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Genus Cotinus (Smoke tree)

Cotinus Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' Photo/Illustration: Stephanie Fagan
koe-TY-nus Common Name: Smoke tree
Few species can provide great textural qualities in the landscape like Cotinus. They are grown for their large, plume-like panicles, which appear after the flowers, and give a long-lasting, smokey haze to branch tips. Their smooth, rounded leaves come in exceptional shades of clear pinkish-bronze, yellow, deep purple, and green. Most species and cultivars produce magnificent fall color.
Noteworthy characteristics: Outstanding specimens in a shrub border, Cotinus are also a great choice for massing or for hedges. They need minimal pruning to maintain a healthy framework, or alternately, may be coppiced to produce large, dramatic foliage on varieties with colorful foliage (this is at the expense of generous flowering).  C. obovatus is native to the southeast U.S.
Care: Grow in moderately fertile, moist but well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Tolerant of moist, clay soils or dry, rocky soils and drought. Purple-leaved forms are more vibrant in full sun.
Propagation: Sow seed in autumn, layer in spring, or take softwood cuttings in summer.
Problems: Powdery mildew, Verticillium wilt.

Species, varieties and cultivars for genus Cotinus

Cotinus 'Grace' Cotinus 'Grace'
('Grace' smoke tree)
(1 user review)
Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This cross of the European smoke bush (C. coggygria) and the American smoke tree (C. obovatus) is a gem in the garden thanks to its multiseason interest. Its iridescent spring foliage is green overlaid with red; then its large pink clouds of blooms in summer are followed by brilliant autumn foliage that ranges from red to orange. 'Grace' combines well with just about anything; asters, ornamental grasses, and Japanese maples are good places to start.

Cotinus coggygria Cotinus coggygria
(Smoke tree, Venetian sumac)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This bushy shrub or small tree has generated many notable cultivars, all of which add great textural qualities to the landscape. It has 6-inch-long frothy plumes that appear after the flowers and give a long-lasting, smoky haze to branch tips. Its green leaves are smooth and rounded and produce brilliant fall color.

Cotinus coggygria 'Ancot' Cotinus coggygria 'Ancot'
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This specimen is grown for its stunning golden leaves, which turn to brilliant shades of orange and red in autumn. It may or may not produce the smoke-like plumes typical of the genus. 

Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’
(Smoke tree, Venetian sumac)
(1 user review)
Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This shrub or small tree has stunning dark red-purple foliage that turns scarlet in autumn. It has plume-like seed clusters, which appear after the flowers and give a long-lasting, smoky haze to branch tips.

Cotinus coggygria ‘Velvet Cloak' Cotinus coggygria ‘Velvet Cloak'
(Smoke tree, Venetian sumac)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This shrub or small tree has stunning deep purple foliage that turns orange-red in autumn. It has plume-like seed heads, which appear after the flowers and give a long-lasting, smoky haze to branch tips.