Cotoneaster adpressus 'Little Gem'
Common Name: creeping cotoneaster 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Rosaceae
Zone: 4 to 7
Height: 0.75 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: White tinged with pink
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Good Fall
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy
Tolerate: Rabbit, Drought, Erosion, Air Pollution


Best grown in moist, loamy, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Good drainage is important. This is a tough and adaptable plant that can withstand poor soils. Established plants tolerate drought. Container-grown plants may be spaced 3’ apart for mass plantings. Easiest propagation is by stem cuttings. If correctly sited, plants may require little pruning. Plants dislike hot summer conditions and often struggle south of USDA Zone 7.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Cotoneaster adpressus, sometimes commonly called creeping cotoneaster, is a prostrate, slow-growing, deciduous shrub that grows to only 1’ tall but spreads to 6’ wide. Horizontal branches may root where they touch the ground. Ovate to obovate, dark green leaves (to 1/2” long) have wavy margins. Leaves often turn a quality shade of red in fall. Five-petaled, tiny white flowers tinged with pink bloom singly or in pairs in late spring. Bees are attracted to the flowers. Flowers are followed by spherical dark red fruits (1/4” long) that mature in late summer to fall and are attractive to birds.

Genus name comes from the Latin cotonea meaning "quince" and aster meaning "resembling" or "similar to".

Specific epithet probably refers to the prostrate plant habit (pressed against the ground).

‘Little Gem’ (considered to be synonymous with ‘Tom Thumb’) is more compact. It forms a dense, low mound to 8-12” tall, spreading over time to 3-6’ wide. It serves as an excellent ground cover. It rarely produces flowers or fruit. Small, ovate to obovate, glossy dark green leaves (to 1/2” long) have wavy margins. Leaves turn a quality shade of red in fall. The origin of ‘Little Gem’ is somewhat unclear. It has been considered to be a cultivar of several different Cotoneaster species including C. adpressus, C. apiculatus and C. horizontalis.


Susceptible to fireblight, leaf spots, canker, cotoneaster webworm and lacebug. Mites may appear, particularly in hot and dry conditions. Dense foliage can present maintenance problems because of the difficulty of cleaning dead leaves and trash from the interior of a planting.


Creeping cotoneaster is a valuable landscape plant that offers good foliage, flowers and fruit. Mass as a woody ground cover for sunny areas in the landscape including banks and slopes where it can also provide some erosion control. Sprawl over rocks in rock gardens or along stone walls. Foundations.