Smoke Bush

pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)March 20, 2014

So I have decided (after quite a bit of research) to replace two Japanese maples that don't look like they'll survive the winter with two smoke bushs or smoketrees. I am looking for the following (in order of importance):

1. One red and one yellow. They must be these colors in spring and summer.

2. Winter resistant (live in zone 5b).

3. The larger, the better.

4. Great fall color.

Can anyone make recommendations on specific named cultivars? Thanks!

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hey.. me again..

the smoke bush i put 8 feet out from my house ...

after about 5 years ... got about 5 feet over the gutters ... and cam about 10 feet out into the lawn.. and grew into the shade and started rubbing on the house ...

these have the potential to be extremely aggressive ... in terms of annual growth rate ...

especially as compared to a JM in the same spot ..

i dont know if you will have much yard left by the time two mature ...

its still extremely early.. dont give up on the JMs until at least 6/1 ... unless all the bark falls off ... i once had them die back to snow cover.. the first 3 years they were planted ...


    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 7:15PM
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Smokebush can be cut back or coppiced annually to keep at whatever height you desire - you can't do that with any Japanese maple :-)

The two varieties I listed in your post on the Maples forum are the two most common and popular purple and gold forms. In fact, 'Ancot' (Golden Spirit) is the ONLY gold leafed form of smokebush. Both can get to about 12-15' tall and as wide if left unpruned. Watch out for 'Grace', a hybrid form that can about double that size. This gets great fall color but lacks with the intensity of the in-season foliage color of the other two, specially if you want to focus on purple and gold.

The other possible combination could be ninebark, Physocarpus opulifolius. 'Dart's Gold' would be your gold version with 'Diabolo' providing the dark purple leaf. These stay somewhat smaller in scale than the smokebush if you are adverse to pruning and are even hardier.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 7:52PM
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wannabegardnr(7 Maryland)

Japanese maple and smoke bush/ ninebark are completely different look though, unless you just want the red, yellow colors.

Here is a link that might be useful: older post on zone 5 japanese maples

This post was edited by wannabeGardnr on Fri, Mar 21, 14 at 12:16

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 12:15PM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

In my experience, the purple smoke bushes are not fully hardy north of zone 6 and experience a lot of die back. They do best--and are exceedingly handsome--as spring cut back shrubs; though you get no bloom, you do get gorgeous leaf color. Also, I found the yellow one to be an awkwardly shaped plant, and finally started to coppice it yearly. Much better.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 6:39AM
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pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

Sounds like I may be better off trying the Japanese Maples again (and maybe babying them a bit more next winter). I have "Emperor One" and "Sangakaku" planted now that I bought from Home Depot. Maybe I need to try something else if they don't survive?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 8:22AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Winter sun and winter wind are devastating to JMs in zone 5. Give them protection from both and you'll be fine. You have to give them really good drainage and plant them when they are dormant as well.

I've had mixed results with them and I'm considered a full zone colder than you unless you're a far north/west suburb of Chicago. For me the only larger specimens to survive appear to be Orion and Emperor One. Your Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku' is definitely zone 6. Emperor One is a zone 5 JM. Again all zone 5 JMs will only survive given the requirements above.

Re smoke bushes. They only work if you plan to cut them back each year. I occasionally see nice specimens that haven't been cut back in my zone but rarely. They only love sandy soil seem to grow more gangly in clay soils.

My Grace dies back to the ground but bounces back to 6', then I cut it back in June again then it ends up about 7' to close out the year.

Its hard to make the call on anything as of now because March is just as bad as any other winter month. The duration and intensity of the sun increases while the soil remains frozen. Further drying out the plants.

9 degrees this morning...what the hell is going on?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 10:49AM
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You might want to keep the Japanese Maples and put thick mulch around the roots.

web site 'After reading J.D Vertrees' scientific research on Japanese maples one begins to understand the versatility of these beautiful trees.' Vertrees' lengthy research also shows that with correct mulching, 'The exposed parts of most Japanese maple cultivars, once established, can withstand winter freezing and air tempuratures down to minus 18 degrees Celcius (0 degrees Fahrenheit) and below. The roots, however, can only survive to minus 10 degrees Celcius (14 degrees Fahrenheit).'

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 9:00AM
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