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?

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dee_can1

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
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Kat

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.

Kat

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 2:09AM
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PRO
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
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rusty_blackhaw(6a)

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
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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.
best,
mindy

    Bookmark   May 10, 2009 at 12:19AM
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v1rt

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
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redsox_gw

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
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butterfly4u

Redsox,
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
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redsox_gw

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
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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.

best,
mindy
The Cotton-Arbo retum

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 7:03PM
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