Cotinus or ‘Smoke bush’
A popular and colourful plant, Cotinus coggygria or ‘Smoke Bush’ are an attractive shrub grown for the foliage which varies from purple to red. In our climate it is an easy care plant and can be either pruned to maintain shape or coppiced.
Cotinus ‘Velvet Cloak’, Cotinus Grace and Cotinus Royal Purple are three popular varieties. The wonderful rich maroon foliage of the purple smokebush is an outstanding addition to the border providing a great contrast to the green of plants such as camellias and rhododendrons.
Cotinus gets its name from the flower heads which look like smoke from a distance.
Smoke bushes look great from spring though summer, with foliage ranging from green, purple and golden leaves. The new dwarf cultivar is young lady, flowers start a pastel pink and then fade. Will reach around 2m with little pruning. Plants also look great after rain a wonderful glistening effect.
These are a Mediterranean plant and require good drainage. The golden foliage releases will need a little shade. The Golden cultivars are a little smaller than the purple ones so can be planted in front for a great contrast in the garden.
Growing conditions and Care
C. coggygria (Smoke Bush) are an attractive flowering plant with masses of pink feathery plumes of flowers during spring and it is after the flowers fade that a little annual care and pruning is often carried out.
In terms of general growing conditions Cotinus prefer a well drained humus rich soil in a sunny position and once established are relatively drought tolerant.
Cotinus are best when kept pruned to 1 or 2 trunks, open up the centre of the tree and even consider copicing if you are keen on the foliage and a smaller bush. Pruning details
Cotinus coggygria (Smoke Bush) are deciduous and a number of species and cultivars are available including
- C. coggygria ‘Purpureus’.
- C. coggygria ‘Velvet Cloak’.
- C. coggygria ‘Royal Purple’.
- C. Grace
- The yellow foliaged C. coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’.
- The new release C. coggygria Young Lady.
Cotinus obovatus is the American smoke tree a much larger plant reaching over 10m in its natural environment .
Pruning the Smoke Bush
Cotinus coggygria or ‘Smokebush’ actually need very little pruning, they naturally grow to around 2m (6ft) and are a low maintenance plant.
The only time we have ever regularly pruned ours is when it had damaged branches or when we ‘took a few flowers’ for indoors, they make a great floral arrangement.
And every so often an ‘errant’ growth may need to be cut back to maintain shape, but rarely.
A few people suggest that they can be turned into a hedge, and indeed they can, but an informal hedge that does not need pruning. If you try to turn cotinus into a ‘formal hedge’ you might just ruin the plant.
Cotinus or ‘Smokebush Plants’ are available for sale from the following nurseries
'Justly famous for rare and unusual plants' Don Teese
34 Mt Pleasant Rd Monbulk VIC 3793
55 McDougal Rd Neerim South Victoria 3831 PH: (03) 56281507
Advanced ornamental trees and garden designs and concept plans. Direct to your property combined with specialist knowledge and outstanding service.
1070 Jacksons Track, Jindivick 3818
Specialising in growing and selling Rare and Unusual Trees, shrubs Perennials Bulbs and Climbers, a unique nursery with amazing stock.
412 James Lane, Fern Hill VIC. 3458 - Phone 0419002651
Large range of Rare plants, Climbers, Bulbs, Perennials Fruit Trees, Ornamental Trees and Shrubs. Available both Retail and by Mail Order
52 Rodd St Canowindra NSW 2804
An online nursery specialising in drought and frost tolerant perennials and fragrant, edible and herbs.