Smoke tree pruning

redsox_gwFebruary 27, 2011

We have a smoke tree in the front yard. It is within about 20 feet of a large maple which unfortunately, provides some shade on one side. This causes the tree to bend towards the light making it somewhat unattractive.

In addition, the smoke tree gets taller than we would like. So the last 2 seasons in early spring, we pruned the smoke tree way down. Of course the years that you prune it, it does not produce the flowers, but so be it.

The problem is that last year we trimmed it way down and it still grew to over 6 feet. It looks better at around 4 or 5 feet.

So now we are back in the same situation, despite having pruned it just last year. I.E, it will not produce flowers if we prune it but if we don't, it gets ungainly and due to the nearby maple tree, with an unsightly lean.

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

get rid of it ....

its planted in the wrong spot regarding sun ...

its too big for the spot ..

and now that it has a huge root mass.. it grows too aggressive for the spot ...

whats the upside on this monster ????

come on.. admit it .. you hate this thing.. lol ...

for $20 you can get another [if it is important to have one] .. and plant it where it fits.. within all aspects ... sun.. space.. size .... and you will have a shaded spot for something else ...

you can not keep a plant that grows 6 feet per year.. at 5 feet ...

i have played this game.. with a smokebush.. and the best part of the game.. was destroying it ... unfortunately ... it took me 5 years of messing with it [to build the hate level].. to come up with the end game plan .... lol .. i just saved you 5 years.. lol ..

good luck


    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 11:16AM
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Actually we really like the smoke tree :-( I would love to get rid of the maple, actually, but it would be too expensive.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 9:51AM
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you can not keep a plant that grows 6 feet per year.. at 5 feet ...

Yes, you can - it's called coppicing and one can keep all manner of taller growing trees and shrubs to a more manageable size by coppicing or stooling. Smokebushes are often coppiced or routinely pruned back hard - it's a pretty common practice. Yes, it does remove the potential for bloom or the 'smoke', but it does emphasize the foliage aspect, typically producing larger and denser foliage.

The one issue with coppicing is that it will encourage a lot of long, leggy stem growth. If the smokebush is not in a lot of sun, this growth will lean or reach for the light.

Not sure exactly what your question is, but if you want to keep the smokebush where it is and keep size somewhat in check, then you will need to follow this practice every spring. And you can head back longer stems during the growng season if you want. Won't hurt the shrub any :-)

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 11:41AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

what eggs-actly is the point of a smoke bush that doesnt smoke ...

i can name a couple thousand better shrubs that just sit there and do not perform ...

even the somewhat purple one .. ends up mostly green in too much shade ... and nothing is going to stop that maple from getting larger.. and increasing the shade factor ...

regardless.. you like it.. so you have a few more years to build that hate level i mentioned above ... lol ...

good luck


    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 12:13PM
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ken, not everyone loves or even wants the 'smoke' - I find it rather messy looking and much prefer the foliage effect, which when coppiced, gets to be of enormous size and very intense coloring. So I (and many others) grow the shrub primarily for it foliage color, not the flowering effect :-) This is even more pronounced in fall, when the foliage turns scarlet and orange.

Cultivars like 'Royal Purple' or 'Velvet Cloak' DO hold their color quite well, even in part shade. And the gold colored one, 'Golden Spirit' (which tends not produce a lot of 'smoke' anyway), would prefer to be in at least partial shade.

redsox, I believe you've posted about this shrub before, so since some time has passed, I assume you are happy with the results of the coppicing? A pretty shady condition will result in reaching, leggier growth and a washing out of the more intense coloring, so if that is the case and you want to keep the smokebush where it is, removing the maple is your best alternative.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 2:18PM
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Propaganda Garden Design

Ack. Don't get rid of it. That's crazy. Just cut it was back at the end of winter and then a bit of a pruning in mid summer to keep it in bounds.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 5:11AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

my only mission in this post.. is to point out that there are other options.. rather than fooling with something that is an irritant ... have no guilt in removing something as such ...

but OP still has hope and praise.. so be it ... [so it is said, so it is written]

ken, the devils advocate

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 8:05AM
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marquest(z5 PA)

Since you like the tree/bush maybe you could move it to another location and plant something shorter. I can understand not wanting to cut it down.

I do not know which smoke bush you have but mine is in shade and the leaf color is awesome all summer. I do not know the name because it was purchased on clearance and no tag. I cannot imagine not having the leaf color of this bush that I have not seen in any other bush all summer. I get compliments all the time it is like a jewel. I do not need the smoke.

Ken do you have suggestions of a bush that would grow in shade with the jewel purple/red/orange color all summer?

This pic does not show how it glows but you can see how low I cut it every year.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 1:04PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

Ken do you have suggestions of a bush that would grow in shade with the jewel purple/red/orange color all summer?

===>>> no ... depending on what you mean by 'jewel' .... meaning to me .. an intensity of depth of color .... [and depending on the depth of the shade]

any leaf color that is away from green.. inherently weakens the vigor of a plant ... add shade to that formula.. and simply put.. you arent going to find many ...

in shade.. most things devolve to green as the season progresses [more so when the shade deepens] ... just to process the energy needed to make it thru winter ....

however.. if you add flowers to the shrub.. that is one way to add seasonal color ...

and then add an area large enough to support many shrubs ...

then you can develop an everchanging pallet of variable colors over the season ...

but to ask if there is ONE shrub that will do what you ask ... i would bet a shiny penny.. that there isnt... but i am not really 'up' on all the latest developments on shrubs ....

you might wish to ask the same question in the hosta forum.. because those are your shade peeps ... and they grow all kinds of companion plants that might share your needs ... and as the foot of snow in the garden melts.. i am simply blanking on what is hiding in my hosta beds ... lol ...


ps: there is something out there.. with large hand sized leaves.. that has incredible orange flowers.. but for the life of me.. i cant remember what it is ... well.. there you go.. all i have to do is claim senility.. and up pops the name .... check out the link ... but its not a shrub ... note the one with purple leaves and yellow rockets ... lots of jewel there i suppose ... and note the pix show it in sun.. and in shade .. whats that all about .... lol

Here is a link that might be useful: flip back the the WEB side for info

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 8:53AM
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marquest(z5 PA)

What I was trying to do was to give thought of something we could offer as an alternate. If someone wants the color all summer (not a temp flower) shrub/plant what could they plant.

I do not like to tell someone to do away with something that is working and not offer an alternate. I could not think of anything and that was the reason for my question.

I have Marie Britt Ligulara and it is an alternate if you want something with a little color. It blooms those yellow flowers in Late Summer. I do not look for flowers first it is about the leaves because they last longer than a fleeting flower.

As I said I do not know which Smokebush I have but to be in the amount of shade I have this plant growing is up there on my top must have plants. Since you said the one you cut down was green most of the time you have to find the glowing one to really understand how someone would do almost anything to keep it in the garden. It is prettier than any flower and you have that color Spring, summer, fall.

Have I convenienced you to run not walk to find a beautiful Continus Purple Smoke Bush? LOL

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 12:22PM
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