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More Information About Cotinus

During his 2012 plant hunting trip to the Balkan states of Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Plant Delights owner Tony Avent discovered a bewildering variety of new forms of the popular landscape shrub, Cotinus coggygria. Here in the US we grow Cotinus as a large landscape shrub for its pretty purple leaves and fine textured flower clusters that look like white puffs of smoke. Tony discovered other wonderful forms of this plant including individuals with red flowers, and super dwarf forms that were only 1' tall and 6' wide.

Cotinus is a genus containing just two species, the Eurasian C. coggygria and the southeast US native C. obovatus (Tennessee to Texas). Both are used as landscape plants, but Cotinus coggygria with its smaller leaves, denser flower heads and purple-leaved forms is more popular than the native Cotinus obovatus with its larger size, looser flower clusters and brighter fall foliage in shades of yellow, apricot, and red. Both species of Cotinus have a wide variety of leaf colors and leaf forms available in the trade but as Tony Avent discovered the current commercial forms barely scratch the surface of the possible garden-friendly forms of this plant.

Cotinus blooms in late summer with its airy clouds of attractive flower clusters and soon after, the autumn foliage brightens the landscape. Cotinus is also populuar because it is tough, easy to transplant and drought tolerant. It prefers to grow in relatively infertile, well drained soil and is quite low maintenance. Although not necessary to maintain a nice shape, Cotinus responds well to heavy pruning if you are so inclined. Its large size, fall foliage, and airy floral display make Cotinus an excellent shrub border plant or specimen plant. The Missouri Botanic garden calls Cotinus an excellent smoke screen plant, and we agree.

Cotinus is in the Anacardiaceae family along with the notorious poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac as well as the popular ornamental sumac (Rhus), pistachio, cashew, mango, and black pepper. Try planting smoketree in a smokers theme garden along with Baptisia 'Purple Smoke', Nepeta 'Purple Haze', Buddleia 'Purple Haze' or Nicotiana (Blue tree Tobacco). When you are ready to buy Cotinus for your garden, check out our online list of Cotinus for sale below.