The Q&A Archives: Pruning Smoke bush

Question: Hi,

I bought one of your 5 gallon Smoke bush(2-3 feet tall,Royal Purple, Cotinus coggygria) and have planted in the ground. It has a number of branches(leaders) pointing upwards, but one of these leaders is about 2 feet taller than the rest and all the leaders are of the same branch thickness. If I let the plant grow without pruning, with the current configuration(i.e. one leader taller than the others), will it grow into a tree like structure. If I want it to remain like a big bush rather than a tree, how should I prune it? Should I cut off the one longer leader?
I have amended the soil with a lot of pinebark and compost before planting this in the ground. Now I read that if the soil is too rich or if fertilized the smoke tree will not get a good intense color and the growth will be coarse and lanky. Is this true?


Answer: Jack,

You can leave it to grow as a multistemmed shrub. One way to encourage this is to tip prune long shoots to where a side shoot attaches to direct growth outward. Don't prune it excessively. That plant really needs very little pruning. Don't fertilize it a lot as it doesn't need it. Good light is important in creating good color. Excessive fertilizing does encourage long, lanky growth, especially if you also water a lot or if it rains a lot.

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