Smoke Bush Question -Want Smoke

SweenSK(6a)June 23, 2012

Hi everyone,

We purchased a home last year that was previously owned by an English gardner.

There are three large red smoke bushes bordering our back yard. They are approximately 7 ft high and 4 ft wide each.

They had the smokey growths on them last year -fall?, but not yet this year. I'm wanting to trim them down some, but I need some advise. They are very healthy looking. I just want to trim them up a little and I would like to encourage more smoke blooms.

Please advise on what my plan of action should be. I can post photos tomorrow.



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It's not time yet, but soon. Normal bloom time is mid-July into August.

Cutting them now will prevent them from blooming this year, or at least delay it, but would probably be worth the sacrifice of one year's bloom for the long-term reward of better shape and size.

Ideally, the best time to prune these would be very early spring, around the time the crocus and daffodils start to bloom, just before the buds begin to swell.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 4:50AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

google rejuvenation pruning of shrubs ..

in my experience.. these are not the type of shrubs you give a hair cut to ... unless you really know what you are doing ...

every place you make a cut.. 2 to 4 buds will break.. and you will start getting large growth at height.. and in a year or two ... they end up starting to lean and fall ... and you end up with a bigger mess than you started with ...

if you look in the center.. about 6 inches from the ground .. you MIGHT see prior such cuts ... and that will be an indication.. of how good a gardener.. this English fellow/mum ... was ...

in the way back machine.. at my first house.. low learning curve .. i planted one.. about 8 feet from the house.. and came to find out.. that was about 10 feet too close... and i whacked it to the ground ... and by the next summer.. is was easily back to 6 feet.. i dont recall if it flowered that year ... but i was mad at it.. when i walked by with the saw .. lol ...

with its vast potential.. its either cut often and hard.. or removed ... do not rule out that option.. in the years to come ... i recall one.. in front of a 100 year old farm house.. trained to tree form.. and nearly covering the entire front of the house.. including the second story ...

i would like to see the pix.. and bobs your uncle ... since you brought up the theme ...


Here is a link that might be useful: so weird

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 9:06AM
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This is one the smoke bushes. They look like they are going to smoke soon. I've had a difficult time finding someone here in the Ann Arbor MI area that is familiar with pruning these. I tentatively have a guy with 30years worth of pruning experience willing to do it, but he's never actually pruned one of there. I'm supposed to call him after the blooms are done. I've had two others look at the bush and not want to trim due to no experience. I'll post a few photos of base of bushes. If anyone has any suggestions, I would appreciate. I wouldn't mind trimming myself, but I don't want to ruin the bush. I'm not able to find any good youtube videos on pruning

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 8:04PM
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Base of bush number one

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 8:30PM
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Base of bush 2

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 8:32PM
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Base of smoke bush 3

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 8:35PM
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All bushes- taken a few days ago.
Any suggestions would be appreciated.
If possible I would like to prune yearly and keep similar size/shape. I'm concerned with 1) them getting leggy and too large 2) pruning at the wrong time of year (I see some suggestions that say just after blooming and others saying early spring) So I'm confused as to which is best 3) I would like to stay away from cutting the bush down each year if possible.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 8:46PM
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Is it maybe like lilacs, cutting out a third of the branches at near ground level each year?

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 3:37PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


why in the world any so called expert.. would NOT know how to trim this bush is beyond me.. and makes me wonder about his CV .... curriculum vitae ...

and for the cost of a saw .. $10 at tractor supply ... i dont know why you would pay anyone to do it ...

and let me know what this dude charges you ... maybe its worth a drive from adrain.. lol ... but then i would violate rule 3 above ...

you cant really have rule 3.. and do this properly ... and that is why you are spinning your wheels ...

all flowering shrubs.. you enjoy the show.. then prune when its done flowering .. so it can set its buds in late fall for next year ... or if the other type.. grow the new buds in spring ....


    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 6:35PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Trim any unruly growth after blooming.

Cut the plants all the way back to about 8" above ground as soon as you see buds in the spring. The plant will back bud on those stubs and become more compact.

The popular method of pruning this shrub is called coppicing

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 9:36PM
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Annual pruning to size will eliminate (or greatly reduce) flowering. Cotinus blooms on second and third year growth so an annual pruning after summer flowering effectively will remove a large percentage of the shrub's flowering potential for the coming year. Pruning in late winter/early spring will pretty much guarantee no flowering. A lot like bigleaf hydrangeas in this regard :-) You either choose to prune to maintain size or NOT prune to maximize flowering

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 5:07PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Wow, what a dummy post on my end. For some reason I thought the poster was looking to encourage more compact growth.

I wonder if one strategy to encourage more smoke is to cut it back vigorously to encourage more growth. Yes you'll sacrifice blooms but more branching/growth = more smoke eventually?

    Bookmark   July 3, 2013 at 10:45PM
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