Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club (http://www.paulparent.com/) sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM.
"This family of evergreen plants is perfect for your home. Cotoneasters have many wonderful qualities for your yard and garden, such as evergreen foliage, white flowers, red fruit, food for birds and, on some tall-growing varieties, a place for nesting. You can grow this plant as a ground cover, low or tall hedges (depending on variety) and individual plants in the garden. When taken care of properly, the cotoneaster will rival the holly plant in your garden. Fertilize with Holly-Tone or Acid Adoring Evergreen Food.
The cotoneaster is extremely vigorous and, depending on variety you select, it will do exactly what you want it to do in your garden. The spreading or creeping types are among the most popular. When planted 3 to 4 feet apart, the plants will fill in to a solid carpet in just 3 to 4 years. Their growing habit is low--spreading 1 to 2 feet tall, with ridged arching branches that resemble a series of small mounds of foliage. The foliage is small--1/4 to 1/2 inches long--and dark green in color. Most varieties are evergreen, unless you have a very cold winter and little snow cover. If this should happen, the leaves will fall from the plant and be replaced with new leaves the following spring.
The flowers are pink on these varieties and not very showy. However, the red fruit on the plant, about 1/4 inches round, is showy. The fruit will last on the plant well into the winter months. These varieties will grow in full sun or partial shade. The cotoneasters do prefer a well drained soil and will not tolerate standing water. If your soil is acidic they will do quite well. Cotoneasters will grow well on slopes, and make a great framing plant in front of large evergreens like rhododendrons and hollies or as a mass planting all by themselves.
The taller growing varieties that reach 2 to 3 feet tall tend to have more noticeable flowers. The flowers are pure white and can become profuse when the plants are well-fed in the spring. During May, the plants will be covered with many flowers; the arching branches resemble a waterfall. The flowers have 5 petals and grow from 1/3 to 1/2 inches in diameter. The bees love them; when they are in full bloom you will hear all the buzzing sounds of the bees. The results of their work will be clusters of rounded fruit about 1/4 inches diameter. Taller varieties need to be pruned yearly to keep them neat looking. These taller varieties make great natural looking hedges along walkways or on the side of a hill, and look fine by themselves.
The Cotoneaster family also has upright spreading varieties that will grow to 5 to 6 feet tall and just as wide. These varieties are extremely vigorous and make a great informal hedge when not pruned. When pruned I like them better than privet hedges as they are evergreen during mild winters and stay green from the ground to the top of the plant during the summer. These are great plants to screen air conditioners or other equipment installed around the house.
Cotoneaster also has a dwarf type called "Tom Thumb" that will grow like a piece of carpet. It's a great looking plant when used in a rock garden or water feature. Most cotoneaster plants will have a rich red winter color that will turn green in the spring. Cotoneaster fruit will attract waxwings, finches and robins during the fall or early spring. The flowers will also attract hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden. This family of plants will be greatly enjoyed by you in your garden!"