Common Name: smoke tree
Species: C. spp.
Hardiness Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 15 to 20 ft
Width: 4 to 5 ft
Cotinus spp. is a multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub native to central China and Europe. The smoke tree is a unique delight. It features large, fluffy, plume-like stalks with many small flowers, giving the appearance of pink smoke. The actual flowers are tiny and not showy. The structure that holds the flowers is covered with hairs and this is the actual 'smoke' for which the tree is named. The leaves are long and blue-green and have highly variable fall colors. Bark takes on a flaky appearance with age.
Where it grows:
Easily grown in average to medium moisture soils that are well-drained. Tolerates a wide range of soils except for wet, poorly-drained ones. Prefers somewhat infertile loams, but performs well in poor, rocky soils. Sharp drainage is essential as these trees have shallow fibrous root systems. If the bloom is desired, prune very lightly in early spring only as needed. If the bloom is not a concern, stems may be cut back hard in early spring to a framework to induce the growth of vigorous new shoots with larger than normal leaves.
How it’s used:
The smoke tree is used as an ornamental in the landscape. Often used in hedging or bordering walkways or patios.
Where it is native to:
Native to Europe and Asia.
Known Varieties and Their Traits:
Cotton CandyTM American smoke tree (Cotinus obovatus 'Northstar'): Leaves are dull green above and slightly paler below and covered in silky hairs; brilliant red and orange fall foliage; new growth is slender with a whitish bloom; flowers emerge from long stocks and turn purplish-pink; tolerant of drought and urban conditions.
Daydream Eurasian smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria ‘Daydream’): Bluish-green leaves turn yellow to red in the fall; dense clusters of persistent flower stalks produce purplish-red ‘smoke’ in mid-summer.
Golden Spirit smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria 'Ancot'): Oval to rounded reaching 6 to 8 feet high and 5 to 6 feet wide; new foliage emerges chartreuse; gold to lime green changing to medium green in summer and fall color ranges from pink, orange, coral and red.
Grace smoke tree (Cotinus 'Grace'): A hybrid of Cotinus obovatus and Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak'. Large pink flower panicles with 4 to 6 inch long blue-green leaves. Can be a small tree or large shrub reaching 15 to 20 feet high.
Nordine smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria ‘Nordine’): One of the hardiest of the purple-leaf forms, selected from The Morton Arboretum collections; oval to slightly elongated purplish-red leaves hold color well into the summer and then change to an orange-yellow in the fall.
Royal Purple smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’): Upright, 10 to 15 feet high and 10 feet wide. Dark purple leaves in summer and red-purple in fall; 'smoke' is also reddish-purple.
Velvet Cloak smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria ‘Velvet Cloak’): Dark, oval to slightly elongated purple leaves maintain color throughout the summer; fall color is a reddish-purple; large, purple-pink, airy, plume-like flower stalk clusters provide interest all summer.
Some susceptibility to leaf spot, rust, and verticillium wilt. May suffer from dieback in cold winters.
Missouri Botanical Garden