours of afternoon shade. Don’t plant in deep, shady places – there are better ground covers for those situations. It grows well in most soils, even sandy and rocky ones, but it doesn’t like to be grown in wet ground and low-lying spots.
You usually won’t see any pests in this reliable and easy shrub – it is tough and resistant, looking good all year round. Water young plants during dry periods, but established plantings are drought resistant during normal summers. Some general-purpose shrub fertilizer is useful in spring, but not essential. You don’t need to trim, but this variety is easier to trim than many other cotoneasters – it can be sheared short in spring and it will soon leaf out again. Too much trimming will reduce flowering, and berries, which would be a shame, so relax and enjoy its natural neat look.
The Willow-leaf Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster salicifolius, grows wild in China, where it is a wide-spreading shrub up to 15 feet tall. We don’t know for sure, but it is likely that the variety known as ‘Scarlet Leader’ is derived from plants introduced in 1907 by Ernest Henry Wilson. That famous English plant explorer and collector was connected to the Arnold Arboretum, at Harvard University in Boston, so most of his plants found their way to that institution, before being distributed to nurseries across the country. Wilson found his unique plant in Western Hupeh province and it was smaller, just 9 feet tall. Botanists call it ‘variety rugosus’, because the leaves are rougher and larger, and we do know that several low-growing, spreading forms have been developed from it. So it’s reasonable to assume the ‘Scarlet Leader’ was too, even if we lack any proof of that.
Cotoneasters are wonderful ground cover, and attractive plants as low-growing specimens too. We love the unique larger leaves of the Scarlet Leader Cotoneaster, and its profuse display of red berries – you will too. Order now and quickly turn drab, bare earth into a green carpet studded with red jewels, but don’t wait, because our stock of this special variety is limited, and it won’t last long.