Cotoneaster belongs to the Rosaceae family and is a genus of flowering plants. There are seventy to three hundred different species of Cotoneaster available in the plant kingdom. They grow up to five meters tall. The varieties include ground-hugging prostrate plants or erect shrubs. A few of them like the frigidus species grow up to fifteen meters and can be classified as a tree.
The prostrate species like integrifolius are mostly alpine plants that grow at high altitudes in the Himalayas. The larger species can be found in the woodland gaps at lower altitudes.
Cotoneasters are very popular garden shrubs and quite a few of their varieties are available in many gardens. They fall in the category of cultivars as per the classification category of cultivated plants in the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP). Cotoneaster atropurpureus ‘Variegatus’, Cotoneaster ‘Rothschildianus’, Cotoneaster × suecicus ‘Coral Beauty’, Cotoneaster × suecicus ‘Juliette’ and Cotoneaster salicifolius ‘Pink Champagne’ are some of the most popular varieties of this shrub.
Cotoneaster procumbens ‘Queen of Carpets’ is commonly grown as vines to climb up the railings or pillars in the homes. They are creeping prostrate shrubs which look extremely attractive if grown in the gardens.
Origin and Availability
These shrubs are native of the Palaearctic region stretching from the foothills of the Himalayas to North Africa. This entire belt has a variety of climatic conditions, and that proves the strength of Cotoneaster shrubs.
These regions include the Euro-Siberian region which has a cold climate and the Mediterranean Basin which has a hot and humid tropical climate. The Sahara and Arabian Deserts have extremely dry climates during the summers and cold during the winters. Western, Central, and East Asia have a variety of climates. Due to the variety of climatic conditions which the Cotoneaster withstands, there is a strong concentration of diversity in the genus.
Cotoneasters are hardy plants that are excellent choices for bonsai purposes. They are cultivated as both a ground cover, creepers, hedge, or natural bush.
How Long Does It Take to Grow Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster) Bonsai Tree?
Normal Cotoneaster takes about three years to reach the mature age. Since bonsai trees take a little longer time, it takes anything between four to five years for the bonsai to completely grow inside a pot.
Types of Cotoneaster
- Low Growing
These shrubs do not grow taller than three feet and most of the varieties do not get over eight-inch from the ground. These include the most popular cranberry cotoneaster which is cultivated for making juices and confectionery items. The bright red fruits look very attractive if they are grown in the gardens.
The popular thyme leaf cotoneaster which is used as a popular herb mostly in European and Mediterranean cuisines, barberry, and rock spray too are of similar varieties.
These Cotoneaster varieties reach up to twelve feet in height, and they are full of blossoms during the springtime. Some of the most popular choices are wintergreen, spreading, and grey-leaved cotoneaster shrubs.
Both deciduous (shedding leaves) and evergreen options are found in the upright varieties of cotoneaster shrubs. They can grow up to twenty-five feet in height and are extremely hardy. Peking and willow leaf cotoneaster are quite popular in this class and they look very good in gardens due to their showy foliage and berries.
How to Plant and Grow Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster) Bonsai?
Now since you are familiar with the varieties of Cotoneaster, you can choose to create bonsai plants out of them. You can try to grow the deciduous variety which will shed the leaves during the winters and will be full of berries during the spring. You can also select the evergreen variety that will not shed the leaves if you can keep it in warmer climates during the winter.
- Preparing the Soil
Bonsai soil requirement is the most crucial part of bonsai cultivation. The soil should be capable of providing excellent drainage and should allow good nutrient binding. The soils should be able to help to split the roots without impacting the health of the plant. The moisture content of the soil should be ample, but the soil should not be watery. There should be a good amount of air circulation in the soil.
There are premixed soil components available in the nurseries if you are not familiar with the process of making your own soil mix.
While preparing the soil, ensure that you plant a fine mesh along the bottom of your pot. This will stop the nutrients from the soil from washing out of the pot easily.
- Choosing the Right Container
Since bonsai is grown as an art form, it is very important to plant it in a good-looking pot. An oval or rectangular container made of bone china or clay is ideal to allow the plant to grow properly. The depth of the pot should not be too much. Normally it is expected to be the same as that of the thickest part of the trunk. A very deep pot will let the roots grow, and the desired bonsai effect might not be achieved.
A square or round pot should allow the shrub to grow well, but from the central root, it should not be more than 1/3 of the entire tree. Once the tree starts bearing fruits, you can transfer the plant to a deeper pot so that the soil can carry more nutrients for the fruit-bearing tree. So, if you have chosen a plant that will bear berries, then keep that in mind.
You may choose to plant seeds or propagate the cuttings. The second option will reduce the lead time as the entire process of germination will be eliminated. It will take about a few months for the plant to reach a few inches tall.
Spring is the best time for repotting your bonsai as it comes out of dormancy. Once in every two to five years, you will need to repot your Cotoneaster bonsai. If you see that your tree is not blooming and not looking very healthy, it is time for it to be repotted. The evergreen varieties grow a little slowly compared to their deciduous counterparts, and you will need to repot them after four years or so.
You may use the same pot if it has not cracked or chipped. If you in a mood to change the look of the area where you have kept the Cotoneaster bonsai, then think about changing the flowerpot. Lift the entire bonsai and take off sixty % of the root ball. One-third of the root will allow the new root to grow well and you will get to see the change in the canopy growth.
Use a new mixture of soil that is full of nutrients and place the root ball into it. If the shrub is reaching maturity, you might even think about shifting it to a bigger pot. Now place the soil back into the pot and water the tree a bit.
Almost after seven months, when the stem of the plant is strong, attach an aluminum wire around the main trunk and let the plant take shape along with it. You can even attach weights to the branches and allow the growth to be hindered.
- Shaping, Wiring, and Pruning
There are quite a few options like cascading, exposed root, slanting, clump growth and multi-trunk available for Cotoneaster bonsai to prune. Visualize, watch videos, and create your own intricate designs. Prune the extra leaves and allow the plant to grow into a full-grown tree. Allow the trunk to thicken and keep cutting the old leaves off.
Before the blooms break, wire your plant during the spring season. Use a soft copper, iron, or stainless wire to direct the branches in the route you want them to grow in.
Safeguard the Cotoneaster bonsai from freezing temperatures. The plant is hardy but may wilt in an extremely cold climate.
How to Care for Your Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster) Bonsai?
Now since your bonsai is growing well, you need to take good care of it.
A cotoneaster bonsai ideally should remain outdoors, or in a shady place all year long. During the winter months, you can keep it in an unheated garage, greenhouse, or shed. Do not allow strong wind and direct sunlight to fall on the shrub.
Cotoneaster thrives in cooler, dryer conditions, however, it needs ample water too. It may not need much water during the winters, but during the springs and summers, do not let the soil go dry. Pour some water in the tray underneath the pot so that the water evaporates and keeps the leaves moist.
After the cotoneaster starts blooming, use a general fertilizer for your plant. During the late summer use a non-nitrogen fertilizer and put the same once every month. Natural manure too will be a good option. If you can dig a compost pit, that manure will be very healthy for your bonsai.
- Treating for Insects or Pests
Your cotoneaster bonsai needs to be treated for pests and diseases just like the normal cotoneaster plant. Since the size of the bonsai is smaller, the dose of the treatment needs to be smaller. Else it will spoil the plant and it might die too.
So now you are familiar with the nitty-gritty of growing Cotoneaster at home. Happy gardening!!!