The Q&A Archives: Royal Purple Smoke tree

Question: I have two Royal Purple smoke Trees, planted in the Fall of '04- a third didn't make it through the 1st winter.One has grown very well, the other although it bloomed both years hasn't grown at all. Both are in full sun about 40 ft away from each other in the same kind of soil, same conditions, etc.
One question is when is a good time to prune the big one? A larger branch split in half and also maybe a little pruning might give it a little shape.
Also, what could be holding the smaller from growing?.
I purchased all three at Izzo's in Westport.

Answer: Smoke trees (Cotinus coggygria) can take all manner of pruning, from coppicing, to standard removal of one-third of the live material. Coppicing is a way to renovate an overgrown smoke tree; simply prune everything down to about 5" above soil level. General pruning is simply the act of removing one or several overgrown branches. Early spring is the best time to prune.

There are always many factors in determining the rate of growth of a plant. It might be that one is having difficulty getting its root system established. While it is concentrating on this, it may show little or no top growth. If you're curious, dig the plant up and inspect the root system. Make sure there are no barriers to root growth (old tree roots, concrete, etc.)in the planting hole and make sure the soil drains well. Spread the roots out in a natural fashion when you replace it in the planting hole, and gently tamp the soil around the roots as you fill the hole. As a final measure, water it well to help settle the soil. Next spring you should see healthy new growth.

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