Answer: These large shrubs or small trees (Cotinus coggygria) do tend to die out in sections from time to time. Some gardeners cut them back very hard in the winter to encourage lots of new growth from the base (and larger leaves; this will keep the plant smaller and denser but also keep it from flowering the following year. You can certainly go in at any time and neatly remove any dead wood to approve its appearance. Once that is done the tree may naturally work to fill in the available space on its own by growing toward the light that now reaches the center of the plant. You could also try to selectively remove additional stems from the base in an effort to encourage a tree shape rather than a bush form, but this would be a long term project. Enjoy your smokebush!
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