The Q&A Archives: Smoke Tree

Question: I bought a smoke tree and it is not looking good. What shoud I expect from this tree? I have watered it every day that it does not rain. It gets full sun. This is the second smoke tree I have tried. The first one lost almost all of its leaves. The shop replaced it and now this one is not looking good. Any suggestions?

Answer: Cotinus coggygria, the Smoketree or Smokebush, often grows as a multistemmed bush and forms a rounded yet open crown. According to Michael Dirr's Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, the ultimate size should be in the 10 to 15 foot range in height and width and it is considered a "medium" grower in terms of speed. Most plants grow more quickly in youth, so it would not be unusual to expect about two feet of growth a year from a young plant if it is well cared for.

Your Smoketree will adapt to average soil but will thrive in moist, well-drained soil and all day sunshine. Watering everyday might be overdoing things. If you keep the soil too wet, all the air will be driven out and the roots will suffocate. Instead of watering every day, water deeply only once each week. One of the best ways to water shrubs and trees is to build a watering basin beneath each one. Flood the basin with water, allow it to drain, then flood it a second time. This concentrates the water over the roots and allows it to trickle down, wetting the entire root mass. Try this with your Smoketree and it will probably perk right up. Hope so!

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