smoke bush tree

Growing Smoke Bush Tree Dry Conditions

Smoke Bush Facts Hard to Find Tree Grows in Lavington NSW

smoke bush treeSmoke bush tree or purple smoke bush is a deciduous plant belonging to the family Anacardiaceae. There are two species of the genus, Cotinus Coggygria and Cotinus Obovatus. This is a good garden shrub or tree having waxy green or purple coloured leaves and smoky purple-pink plumes as pictured. During autumn, the foliage colour changes to red, purple, or orange-yellow according to the variety. Cotinus Coggygria is the Eurasian species and grows to a height of 15 feet, whereas Cotinus Obovatus found in southeastern parts of the United States is taller reaching a height of 25 to 30 feet and having better autumn colour. The flowers are small and greenish-yellow or deep pink. Bloom time is from late spring to mid-summer. When the flowers start fading the flower stalks become longer and will get covered with fine pink or purple hairs resembling smoke puffs. There are different varieties of smoke bush available from nurseries but they can be hard to find.

Growing Conditions

This is a plant with very low growth requirements. All it needs is full sun and well-drained soil to grow. When planted in shade conditions the foliage is sparse and the plant needs regular pruning to keep them in shape. It can grow well in low fertile soil and thrives well in dry conditions and rocky locations. They grow well in areas with moderate temperatures. In humid and warm climates fungal diseases can be a problem. Proper drainage is necessary to protect the plant from Verticillium wilt. In colder regions, the plant may need shelter from cold winds. One needs to select the location for planting smoke bush as it requires a large area to grow. They should be planted with at least 10-15 feet spacing in between. It is good as a screening plant on the edges of the property.

How to Care?

Once transplanted, the plant needs watering especially in the dry spells to get the plant established. In the first two to three years of growth, fertilising with organic plant food in the spring improves the growth. Make sure that the plant is not over-fertilised. If over-fertilised, the plant becomes coarse and leggy and they may not have the usual intense colour during the autumn. The plant starts flowering in the second year of growth and pruning the plant in spring improves the formation of “smokes”. To give a tree-like appearance to the plant, prune the side stems and leave only the central stem. To give the bushier appearance, cut down all the stems to the ground level in late winter in the first two years of growth.


Smoke bush can be propagated by seeds or by stem cuttings. The seeds need 24-hour prior to soaking before planting. Plant the seeds in about ½ inch depth in sandy soil for germination.

When using stem cuttings, remove the lower leaves from the cutting and keep it in a growing medium for root development before transplanting.

Smoke Bush Tree Varieties

  1. Velvet Cloak

It has reddish-purple leaves and orange-red autumn smokes.

  1. Royal Purple

This has deep red leaves and purple-red smokes.

  1. Nordine

It has purple-red leaves that turn to orange-yellow in autumn.

  1. Daydream

This variety has blue-green leaves that turn to reddish-orange in autumn. The smokes are pink in colour.

This photo was taken opposite the Lavington square shopping centre in NSW while the smoke bush tree was in full bloom.




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