The Q&A Archives: Cultivation of Cotinus, Red-Leafed Smokebush

Question: I would like to know the proper cultivation of the red-leafed smokebush, a type of cotinus, i.e.: sun, soil, water, any special requirements, and how fast it grows.

Answer: According to Michael Dirr's Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Cotinus coggygria (Common Smoketree or Smokebush) of which there are a number of named red cultivars, is a multistemmed shrub growing loosely upright to between 10 and 15 feet tall and spreading about that wide or perhaps a bit wider. Its growth rate is considered to be medium, meaning about a foot or two per year. It is a very adaptable plant and tolerates a wide range of soils and situations but it prefers full sun and does best in a decent soil. In my experience these plants can be very straggly after a few years and are better used in a grouping than alone. If you want to take full advantage of the foliage and don't mind losing the flowers, you can trim it back hard during the winter and encourage larger than normal leaves while controlling the plant's overall size.

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