Cotoneaster Bonsai Care [Rosaceae]

The cotoneaster bonsai is a great and rewarding bonsai tree that is perfect for beginners. Despite being one of the easiest to grow bonsais right now, there are still several important things you should know about this lovely variety.

Average Height6.00 to 10.00 feet
Average Spread4.00 to 8.00 feet
Origin CountrySouthwestern China, Burma, Tibet
Flower Bloom TimeJuly
SunlightFull sun to part shade

Is cotoneaster a good option for bonsai?

Cotoneaster is not only a good option for bonsai because it is also very popular. Cotoneasters are usually used for ornamental plants, topiary, and hedges. The cotoneaster is a great choice for gorgeous bonsai trees, particularly in small sizes such as Chuhin, Kifu, or Shohin, and is also recommended even for beginners.

Starting Cotoneaster Bonsai

Cotoneaster bonsai history

The cotoneaster is a small tree, ground covering plant, or shrub native to Asia, North Africa, and Europe. Many species have tiny glossy dark green leaves, small white flowers during spring then followed in autumn with yellow, red, or orange apple-shaped fruit.

The shrubs are native Palaearctic region that stretches from the Himalayas’ foothills to North Africa. The entire belt has different climatic conditions, proof of how strong cotoneaster shrubs are.

The regions include the Mediterranean Basin with a humid and hot tropical climate and the Euro-Siberian region with a cold climate. The Arabian and Sahara Deserts with extremely cold climates during winters and dry climates during summers. East, Central, and West Asia have various climates. Thanks to the variety of climatic conditions that cotoneaster has to endure, the genus has a strong diversity concentration.

The cotoneaster is a hardy plant with excellent options for bonsai purposes. These are cultivated as a natural bush, hedge, creepers, or ground cover.

Cotoneaster bonsai tree scientific name

The scientific name of cotoneaster bonsai is Cotoneaster, a genus of flowering plants and a part of the Rosacea family. There are 70 to 300 different cotoneaster species found in the plant kingdom.

Cotoneasters can grow up to a maximum height of 5 meters. Its varieties include erect shrubs or ground-hugging prostrate plants. Some of them such as the frigidus species can grow to a height of 15 meters and are classified as trees.

Prostate species such as integrifolius are typically alpine plants growing in the Himalayas at high altitudes. The bigger species thrive at lower altitudes in the woodland gaps.

Cotoneaster bonsai symbolism

Upon research, it seems that there is no symbolism associated with the cotoneaster bonsai. However, there is no denying that the varieties of this plant are extremely attractive and will look great in any garden or home.

Cotoneaster bonsai indoor or outdoor?

The cotoneaster bonsai is best to grow outdoors. This bonsai tree does best in full or filtered sunlight. Even though many of these bonsai trees end up inside, it is important to ensure that they get proper lighting that suits their species.

Cotoneasters can also tolerate some amount of shade really well although it still needs some sun for a few hours during the day. A good grow light can be used for producing and maturing plants if the lighting is a problem.

Cotoneaster bonsai care

Just like other types of bonsai, part of your job to ensure that it grows well for years is to take good care of it. There are several important pointers you need to know for your cotoneaster bonsai to thrive and stay healthy and beautiful for a long time.

Cotoneaster bonsai temperature

Your cotoneaster bonsai must stay cold or cool during winter, around 3 months, but must stay protected from any harsh freezes. You can bury the tree to protect it in the late fall, or you can mulch over its pot in the ground.

You also need to protect the tree from the sun and strong wind, but no rain or snow, during winter. You can also place it in an unheated shed or garage if needed. Make sure that you also water the tree in the winter.

When there are no chances of freezing anymore in the early spring, you can put it back in its usual position. For the remaining parts of the year, your cotoneaster bonsai must stay outside with several hours of sun, specifically morning sun and afternoon shade.

Cotoneaster bonsai tree fertilizer

Feed liquid fertilizer to your cotoneaster bonsai tree every week during the growing season. You can also apply solid organic fertilizer every 4 weeks. Always use a balanced product that contains enough micronutrients, potassium, and phosphorus to encourage fruit and flowers.

Cotoneaster bonsai pruning/trimming

Cotoneaster bonsai takes regular pruning really well. It is best to prune older branches in spring. During the growing season, young shoots should also be trimmed constantly. You can wire cotoneasters no matter what time of the year it is. Older branches tend to be quite stiff, snapping if bent heavily although you can use guy wires to shape them. Younger branches, on the other hand, are more flexible.

Cotoneaster bonsai repotting

You can repot young cotoneaster bonsai trees in early spring every year. Older trees can be repotted every 2 to 3 years. You can also prune the roots considerably. Always use a standard soil mix that drains well. These bonsai trees can also tolerate an extensive range of pH levels between alkaline and acidic.

Cotoneaster bonsai pests and diseases

Your cotoneaster bonsai can be affected by aphids, bacterial blight, borers, caterpillars, diverse leaf spot, fire blight, powdery mildew, root rot fungal diseases, and spider mites. There are regions where fire blight can be a serious issue. However, some varieties are not that prone to fire blight. When diseases or pests occur, you can use a certain pesticide, or you can also ask for help from a professional gardener in severe cases.

Cotoneaster bonsai soil

As a genus, the cotoneaster is often found growing and thriving in very thin, stony, and poor soils, which means that your cotoneaster bonsai needs well-drained soil if cultivated in a pot.

Cotoneaster bonsai watering

Cotoneaster bonsai trees need plenty of water during summer although they can withstand short droughts. Plants with dead leaves because of lack of water can still recover in some instances and produce some new leaves.

You need to keep the roots only a bit moist in water, and overwater may lead to root rot. The cotoneaster is not that demanding when it comes to water quality.

Cotoneaster bonsai sunlight requirements

Similar to other deciduous trees, your cotoneaster bonsai must stay outdoors throughout the year. Depending on the specific species, many varieties prefer a place under the full sun during the growing season. However, you need to place your trees during the hottest days of summer in semi-shade. Even though cotoneasters are frost-hardy when planted on the ground, you need to protect them from frost if planted in smaller containers.

How fast do cotoneasters bonsai grow?

It takes up to three years for normal cotoneasters to reach their mature age. With bonsai trees taking a little bit longer time, your cotoneaster bonsai can take anywhere around 4 to 5 years to completely grow in a pot.

How tall does a cotoneaster bonsai get?

The cotoneaster bonsai can reach a height of 8 to 10 inches.

Which cotoneaster is good for bonsai?

The cotoneaster microphyllus is a great subject for bonsai, especially mame-size and shohin bonsai with a small size of leaves, and ready to respond to prolific flowering, berrying, and hard pruning.

Cotoneasters bonsai types

There are different common and popular types of cotoneaster bonsai, and these include the following:

Cotoneaster horizontalis bonsai

The cotoneaster horizontalis bonsai is a perennial, woody, semi-evergreen, or deciduous procumbent shrub featuring branches that spread horizontally. This is native to some parts of China and is also introduced widely to North America, Australasia, Europe, and other countries in the world as a lovely garden plant.

Cotoneaster corokia bonsai

The cotoneaster corokia bonsai is another wonderful tree that novices can grow to hone their bonsai skills. This variety loves to be shaped and trimmed with the bonus of berries and flowers to add some splash of color to your collection.

These trees flower at a very young age and tend to be rather forgiving if you make a mistake with care or watering. Corokia grows in any situation although it prefers full sun as it helps them remain compact.

You have to be careful when trimming as it can easily form a poodle-type style or a lump of foliage on the tips of every branch. While there is nothing wrong with it if this is what you like, it is less of a bonsai and more of a topiary.

Rockspray cotoneaster bonsai

The rockspray cotoneaster bonsai is a broad-leaved shrub with pink or white flowers and very nice colors during autumn in places where this is deciduous. Its wide leaves and herringbone growth pattern are not common in the genus, but this is among the most famous varieties for bonsai.

Tom thumb cotoneaster bonsai

Tom thumb cotoneaster bonsai has charming small leaves that turn in bright red color during fall. Architectural and unique patterns are achieved by the branches. The low compact habit makes this a great groundcover shrub for rock gardens, small spaces, a mini railway garden, and atop retaining walls.

Cotoneaster bonsai cascade

Creating a cotoneaster bonsai cascade is made to reflect the shape of the tree that perseveres in spite of a difficult time. It showcases a shape that was formed because of a crushing weight of mudslides, landslides, or heavy winter snows. These different natural catastrophes twist downward the tree in nature, and this is what you can see in this particular type of cotoneaster bonsai.

Cranberry cotoneaster bonsai

The cranberry cotoneaster is a type of broad and dense upright mounding tall groundcover or shrub that originated from China. Its common name pertains to the red fruits that resemble cranberry that show up in the fall and remain until early winter. This is best planted in well-drained and moist soil and placed under the sun to partial shade.

Coral beauty cotoneaster bonsai

Coral beauty cotoneaster is one of the finest low spreading groundcovers that feature showy coral pink fruit during fall and white flowers during spring. Its evergreen leaves need enough snow protection or cover from winter wind and sun in exposed locations.

This is mainly grown for its ornamental fruit. It features dark green foliage, and the tiny glossy oval leaves transform into an amazing brick red when the fall season comes.

Cotoneaster apiculatus bonsai

The cotoneaster apiculatus is among the most popular medium-sized groundcovers. It is a mounded spreading shrub that has tightly held and dense branches. Its branches are dotted with pretty pink flowers during spring and followed by captivating red fruit during fall. This versatile plant is used for general landscape.

Rock cotoneaster bonsai

Rock cotoneaster bonsai is an arching deciduous shrub that is hardy and easy to grow with stunning tiny dark green leaves that emerge from grey branches and trunks. It is an interesting plant that blossoms in spring with delicate white flowers that transform into striking red berries as mature fruits. You can expect a purplish to red color in the fall before leaves drop if kept outdoors.

Why my cotoneaster bonsai leaves turning brown

Too little water or underwatering is the most common reason why the leaves of your cotoneaster bonsai turn brown with a wilted and dried trunk. Excessive water or overwatering may also make the water get trapped, causing the roots of the cotoneaster bonsai tree to rot and its leaves to turn brown.

How to make a cotoneaster bonsai

Now that you are more familiar with the different types of cotoneaster, you can start choosing which one to use for bonsai. You may try growing the deciduous variety that sheds leaves during winters and is filled with berries come spring. The evergreen variety, on the other hand, doesn’t shed leaves if kept in warmer areas during winter.

  1. Prepare soil that offers excellent drainage and allows good binding of nutrients. The soils must have the ability to split the roots without affecting the plant’s health. The soil must also have ample moisture content without being watery. There must also be sufficient air circulation as well. Make sure there is a fine mesh along the pot’s bottom to prevent the soil’s nutrients from washing out easily.
  2. A rectangular or oval container made of clay or bone china will let the plant grow properly. The pot’s depth should be enough and must be similar to the trunk’s thickest part. You can choose to propagate the cuttings or plant seeds. The first option reduces the lead time since it eliminates the germination process. It will take several months for your bonsai tree to grow several inches tall.
  3. Repotting your cotoneaster bonsai is best done in spring while it comes out of dormancy. This bonsai needs to be repotted once every 2 to 5 years. You need to repot it if the tree doesn’t bloom or doesn’t look very healthy. The deciduous varieties grow faster than the evergreen ones and repotting them should be done after 4 years or so.

You can use the same pot as long as it is not chipped or cracked. You can also change the flowerpot if you want to try a different look for the spot where you keep your cotoneaster bonsai. Lift the entire tree and remove 60% of its root ball. About 1/3 of the root will let the new root grow properly and you can notice changes with canopy growth.

Prepare a brand-new soil mixture filled with nutrients and put the root ball in it. You can shift the shrub to a larger pot if it is nearing maturity; Put back the soil in the pot then water it a bit.

  1. Once the plant’s stem is strong enough after almost 7 months, wrap its main trunk with aluminum wire and allow the plant to take shape together with it. Weights can also be attached to the branches and hinder the tree’s growth.
  2. You have several options for pruning your cotoneaster bonsai and these include exposed root, cascading, multi-trunk, clump growth, and slanting. Watch videos, visualize, and come up with your own unique and intricate designs. Extra leaves can be pruned, and you can let the plant grow to a full-grown tree. Let the trunk thicken and cut off the old leaves.

You can also wire the cotoneaster bonsai plant before the blooms break during the months of spring. You can use stainless, iron, or soft copper wire for directing its branches into the specific route that you like your tree to grow in.

Make sure that your cotoneaster bonsai is also protected from freezing temperatures. Even though it is a hardy plant, this may still end up wilting if the climate is extremely cold.

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