Smoke Tree: Complete Care Guide (Including Royal Purple Smoke Tree)

The magnificent big shrub or small multi-stemmed tree known as the smoke tree has purple or green leaves and feathery flower clusters that look like puffs of pink smoke. The gorgeous deciduous tree, sometimes referred to as smoke bush, adds a beautiful aesthetic to a garden setting from spring through fall. In addition, a smoke tree is an excellent decorative shrub for most climates because it requires little care.

This page will teach you how to cultivate a smoke tree in your front or back yard. Moreover, you’ll learn about various varieties of smoke trees with colorful leaves in dark purple, light pink, and chartreuse green hues.

About the Smoke Tree (Cotinus coggygria)

The smoke tree, also known as the Cotinus coggygria bush, is a multi-branching shrub that can be trained to grow as a tree. The pink feathery plumes of the multi-branching shrub are oval or rounded. Smoke trees have a spreading, irregular growth pattern and grow to be 16 to 23 feet (5 – 7 meters) tall.

The smoke tree is a popular decorative plant in garden landscapes because of its vibrant dark foliage and flowers. Smoke bushes come in a variety of colors, from pinkish-purple to yellow, yellowish-green, or deep red blooms. Moreover, the leaves of the shrub may turn red, yellow, or orange in the fall, depending on their color.

Smoke trees are large, cold-hardy plants that grow in USDA zones 4 through 9. The bright foliage of smoke trees thrives in full sun to partial shade, which keeps them healthy. The wispy spent flower clusters (inflorescences) of the smoke tree have a smoke-like appearance. The little tree has a hazy look when the flowers are in bloom. European smoketree, smokebush, dyer’s sumach, and Venetian sumach are some other names for Cotinus coggygria.

Smoke trees are a kind of multi-stemmed shrub that grows medium. The decorative plant, on the other hand, is quite short-lived and generally lives for around 20 years. Nonetheless, most gardeners believe that the charm of a smoke tree is worth the trouble.

Smoke Tree Flowers

Flowers on the smoke tree produce airy plume-like panicles of tiny five-petalled flowers that give it its characteristic fuzzy look. The smoke tree’s fuzzy appearance is due to its fine hair-like filaments on the spent flower stems, which are the plant’s identifying feature. Flower clusters may grow as long as 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) long.

The color of smoke tree flowers is usually pinkish-purple. Late spring or early summer are the optimum times to see puffy blooms. The panicles stay on the tree after the blooms have withered, and their fuzzy puffs of smoke give it its distinguishing feature. The plumes may be red, orange, yellow, or creamy-white colors, although the smoke tree blossoms are usually bright pink hues.

Creamy white flowers adorn a smoke tree.

Smoke Tree Leaves

Autumn leaves on the smoke tree are bright, colorful, showy circular ovate leaves with dark red, smoky purple, chartreuse, and blue-green hues. Throughout the summer, the lovely leaves stay green, then in the fall, they become orange, dark red, deep purple, and yellow. The leaves of the smoke tree are 1.2 to 3.2 inches (3 to 8 cm) long.

Smoke trees lose their leaves during the fall, making them a deciduous plant. Some smoke tree species develop stunning multi-colored designs when the leaves’ colors change. The colors of certain smoke trees, for example, range from bright oranges to dark purple designs in the fall. Some leaves have light green lines and are deep orange in color.

Crushed leaves have a radish-like scent, similar to smoke tree autumn leaf.

Smoke Tree Size

A large multi-branching shrub or small tree is referred to as a smoke tree. A smoke tree grows from 8 feet (2.4 m) to 15 feet (4.5 m) tall, depending on the species. The 8-foot-tall (2.4 m) Golden Spirit smokebush is the tiniest species. The Royal Purple and Velvet Cloak, which grow 10 to 15 feet (3.5 to 4.5 meters) tall, are the world’s tallest smoke trees.

Smoke Tree Growth Rate

Smoke trees have a moderate to slow development rate and are decorative plants. Depending on the environment, a smoke tree may grow up to 24 inches (60 cm) each year. When planted in full sun and rich, loamy soil, the tree grows fastest.

Smoke Tree Use in the Landscape

Because of its bright leaves and plumes, a smoke tree is an attractive tree. In a front or backyard, the plant’s vivid foliage, smokey plumes, and informal appearance add variety to the landscape. Planting as a specimen bush or colorful focal point, such as the ‘Royal Purple,’ is best for the most spectacular smoke trees.

A smoke tree may also be used as attractive foundation plants if it is trimmed carefully. In order to form an informal hedge, you may also plant smoke trees in rows.

Royal Purple Smoke Tree (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’)

The most common Cotinus plant is Cotinus coggygria (‘Royal Purple). Oval to egg-shaped deep purple leaves, clusters of tiny yellow flowers that develop into wispy plumes, and a compact growth habit are some of the distinguishing features of the purple smoke tree. The smoke tree known as the Royal Purple grows to be 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.5 meters) tall.

The purple smoke bush has a medium growth rate and an open, spreading form. Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ As an accent plant, border, hedge, or privacy screen, the decorative bush is ideal. The perennial plant is simple to keep in most landscapes because it is drought tolerant.

Smoke Tree Varieties

Smoke tree cultivars with stunning leaves, thin pink plumes, and attractive form are discussed briefly below.

Golden Spirit Smoke Tree (Cotinus coggygria ‘Ancot’)—The gorgeous golden-yellow leaves of this lovely shrub turn crimson in the autumn. During the summer, the pinkish smoky plumes contrast vividly with the yellowish leaves.

Smoke Tree ‘Young Lady’ (Cotinus coggygria ‘Young Lady’)—The leaves of this plant are small and compact, with a medium green color that changes to yellow and red in the autumn. The entire shrub is covered in fluffy pinkish green plumes after it blooms.

Smoke Tree ‘Velvet Cloak’ (Cotinus coggygria ‘Velvet Cloak’)—The purple leaves of this smoke tree are lance-shaped, with prominent crimson-orange veins and a crimson-orange bottom. After flowering, the huge multi-branching shrub is covered with pink plumes.

Smoke Tree ‘Grace’ (Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’)—Among the species’ most beautiful leaves is the Grace smoke tree. In the spring, large ovate leaves turn deep red, then through the summer they darken. The leaves have orange and black tiger designs in the autumn.

Smoke Tree ‘Pink Champagne’ (Cotinus coggygria ‘Pink Champagne’)—The smoke tree with its bronze-tinged spring leaves that turn pink throughout the season is another popular cultivar, dubbed the Pink Champagne. In the summer, the tree is covered with pink plumage.

Dwarf Smoke Tree ‘Winecraft Black’ (Cotinus coggygria ‘Winecraft Black’)—Containers and small gardens love this miniature smoke tree. During the summer, the purple oval leaves become almost black. In the summer, the little shrub is then adorned with soft panicles of pink plumage.

American smoke tree (Cotinus obovatus)—The smoke bush types are not the same as the American smoke tree. The dense foliage of this small to medium tree is made up of bluish-green ovate leaves and grows 20 to 30 feet (6 – 10 meters) tall. In the summer, feathery plumes cover the tree, much like smokebush.

Cotinus obovatus, or American smoke tree

How to Plant a Smoke Tree

Select the brightest location with well-drained soil to plant a smoke tree in your yard. Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball, but at the same depth. Amend the soil with 1 part compost to 5 parts loamy soil, which is a good idea. Put the root ball in the hole and fill half of it with soil after you’ve untangled the roots.

Next, press down to release any air bubbles. Lastly, replace the excavated soil with the rest of the hole. To prevent water from pooling at the stem, build a 3″ (7.5 cm) high ridge of soil around the root ball to channel water out.

Lastly, ensure that the depth is 2″ to 3″ (5 – 7.5 cm) and there is a gap of at least an inch (2.5 cm) around the central stem with a layer of mulch around the root area. After that, pour enough water to cover the area. Water weekly until the smoke tree is established.

How to Grow Smoke Tree in Pots

The kinds that grow 4 to 8 feet (1.2 to 2.4 meters) or are a dwarf variety are the best smoke tree plants for pots. In order to support a big shrub-like tree, you’ll also need to use a sturdy pot with drainage holes. A potted smoke tree should have loose, well-draining soil.

Fill the pot with a layer of stone chips to grow a potted smoke tree. This adds extra weight, preventing drainage holes from becoming clogged. Next, put the smoke tree root in the container and make sure that it is growing at the same level as before. After that, a combination of compost, peat moss, and perlite should be used to fill the pot.

To avoid water from pouring over, remember to leave a few inches (5 cm) from the top. In your container garden, put the smoke tree pot in a sunny location. Whenever the top layer of soil gets dry, deeply water the plant.

Smoke Tree Care — How to Grow Smoke Tree (Cotinus coggygria)

Water every 10 to 14 days to care for a smoke tree, which should be grown in full sun on well-drained sandy or loamy soil. In the spring, apply a layer of compost to help encourage healthy leaf development, vibrant color, and abundant blooming.

Where to Plant Smoke Tree in Landscape

Select a spot in your yard where the smoke tree receives at least six hours of sunlight each day. In partial shade, a smoke tree will develop foliage that are duller and sparser, but the branches will develop. Hardy plants include smoke trees. As a result, you may put them in almost any soil type and pH level. Even poor or rocky soils will support them. Remember, though, that it might be slowed by damp soil or poorly draining ground.

There are a few factors to consider when deciding where to locate a smoke tree. The pretty plant thrives in zone 5, but it requires adequate winter protection. The branches and leaves might be damaged otherwise. High air moisture can be a problem in warmer, humid climates, causing fungal disease to affect leaves.

As a result, if you have wet summers and are growing smoke trees in zone 8, keeping adequate room between them is critical. Between the central stems, leave a 10 to 15-foot (3–4.5-meter) gap.

How to Water Smoke Tree

Just water your smoke tree every 10 to two weeks after it has matured. In the summer, sufficient ground moisture keeps the roots healthy and encourages a profusion of feathery plumes. Smoke trees are drought tolerant, which is a good thing to remember. As a result, don’t overwater the land. So, for the health of a smoke tree, watering less and not more is usually ideal.

Smoke Tree Temperature and Humidity Requirements

In moderate temperatures, a smoke tree thrives. Smoke trees prefer zones 5 through 8 for the best temperature range. Several species, on the other hand, grow well in zone 9 and are winter hardy in zone 4. The smoke tree, or royal purple, and the smoke bush, or golden spirit, are two of these hardy types. The majority of smoke tree species prefer dryer environments with minimal humidity.

Fertilizing Smoke Tree for Healthy Growth

Because it thrives on a wide range of soils, a smoke tree requires minimal fertilizer. Add a layer of organic compost to the root area in spring to encourage excellent foliage color and plenty of blooms. Foliage growth may be stimulated by applying a well-balanced, nitrogen-rich fertilizer before leafing out.

Pruning Smoke Tree

Smoke trees respond to minimal pruning and have a natural, informal growth habit. You should remove diseased branches in late winter or early spring, however. There are several pruning methods to get the desired effect depending on how you want the Cotinus plant to grow.

Pruning a smoke tree to encourage a bushy shrub: During the first two years after planting, hard prune the shrub back to 6″ to 8″ (15 – 20 cm) above ground.

Pruning to grow a smoke tree: Suckering shrub-like trees like Cotinus are common. Remove all suckers save the main central stem to produce a tree-like shape. Throughout the year, as the stems develop, you should remove them.

Pruning a smoke tree to encourage flowering: Every spring, remove roughly a third of the aged stems from your smoke tree to encourage more flowers and feathery plumes. To avoid sparse blooming, only cut the smoke trees every other year since they bloom on old wood.

How to Propagate Smoke Tree

Smoke tree stem cuttings are the simplest way to grow one. Since stem cuttings produce a similar tree, they are recommended for propagation. A shrub that seems different or fails to bloom can be produced by propagation of a smoke tree from seed.

Remove a 6″ to 8″ (15 – 20 cm) section of leafy stem from a fresh smoke tree cuttings, whether hardwood or softwood is acceptable. Next, take the lower leaves off of the stem’s bottom part. Then, on the cut end, remove some of the bark with a hardwood cutting.

To root the smoke tree cutting, dip the end in rooting hormone and plant it in a moist, well-draining potting mix. After that, seal in moisture by placing a plastic bag over the potting medium. When it’s rooted, transfer the cutting to a bigger pot.

Growing smoke tree from seeds

Smoke trees may be grown from seeds as well. Smoke tree seed propagation, on the other hand, is difficult and unreliable. For two seasons, the tiny seeds may lack any visible signs of germination or development. A smoke tree may be either barren or non-blooming if it develops. As a result, stem cuttings are the most effective way to propagate smoke trees.

Pests and Diseases Affecting Smoke Tree Growth

The most common insect attacking smoke trees is the oblique-banded leafroller. The foliage of smoke trees may be eaten by this green caterpillar with a black head. A plant with withered and unsightly appearance is caused by the hungry larvae damage leaves.

Caterpillars may defoliate a little smoke bush in rare circumstances. Fungal disease like verticillium wilt can affect smoke trees growing in damp soil. Leaf spot is a symptom of this ailment, which may lead to the death of the leaf. Ensuring that the land drains well and you never overwater your decorative garden plants is the best way to avoid soil fungus problems.

Why is my Smoke Tree Not Blooming?

The most prevalent cause of smoke tree failure to generate smoky plumes is insufficient sunlight. Buds that fail to open in the spring due to insufficient light are examples of this. Another reason for poor blooming and no “hairy” plumes on your lovely shrub could be root rot or drainage problems.

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