How to Grow Cotinus – Smoke Tree

Beige color champagne set sail smoketree with drops dew, Skumpiya tanning, close up, cotinus coggygria. Pink fluffy tree branches.

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Cotinus — commonly known as smoke tree or smoke bush –gets its common name from 8-inch clusters of minute fluffy blossoms that rise above the plant from mid- to late summer. The dramatic blossoms resemble puff of smoke.

Cotinus grows from 10 to 12 feet tall and nearly as wide. Old plants can grow to 25 feet tall if not pruned. Besides its unusual smokey flowers. Cotinue bear brillian foliage in autumn–brilliant shades of orange and scarlet. As flowers fade, the stems become hairy carrying on the illusion of drifting smoke.

Cotinus can be grown as a specimen plant or it can be included in a mixed hedge or placed at the back of large border or bed.

Get to know Cotinus

  • Plant type: Deciduous shrub or small tree
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 5-8
  • Hardiness: Hardy to Zone 10-11
  • Height and width: Grows to 5 feet tall depending on the age of the plant
  • Flowers: Dramatic summer flowers resemle puff of smoke
  • Bloom time:
  • Uses: Use as a speciment, in a mixed hedge, back of border or bed
  • Common name: Smoke tree, smoke bush
  • Botanical name: Cotinus coggygria
  • Family name: Anacardiaceae
  • Origin: Mediterranean region to China

Where to plant Cotinus

  • Plant Cotinus in full sun or partial shade.
  • Cotinus grows best in moderately fertile, moist but well-drained soil.
  • Cotinus purple leaves color best in full sun.
Cotinus, smoke tree
Bright autumn red and orange leaves of Cotinus or smoke tree.

When to plant Cotinus

  • Set Cotinus outdoors container-grown plants outdoors in spring or in fall in mild-winter regions.
  • Sow seeds in containers in autumn.
  • Ground layer Cotinue in spring.
  • Root Cotinus softwood cuttings in summer.

Planting and spacing Cotinus

  • Grow Cotinus in moderately fertile soil.
  • Space Cotinus plants 10 to 15 feet apart

How to water and feed Cotinus

  • Keep the soil evenly moist for Cotinue; well-drained soil is needed for best growth..
  • Fertilize Cotinue with an all-purpose fertilizer in spring.
Cotinus coggygria in summer bloom
Cotinus coggygria in summer bloom

Cotinus care

  • Prune Cotinus in early spring efoe new growth starts; the current season’s stems will produce this year’s flowers. Remove wayward or crossing shoots to maintain an open healthy growth.
  • Cotinus is susceptible to Verticilliu wilt. Purple-leaf varieties can suffer powdery mildew.

Cotinus propagation

  • Propagate Cotinus from seeds in containers in autumn.
  • Layer Cotinus branches in spring.
  • Take softwood cuttings in late spring; root cutting in a sterile seed-starting mix.
  • Root semi-hardwood cuttings in mid- or late summer; leafless hardwood cuttings can be rooted in fall or winter in a greenhouse.

Cotinus varieties to grow

  • Cotinus coggygria, smoke bush; bushy tree or shrub with oval, mid-green leaves to 3 inches long; leaves turn yellow to orange or red in autumn. Cultivars include ‘Daydream’ with airy brownish pink inflorences; ‘Flame’ see below; ‘Pink Champagne’ beige-pink infloresences; ‘Royakl Purple’ has dark red-purple foliae turns scarlet in autumn; ‘Velvet Cloak’ bears dark purple leavs that turn reddish purple in autumn.
  • C. ‘Flame’ is a vigorousm bushy, small tree or shur; turns brillian orange-red in autumn.
  • C. obovatus (C. americanus), American smoke tree; broadly conicl shrub or small tree with plate-like gray to gray brown bark, ovate and oral leavs to 5 inches or more log; pinkish bronze when young turning brilliant orange, red, and purple in autumn.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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