A member of the rose family, the Cotoneaster genus is made up of woody shrubs or small trees native to temperate Asia, Europe and northern Africa. Cotoneaster microphyllus is a low growing cotoneaster shrub that has a spreading, sprawling habit. "Microphyllus" comes from the plant's small leaves, giving the shrub the common name of littleleaf cotoneaster. Littleleaf cotoneaster is commonly grown as a ground cover for dry, sunny locations.
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Littleleaf cotoneaster is a low-growing, prostrate shrub that typically grows to be between 2 to 3 feet tall. The plant produces fine, alternating dark-green leaves that have slightly hairy undersides. Leaves are between 0.2 inch and 0.5 inch long. Small white flowers appear in April and May, and are followed by scarlet red fruits in the summer. Fruits are highly attractive to birds.
Several littleleaf cotoneaster cultivars are available through the nursery trade. Cultivars are more commonly grown than the species plant. Cultivars include Cooperi, a variety with weeping, pendulous branches, dark leaves and bright red berries; and Emerald Spray, a broadly spreading variety with arching branches.
Var. thymifolius is a variety that offers dark green leaves with grey undersides. Littleleaf cotoneaster and its cultivars grow between 12 to 18 inches per year.
Littleleaf cotoneaster is tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions, though it will look its best in a moist, well-draining soil. The shrub is not picky about soil pH. Grow it in full sunlight or partial shade. Once established, littleleaf cotoneaster is quite tolerant of drought. Spider mites may become a problem in hot, humid weather, although you can usually remove them with an insecticide or a steady stream of water.
Littleleaf cotoneaster (Cotoneaster microphyllus) is susceptible to Botryosphaeria canker, a disease spread by the Botryosphaeria pathogen. The disease causes dark-brown to black fungal fruiting structures on the branches of the shrub. Leaves on infected branches shrivel and die. Eventually whole branches die back. Canker is best prevented rather than treated. Irrigate the shrub regularly, as stressed plants are more susceptible to the disease. Prune and destroy infected branches. Sterilise pruning equipment.
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