Cotinus coggygria, commonly known as smoke tree, is an upright, loose-spreading, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub that is native from southern Europe to central China. It typically matures over time to 10-15’ tall and as wide. It gets its common name of smoke tree (or smoke bush) not from the tiny, insignificant, yellowish flowers which appear in branching, terminal panicles (to 6-8” long) in spring, but from the billowy hairs (attached to elongated stalks on the spent flower clusters) which turn a smokey pink to purplish pink in summer, thus covering the tree with fluffy, hazy, smoke-like puffs throughout summer. Bluish green leaves (to 3” long) are ovate to obovate. Fall color is highly variable, but at its best produces attractive shades of yellow, orange, and purplish-red.
Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates a wide range of soils except wet, poorly-drained ones. Prefers somewhat infertile loams, but performs well in poor, rocky soils. Good drainage is essential. Plants have shallow fibrous root systems. Garden Uses. Single specimen, group or mass in shrub borders or sunny areas around the home. Long-lasting summer smoke display makes this a striking accent plant. Also may be used as an informal hedge or screen (a smoke screen as it were). Hardy in zones 5-8.
The seeds have a period of dormancy. They can be planted outdoors in the fall or winter for spring germination or they can be cold stratified to simulate winter conditions and to break their dormancy at any time of the year.
- Soak the seeds in water for 12-24 hours.
- Put the mixture in a ziplock bag.
- Put the bag in the refrigerator and leave it there for 2-3 months.
- The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. Put the soil in a pot.
- Sow the seeds on the soil.
- Cover the seeds with a layer of soil.
- Water the soil so that it is moist but not wet.
- When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.