How to grow cotinus

How to grow smoke bush

Find out how to grow smoke bush, Cotinus, in our detailed Grow guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Plant
Plant

Do not Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do not Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do not Plant in May

Do not Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do Plant in September

Do Plant in October

Do Plant in November

Do not Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does not flower in April

Plant does not flower in May

Plant does flower in June

Plant does flower in July

Plant does not flower in August

Plant does not flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Take cuttings
Take cuttings

Do not Take cuttings in January

Do not Take cuttings in February

Do not Take cuttings in March

Do not Take cuttings in April

Do not Take cuttings in May

Do Take cuttings in June

Do Take cuttings in July

Do not Take cuttings in August

Do not Take cuttings in September

Do not Take cuttings in October

Do not Take cuttings in November

Do not Take cuttings in December

Cotinus is famously known as the ‘smoke bush’, for its hazy plumes of soft pink, summer flowers that really do resemble clouds of soft smoke. However, it’s the oval-shaped foliage of these shrubs that makes a really dramatic statement. There’s a range of cultivars with leaf colour ranging from green through to purple, and they all share characteristically brilliant autumn colouring, with a fiery display of yellow, red and deep scarlet. Smoke bushes are mostly quite large shrubs or small trees, but there are small cultivars available.

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Where to grow cotinus

How to grow cotinus - where to grow cotinus
How to grow cotinus – where to grow cotinus

All cotinus varieties need well-drained, fertile soil and a spot in a border in full sun or partial shade.


How to plant cotinus

Plant pot-grown cotinus in autumn, adding a generous spadeful of well-rotted manure to the planting hole.


How to propagate cotinus

How to grow cotinus - propagating cotinus
How to grow cotinus – propagating cotinus

Propagate cotinus with softwood cuttings, taken in summer.


Growing cotinus: problem solving

Cotinus are generally not plagued by pests and diseases – they can succumb to verticillium wilt, a fungal disease borne in the soil, which can cause dieback and affects the foliage. If your cotinus is affected, it’s hard to treat and the best approach is to remove and destroy the plant, taking care not to disturb the soil too much as this can spread the fungus. Don’t replant cotinus in the same spot.


How to care for your cotinus

Cotinus are easy shrubs to care for. They don’t need much pruning, but if you want to encourage bushy new growth with larger than average leaves, cut the stems back hard in early spring. Add a generous helping of well-rotted manure or leaf mould after pruning – but even if you don’t prune hard, they will also benefit from a good spring feed.


Cotinus varieties to try

Growing cotinus - cotinus varieties to try
Growing cotinus – cotinus varieties to try
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  • Cotinus ‘Grace’ – this classic smoke bush has purple leaves that put on a spectacular show in autumn as they change colour to orangey red. It has a mass of purple-pink frothy flowers in summer. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it the prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
  • Cotinus coggygria ‘Velvet Cloak’ – the deep purple leaves turn brilliant red-orange before dropping in autumn.
  • Cotinus coggygria ‘Young lady’ – this slow-growing, dwarf variety has huge plumes of smokey-pink flowers and dark green leaves in summer. The leaves turn red and orange in autumn. It’s a good choice for smaller gardens.
  • Cotinus coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’ – this is an unusual golden-leaved cultivar. The Young foliage is yellow with hints of red, turning fiery orange in autumn. The flowers appearing in June and July are a smoky yellow.
  • Cotinus ‘Candy Floss’ – this large shrub has bronzey young leaves, turning green in summer and shades of yellow, orange, and purple in autumn. Large fluffy pink flower plumes appear in summer.
  • Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ – this large shrub puts on a great show with the deep purple leaves turning rich red in autumn. The fluffy pink plumes in summer really do look like clouds of smoke. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it the prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).