How to Grow a Purple Smoke Bush

Picture of Cotinus coggygria (purple smoke bush)
Maja Dumat/Flickr/CC 2.0

Purple smoke bush is often used as a garden specimen due to the purple-pink plumes and the purple leaves on some cultivars. It is highly drought tolerant.

  • Latin Name: Cotinus coggygria
  • Common Names: Purple smoke bush, smokebush, smoke tree, purple smoke tree
  • Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones: Zones 4-9

Size & Shape of Purple Smoke Bush

The purple smoke bush grows to a size of 12-15' tall and wide. It is irregular to rounded.

  • Exposure: Grow purple smoke bush in full sun.

Foliage/ Flowers/Fruit of Purple Smoke Bush

The leaves are oval and 1.5-3.5" long. The standard is a waxy green, though cultivars such as 'Royal Purple' and 'Velvet Cloak' have purple leaves. In the fall, leaves turn shades of red, purple, and orange.

The flowers are small and yellow-green, in groups 6-8" long. Most of them do not become fertilized, and the purple-pink plumes are the result of hairs on the infertile flowers. Purple smoke bush is dioecious.

The few resulting fruits are a .5" drupe.

Design Tips For Purple Smoke Bush

  • Use purple smoke bush as a specimen shrub and for fall interest. The purple cultivars such as 'Redsmoke' are especially useful as a contrast.
  • Quite a drought tolerant so useful in xeriscaping.
  • Leaf colors in the fall provide interest.

Growing Tips For Purple Smoke Bush

  • Purple smoke bush is able to grow in a wide variety of soils and ranges of pH.
  • Propagation is by cuttings and seeds.
  • Purple smoke bush has a fibrous root system and is easy to transplant.

Maintenance/Pruning

Purple smoke bush can be trained as a standard and used as a tree. Little pruning is needed otherwise.

Pests & Diseases of Purple Smoke Bush

Oblique-banded leaf roller can be a problem.

Purple smoke bush is very susceptible to verticillium wilt. It can also get leaf spot and scabs. If you are in the Eastern US, watch out for stem canker.