Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Trees, Shrubs, & Vines

Smoketree / Smokebush

by Paul Simon


Cotinus coggygria

The Smoke Tree is most widely known for its large billowing summer blooms that have a puffy cloud-like or "smoky" appearance. The large blooms provide an attractive characteristic as they wisp in the air with a gentle summer breeze.

About This Plant

The smoketree is most widely used as a specimen tree, with its attractive "smoke-like" inflorescences appearing in early to late summer. As clusters of tiny blooms fade away in the late spring, this plant shoots out hairy-like filaments, producing an attractive "smoky" billowing plume. Selections include varieties with green or purple foliage, changing to shades of orange, red, or purple in autumn. It has a rounded form, growing approximately 10 to 12 feet high and wide, but sometimes as tall as 20 feet. It is hardy in Zones 5-9.

Site Selection

The smoketree is very easy to grow and drought resistant as well. It prefers well drained or dry soil conditions and full sun but can also tolerate partial shade conditions. A single tree can act as a focal point or feature in the garden; when planted in groups of three or more, smoketrees can make a very vibrant display as a hedge or colorful backdrop for your other garden plantings.

Planting Instructions

Be sure to dig your hole at least twice as wide as the container size and mix in a shovelful of compost when planting. When setting your plant, be sure that the top of the root ball is slightly higher than the grade surrounding the perimeter of the dug hole. Fill the remainder of the hole with well drained soil and water.

Care

Once established, a heavy spring pruning can help force the most colorful new growth for a display of color and multiple shoots. Keep in mind that dry summer conditions promote a very showy and vibrant fall color to your smoketree. `Royal Purple´ variety is well known for its deep purple foliage and red-purple autumn fall color. The new growth of `Golden Spirit´ emerges bright gold, changing to lime green in summer and shades of orange and red in fall.
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