00624Cliche is barely avoidable regarding smokebush, Cotinus coggygria. It provides rich foliar color from spring until autumn, with uniquely billowy bloom through summer. Then, it provides exquisite fall color until winter. Then, it provides sculptural form of bare stems until spring. Smokebush ‘has it all’. . . almost. All the spectacle distracts from a lack of floral fragrance. Will anyone ever notice?

Foliage is rich purplish bronze, bright greenish yellow or olive green through spring and summer. Formerly common old fashioned cultivars with olive green foliage are now rare. Nowadays, most are rich purplish bronze. Fall color is fiery yellow, orange and red. The round leaves are about one to three inches long. Purplish to pale pinkish plumes of smoke-like bloom are a striking contrast.

The largest of smokebush grow at a moderate rate to more than fifteen feet high and wide. Most cultivars are more compact. They get wobbly in the ground if they grow too vigorously. Aggressive pruning during winter improves stability and enhances foliar color for the next season. However, minimal pruning of stable plants promotes bloom. Smoke tree wants full sun, but is not demanding.

11 thoughts on “Smokebush

    1. They are remarkably resilient too. Their main problem in landscapes is that they get watered so frequently that they are wobbly on their roots, and can actually rot. Those that get less attention are happier, although I do believe that they are prettier with aggressive pruning.

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    1. They are certainly popular nowadays. They were uncommon in the 1980, before the now popular modern cultivars became more available. I am still none too keen on them. Of course, while inspecting landscapes, I work with those that are problematic, rather than those that are doing well.

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    1. Thank you for saying so though. I am hesitant to express my dislike for this species because everyone else seems to like it. I sort of like it in other people’s gardens, and I actually like one of the two specimen in our landscapes. However, I am not as impressed by it as everyone else is. I think my favorite feature is the foliar color in autumn.

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