Help! Spring Coppicing of Cotinus--Long Gangly Whips?!

arbo_retum(z5 ,WinchstrMA)July 30, 2011

A friend of mine just asked me the following. I confess that I too have had this experience:

"I pruned by cotinus grace bushes within a foot of the ground in spring. Now I have long green/purple growth that is quite spindly, not that tight dark purple that I love. What happened?"

Is it crowded/not enough sun? Should the whips be cut back by half when they get 2' long or so(to force fuller growth)? Should it be cut to the ground rather than 12"?

Sorry if my memory fails, but i remember a GWer from MI?WI? posting photos of his royal ppl cotinus cut at ground level and filling out beautifully after that.

thanks for your help.


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I don't know exactly what happened to her Cotinus.

If helps here's a pic of ours right now...

I had pruned out the largest stem to the ground early spring as suggested by the nursery when I purchased it last fall at 80% off in good health in a 20 gal pot.

The part I cut was 1 1/2 thick" & 3' tall. The remaining part was only 1/2" thick, so younger growth & I decided to leave it. I planted the bed quite dense with perennials & also included annuals like snapdragons, lunaria, & bachelor buttons. I won't need those next year.

My notes on the smoke bush (don't remember from whom):

To get the best foliage color out of a purple-leaved smokebush. Early each spring, cut the shrub back to within a foot of the ground. The technique -- called stooling -- may seem drastic, but the payoff is nearly immediate: lush and large-leaved four-foot pillars of deep wine reds or chocolate purples, depending on the cultivar you buy.

Of course, if you do whack back the shrub, forget about the smoke. By removing the current season's woody growth, you've nuked the flowers (and therefore the silklike hairs on the spent floral plumes that give the plant its common name). For a smoking bush, just let it grow.

And, might I add, grow. The shrub resents pruning (as opposed to stooling) and will develop gangly, whiplike stems to spite you if you try to keep it small.

Coppicing or partial coppicing yields a fresh, graceful, manageable plant, while heading back the entire plant partway will produce a congested mass.

Here is a link that might be useful: pruning guide

    Bookmark   July 31, 2011 at 10:44PM
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