A Fundamental Guide To Growing And Caring For Smoke Bush

A Fundamental Guide To Growing And Caring For Smoke Bush

A Fundamental Guide To Growing And Caring For Smoke Bush

Emma Downey

Emma Downey
Gardening Expert

Updated on 6/6/2023

The smoke bush, or Cotinus coggygria, is a deciduous shrub or small tree frequently used as a garden specimen because of its stunning smoky plumes that combine purple and pink, and the purple leaves are seen on some varieties of the plant.

The habit of a smoke bush is that of an erect, multi-stemmed shrub. Except for a few varieties with purple foliage, the leaves have a waxy green color. The ovate-shaped leaves can reach a maximum length of three inches and, depending on the type, change shades of yellow, orange, or purplish-red in the fall. The billowy hairs connected to the flower clusters give this plant its common name, "smoke bush." These hairs remain in place throughout the summer and change from a smoky pink to a purplish-pink hue as the weeks pass.

Plant the shrub in its permanent location, either in the spring or the fall. This variety of shrubs has a growth rate of somewhere between one and two feet each year, making its total height somewhere between one and two feet. People can be exposed to a low level of toxicity from the shrub, and the sap might irritate the skin.

  • Smoke bush, royal purple smoke bush, European smoke tree, Eurasian smoke tree, Venice sumach, and dyer's sumach are all commonly used to refer to this plant.
  • Botanical Name: Cotinus coggygria
  • Family: Anacardiaceae
  • Type of plant: Evergreen hedge shrub
  • Height at maturity: between 10 and 15 feet, with a comparable spread.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Type of Soil: Prefers sandy, well-drained soil with a loamy texture.
  • The soil's pH: can accommodate both acidic and alkaline soils.
  • Bloom Time: Late spring till the middle of the summer
  • Yellow is the color of the flower.
  • Hardiness Zones: 4-9 (USDA)
  • Native Territory
  • From the south of Europe to the middle of China
  • Toxic to humans in low doses.

Watch This Video to Learn How to Nurture and Maintain Your Smoke Bush

Smoke bush (tree) grow and care

Care For The Smoke Bush

smoke bush

smoke bush

In smaller gardens, a smoke bush is often utilized as a solitary specimen plant, but in more extensive gardens, it may be planted in groups or used to create an informal screening hedge. Because the plant can withstand dry conditions once established, it can utilize in xeriscaping and other applications where it is vital to conserve water. The Purple Smoke Bush is a dioecious plant, which means that it produces both male and female flowers, also known as staminate and pistillate blooms, on separate individuals.

The plant can thrive in virtually any soil and at almost every pH level. They would grow in somewhat sandy loam in a perfect world, although they can also thrive in rocky soils. When growing them in zone 5, choose planting spots that provide some protection from the prevailing winter winds. When you arrange these plants together, leave a distance of 10 to 15 feet between them.

Using wood chips or bark mulch to create a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch around young plants can help prevent weed growth and keep the soil wet. Be sure to maintain a distance of about two inches between the mulch and the base of the plant.

Light Source

smoke bush

smoke bush

It is essential to establish smoke bushes in areas that receive whole light. If it is planted in conditions of part shadow, the foliage will be thin, and it will be necessary to perform routine trimming to keep the plants dense.


It is possible to grow smoke bushes in almost any soil, provided the earth is well-drained and cannot survive on grounds with poor drainage or constantly wet.

Water Requirement

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Once it is well established, smoke bush has a high tolerance for periods of drought and dry weather. However, we must water young plants thoroughly and consistently twice a week. If mature plants are given adequate moisture once every ten days throughout the active growth season, they have a good chance of thriving beautifully.

Temperature And Relative Humidity

smoke bush

smoke bush

Temperatures and humidity levels that range from ordinary to dry are ideal for the growth of smoke bushes. Diseases caused by fungi are common in humid and hot environments. 2 Because of the potential for winter winds to cause harm to the plants in colder climes, it is vital to put them in protected areas in these areas.


Not much maintenance is involved in caring for a smoke bush. In the spring, apply some fertilizer to it, or add a layer of compost. If the shrubs are not developing at a healthy rate, an annual application of organic plant food may be required. There is a possibility that the shrub needs nitrogen to support the expansion of its leaves.

Different Kinds Of Smoke Bushes

Different Kinds Of Smoke Bushes

Different Kinds Of Smoke Bushes


Daydream is an excellent cultivar with green leaves and thick clusters of creamy flowers. It is a plant that has the potential to reach a width and height of up to ten feet when fully mature.

The Nordine cultivar

The Nordine cultivar has incredibly resilient purple leaves. It features fall foliage that is yellowish-orange in color.

Royal Purple

A typical variety with purple leaves, 'Royal Purple' has dark foliage and a smoke combination of purple and crimson.

Velvet Cloak

Another variant with dark purple leaves, 'Velvet Cloak,' has a stunning orange-red hue in the fall.

The Pruning Process

How to Prune Smokebush

A smoke shrub requires very little in the way of trimming. You may decorate it at any time to remove broken branches. Still, the end of winter is the optimum time to cut it severely to a height of between 6 and 8 inches above the ground to restructure and revitalize the shrub. However, you will not get blooms the next year because of this sacrifice. Heavy pruning in the late winter or early spring can remove the blooming wood from the plant, allowing you to avoid the bothersome blossoms.

If you want the plant to grow more like a tree, remove all of the stems except for the central leader stem, and continue to remove any branches that grow back after they have been removed. After the first two or three years, in the late winter of each year, trim all of the shrub's stems down to a level six inches above the ground, resulting in a bushier plant.

Propagating Smoke Bush

Propagating Smoke Bush

Propagating Smoke Bush

Stem cuttings and seed sowing are both effective methods for propagating smoke bushes. The usage of stem cuttings is recommended since they will produce results identical to the distinctive decorative quality presented by the plant's parent. These are the actions that need to be taken to grow smoke bush through stem cuttings:

  • Choose a leafy stem that is the length of your hand throughout the summer months. Pick out some fresh cuttings of softwood.
  • Remove the leaves from the bottom part of the stem.
  • Should apply The rooting hormone to the cutting.
  • Incorporate the stem into a growth medium that has good drainage.
  • Cover the pot with a plastic bag and tie it off loosely to prevent the branch and potting mix from drying out.
  • When the stem establishes roots, you may transplant it into a larger container or directly into the ground.

The Process Of Planting And Replanting A Smoke Bush

The Process Of Planting And Replanting A Smoke Bush

The Process Of Planting And Replanting A Smoke Bush

Following these instructions will allow you to successfully transplant a smoke bush into a container thanks to its well-contained and fibrous root structure.

It would be best if you did root pruning on the shrub a few months before you intend to place it into a container. To do this, dig a circle around the plant's base that is anywhere from 12 to 24 inches in diameter and at least 14 inches deep.

When it's time to transplant the tree, dig a hole around it that's 12 to 14 inches deep, then pull the root ball up and out of the dirt.

Proceed to relocate the shrub to its new home. Stay away from plastic and choose instead a solid and tall container that can fit the eventual height and width of the tree. At a minimum, the container needs to have one sizable drainage hole. The pot should be filled with high-quality potting soil fertilized and mixed with sand and compost.

Put your potted smoke bush somewhere sunny, and then water it thoroughly so the roots may become established.




At this time of year, you want to ensure you don't overwater your smoke bush. During the winter, you should refrain from fertilizing the shrubs. To provide adequate protection for the plant roots, place a layer of mulch measuring approximately 3 inches thick around the bases of your outside plants.

Pests And Diseases That Are Commonly Seen On Plants

smoke bush

smoke bush

Smoke bush can be challenging due to the oblique-banded leafroller and a natural insect pest in North America that feeds on various plant species.

Smoke bush is extremely sensitive to verticillium wilt, a browning of the leaves caused by the fungus Verticillium. Verticillium wilt occurs when soils are not well-drained. It is also susceptible to scabs and leaf spots, fungal conditions common when the temperature is warmer. Stem canker is something you should be aware of if you live in the eastern United States.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it simple to take care of a smoke bush?

The smoke bush doesn't call for much in the way of maintenance. However, suppose you want this bush to continue looking its best and maintain its status as a focal point in a garden, a dramatic accent in a park, or a container as a focal point near an entryway. In that case, you will need to give it some attention.

How long does it take for a smoke bush to reach maturity?

If the soil around the smoke bush is kept somewhat poor, it can extend the plant's lifespan to around twenty years.

Do pollinators tend to be drawn to smoke bushes?

Honey bees are drawn to the blooms and pollen-rich anthers of the smoke bush plant. However, they will not remain for an extended period since the wispy flowers do not produce a significant amount of nectar or pollen.