How to prune smokebush/smoketree

redsox_gwMay 5, 2009

We inherited this smokebush (is there such a thing as a smoketree?) with the house and have never pruned/trimmed it in 3 years. As you can see, for some reason it is leaning to one side which bugs me to no end.

Would you prune this way down? Is it too late in the season already?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi, Yes, you can prune it. I prune mine every spring (before it leafs (leaves?) out) - this way the bush never gets over 3 or 4 ft big - it doesn't flower, though, if you prune it each year; but this is ok with me since I only want the beautiful purple coloured leaves.

So, if it were me, and I wanted to prune it now, I would. I prune mine to about 6" - no more (it's called coppicing (sp?), I believe). If that's too drastic for you, you can prune it down to whatever size you'd like, and coppice next year if you want to maintain it as a smaller bush (with no flowers).

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 6:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have the tree form of c. Royal Purple. It's been trained as a single stem. I have done some trimming on the branches, but I've never cut it down like some people do with the bush type. From what I've read, they recommend doing that in early Spring before it leafs out. Last summer mine starting branching out on the lower part. I like that look so I'm going to let them grow some. Right now mine hasn't even started getting leaves. Usually they come out in June.
As for the leaning, is there a tree or house that throws shade on the right hand side of your pic? It could be the branches are going towards more sunlight. Just a thought.
Good luck with whatever you do.


    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 2:09AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Propaganda Garden Design

If you want it for the "smoke" effect of the blooms you have to be careful. It only blooms on old wood and any type of pruning on these trees to shape them can create sort of wonky growth (pretty much like you have now).

If you just want the dark purple foliage effect you would cut it back fairly hard (within about 3 feet of the ground or even lower) and then it will break out in new growth with better color but no flowers.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 6:27AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'd cut the stems back to within a foot or so. That will sacrifice the "smoke" for a year, but the reward will be large colorful leaves short term, and hopefully a less gangly and leaning plant in the future. Some people cut their purple-leaved smokebushes (Cotinus coggyria) back hard every year to maximize the foliage interest.
I have a plant that's never been cut back that is attaining small tree form.

Speaking of smoke trees, the American native Cotinus obovatus makes a small to medium-sized tree with color.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 6:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
arbo_retum(z5 ,WinchstrMA)

eric is right on the money here.if you coppice it every other year you will have the smoke every other year as well. by whacking it, you force growth up from the base- to create a bushy, not gangly, plant.then maybe you don't coppice next yr., see the flowering ('smoke') and decide if it matters to you or not. if not, coppice every year.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2009 at 12:19AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm very curious to know as to why the foliage becomes so beautiful when smokebush is cut back. It's my first time to own a smokebush and the deep maroon/burgundy leaves are coming out now. Can someone please explain the difference of the foliage between a smokebush that was cut and not cut. I'm aware of the "no smoke" when it's cut.

Thanks in advance!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2009 at 11:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you all for your comments. We pruned it down to about 5 feet. It looks terrible but it looked terrible before (see pic). Hopefully it will still grow back this season.

And, yes, I realized the Maple Tree next door has really grown and is blocking the light. Ugh.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2009 at 8:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

What is that thing in the picture that is on your roof?
It is hanging down touching the smoke bush.
You are aware that smoke bushes and smoke trees are touch sensitive, right?
You can't have anything near them, they will grow away from it.
See how the smoke bush in the pic is leaning away from the thing hanging down off your roof?
What is it?
It will probably grow another 5-8 feet this year, so you might want to move it to avoid another problem again.
Good Luck!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 1:08AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I know it looks like something is hanging from the roof but no....maybe there was a limb on the top of the tree, I'm not sure. It could have fallen down from the Maple next door. Anyway, now it is cut down and we will see how it does.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 9:09AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
arbo_retum(z5 ,WinchstrMA)

i think you must be hesitant to do what is actually BEST for the cotinus- whack it back to 12". cutting it to 5' really doesn't force the base growth as well so you'll end up w/ a leggy plant again. use this opportunity and whack it back severely and you will be rewarded. honest.

The Cotton-Arbo retum

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 7:03PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Does Anyone Do Mixed Perennial Containers For The Deck/Patio?
As opposed to annuals? I've been seeing some pretty...
campanula confusion!
I have a question, everyone! I've always eyed campanulas...
diggerdee zone 6 CT
I love wood Anemones...
Or Anemone nemorosa. They are just starting to poke...
christinmk z5b eastern WA
NEWBIES: stay out of your garden
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
spring things
replanted this as part of last years back garden renovation...
Sponsored Products
AF Lighting Candice Olson Shelby 7703-2W Wall Sconce - 7703-2W
$158.00 | Hayneedle
Fleur-De-Lis Rug 8' x 11' - BROWN/RED
$2,299.00 | Horchow
England Coast Oil Rubbed Bronze 25 3/4 Inch High Four-Light Outdoor Pendant
$188.10 | Bellacor
Wing Chair Natural Linen
Brayden Metal and Wood Stool
Cost Plus World Market
Form Jug by Tom Dixon
$140.00 | Lumens
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™