trimming back cotinus now

mrtulinJune 24, 2013

Please advise me on heading back pruning, shaping....a continus that put on about 2 feet of lush growth after a vigorous pruning in early spring.
I've been working on the framework for a few years now. They were up to seven feet tall, and recently I haven't the nerve to cut them back to, say, a few feet. Last time I did that it took two years for them to recover.
But this spring I did prune them very carefully back to five feet, trying to avoid creating "buggy whips"
They look great, if I wanted a 8 or 9 foot shrub. It's time for a haircut. But at this point in the season, how will the shrub react? I don't want to create a mess of twiggy growth on top
Thanks for your advice.

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Sara Malone Zone 9b

Which cultivar? Is it C. Coggygria such as 'Royal Purple' oris it 'Grace' which is a cross?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 11:54PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

when my purple smoke bush got two feet over the gutters...

and after i had spent 3 years trying to build a framework .. lol .. been there done that ...

i simply went in there.. and cut it all to the ground.. but for a couple small branches... and then i ran it over with the truck a couple times... lol

and by next fall.. it was back to most of the way to the gutter ..

i eventually solved the problem.. by moving ... and leaving it there .. and never planting another.. within 450 feet of the house ..

so the moral of the story ... get aggressive with it .... you cant kill it if you want.. and if it simply wont cooperate in its given spot.. move.. or get rid of it .... and i know you wont move from that 200 year old house.. and glorious garden ...


    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 9:10AM
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Sara Malone Zone 9b

The issue that I have had (and the reason that I asked the cultivar) is that one of the most popular, 'Grace', has C. obovatus as one of its parents and it can put on 15' in a year easy. The only way that I have figured out (with the help of a poster here, whaas) to contain it is to wait until it leafs out and THEN cut it back. At that point the carbohydrates are out of the roots and into the branch ends. If you coppice it in dormancy, it responds with a vigor that is almost out of a science fiction movie.

The straight C. coggygria cultivars seem fine if cut back in dormancy or left alone.

I love the leaf colors and the autumn display. Some I have trained as multi-trunked trees, others have handled as noted above.

Ken's right - you can't kill it, and they are amenable to moving.


    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 10:21AM
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That is really very interesting information.
They are both purple: purple cloak and ?
Ken, they aren't planted where they can do harm; one just is acting up and spoiling my careful placement between the arborvitae and chamy. I have a certain profile I want to keep. (my nose is curled up and I'm shaking my head a little at this ridiculous statement. But it is true. )
Right I could pick it up and throw it on the driveway and that would teach it a lesson. I'll go to my deathbed (in the garden) with that image of taming a hosta....

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 4:06PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

we all dont live in CA like sara.. so i wont look for 15 feet per year .. lol ...

but my point was ... and i am sure you got it ... this is for others ... just go after it.. and teach it a lesson .. show it who is boss ...

you talked about building a structure.. which to me means.. lots of thought.. worry.. etc ...

i was just trying to tell you to get out the sawzall.. and take it to 3 inches.. every year.. and dont worry about it.. maybe it will stay a 3 feet that way ...

of course.. then i might not bloom ... one would have to research that part out .. presuming you want bloom.. but then i dont know why you would want a smokebush otherwise ....


    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 4:52PM
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I think I've had one bloom in all the years. That's how long I've been abusing cotinuses (plural???) cotini?
So, It's the foliage, s.....d. (as in "it's the economy....) Ain't nothing so big and purple and insect, rot, and disease proof that I know of. Sand cherries get decimated by japanese beetles.

(I hope people realize there are limited ways one can tease you back, Ken. Please don't report this to the webmaster)
and thank you, really, for the compliment.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 6:49PM
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Sara Malone Zone 9b

When I originally posted about this problem with 'Grace', people from all over the country responded with similar experience! But Ken is right - you can't always use what happens here as an indication of what a plant will do in zone 5!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 8:17PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i would hope peeps would tease back ...

but lack of flower.. on a plant that lacks green.. is a lack of sun issue..

and if i recall your glorious garden.. [which i havent seen pix of lately.. hint.. hint...]...

yours is a very shady garden under under a high canopy of deciduous trees ... not what i think of CA .. lol ...

why dont you show FF/sara your garden ... hers is near desert comparatively speaking ...


    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 7:39AM
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