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dillybeansown

Controlling the size of a Smokebush

I have a spot on the corner of the house that I think would be lovely for a purple smokebush. There are some local ’Royal Purple’ that I’ve been considering. I’m just worried they will geat too big. ideally, I would like them to reach 6-8’ tall, and 4-5’ wide. Can I keep them reasonably well at that size through pruning? Or will they look awful? Lol.


if this won’t work, does anyone have a better suggestion for a dark leaved shrub that will fit those dimensions somewhat? Thanks. :)

Comments (28)

  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    when i want to gaze into a cyrstal ball to see the future.. i convert to the latin name.. and then do this:

    https://duckduckgo.com/?q=cotinus+coggygria+%27Royal+Purple%27&t=ffcm&iax=images&ia=images

    and then.. scrolling down ... i see that a vast majority of the plants are wildly bigger than the space you are thinking about ...

    but the i wonder about rejuvenation pruning ... and whether you can beat this thing back with a saw ... by systematically cutting it back .. while maintaining flowering ... and then i find this:

    https://duckduckgo.com/?q=cotinus+coggygria+royal+purple+pruning&t=ffcm&ia=web

    and i leave it to you to decide if its all really worth it ...

    but i will leave you with a personal experience ... i planted one decades ago ... it was purple.. but i have no clue if it had a cultivar name ... it was planted 8 feet out from the foundation ... inside of a couple years.. from a small transplant ... it was rubbing on the house .. AND over the gutters ... i then basically cut it to the ground.. and with no insult to the root mass... within a year or 3 ... it was back with a vengeance ... so.. being the realist i am ... living in realville and all .. lol ... i listed the house for sale and moved.. and let the next rube deal with it ... lol ..

    ken

  • 5 years ago

    typing and completing a post in houzz is becoming quite a task.. especially if you need to edit .. crikey .. ken

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  • 5 years ago

    You can prune the bejesus out of them but it is a lifetime job. 'Royal Purple' is reasonably well-behaved (not like 'Grace'). If you wait until it fully leafs out before you do your annual pruning, you will produce less vigorous growth. If you grow it 'hard' (lean soil, light on water) ditto. But as Ken notes, it's a plant that wants to grow. I prefer it on a hillside in the near distance...

  • 5 years ago

    Lol. Well, I appreciate you taking the time and effort, Ken, despite the Houzz annoyance.


    I would’ve used the Latin name if there had been anything remotely likely to be confused with the common name. :) I just didn’t think there was a difficulty.


    Thanks for sharing your personal experience. I definitely don’t want one to get that big! I intend to coppice it, wherever I put it, as I care more for the foliage than flowers, and don’t wish for an enormous treeshrub. I believe that it is a common practice with Cotinus, but I’m not sure how it affects size.


    The main thing I would like to know is if any Houzz members have had experience coppicing a smokebush on a regular basis, and what size they maintained, and whether I can reasonably expect to maintain a form that is narrower than it is tall.

  • 5 years ago

    Yes I have several that I coppice annually, or have done so in past. As noted in my first post, I have learned that if you are trying to subdue growth, wait until it has full leafed out before you cut it. Then cut it to 50-75% of the size that you want. If you cut it in dormancy when all of the carbohydrate is stored in the roots, it will grow MUCH faster and bigger.

  • 5 years ago

    Thank you, Kaillean and Sara! Great information. Beautiful pictures.

  • 5 years ago

    They are regularly coppiced here because theyexperience so much winter dieback. You won't get "smoke" but you will get those gorgeous leaves.

  • 5 years ago

    I would’ve used the Latin name if there had been anything remotely likely to be confused with the common name. :) I just didn’t think there was a difficulty.


    ==>>> true .. but i have found the higher quality sellers and sources ... use the latin ... and usually have the better info and pix .... and i mean across the board. .just not in regard to this plant ...it just seems to work better in search engines ....



    based on the info above .... i used to call this type of plant ... a 'run it over with the truck plant' .... in other words.. you couldnt kill it if you wanted ...


    sara's theory of cutting back.. right after it blew all its stored energy on leaf production intrigues me ... never conceptualized such ...


    ken

  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    It looks like you're set on coppicing the smoke bush, which as others have shown can be done and looks beautiful. You've probably come across it, but if you're still considering alternatives for a purple-leaved shrub there's always the black lace elderberry (sambucus). Listed as moderate growing to 6-8 feet tall and wide so it may fit your space slightly better: https://www.monrovia.com/plant-catalog/plants/3037/black-lace-elderberry/

    Based on similar space constraints, we went with a 'Lemony Lace' elderberry (that I trim the heck out of to keep the size in check) paired with a Ruby Falls weeping redbud, which might also fit your size parameters if you wanted to go with a purple-leaved tree:

    FWIW, the redbud is probably now my favorite plant in the entire yard. Anyway, just throwing out a couple more purple-leaved options if you don't want to constantly trim the smoke bush.

  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    My smoke bushes grow like crazy. I cut them back every year, but I couldn't imagine trying to keep mine to the size you want.

    I dont care for "Royal Purple" in form or color, but "Velvet Cloak" is better. The better plants won't be found at the Big Box hardware stores, but at more select outlets. If you're choosing a Smoke Bush, you want to try and find the best variety. Do some web searches and see what's out there.

    I am intrigued by the Ruby Falls Redbud shown above. I think that it would work much better for you than a Smoke Bush.

  • 5 years ago

    Thanks again, everyone, for the wonderful input and advice! CKerr, I absolutely love that redbud! It seems like if would fit my spot extremely well. ho lovely it is. Do you happen to know a good source for them that doesn’t range in the $100’s? Sort of gardening on a budget, unfortunately. The Black Lace is another great option! I do know there are some locally, if I can’t find a redbud. Thanks again.

  • 5 years ago

    I'm basically lazy (don't want a lifetime commitment at my age), so I'd choose something that fit my space versus trying to constantly shoehorn it.

  • 5 years ago

    Wait until the spring ... and shop around.

    Unfortunately, this is a specialty item ... it might be a bit costly.

    ... and I would steer clear of Wayside or Spring Hill Nurseries.

  • 5 years ago

    Dilly, we got the Ruby Falls Redbud at a local nursery here in mid-Michigan. Out of curiosity I called and they're out for the season. They guessed the price next year would be in the $75 to $150 range, two years ago we paid under $100 for a 4-5 foot in probably a 5+ gallon pot. I also called another local nursery and they still have several in stock including a 3-4 foot for $75. So if you haven't already, I'd suggest calling around to all your local specialty nurseries to see if they still have any in stock and might cut you a late-season deal. Otherwise, I agree with aegis that you'll probably have to wait until spring when you can also shop around the on-line sites. On quick search the on-line sites were all out of stock, I buy at nurseries not online so I defer to his opinion about Wayside and Spring Hill.

  • 5 years ago

    Check out some of the small, dark-leafed Phsocarpus aka ninebarks such as Tiny Wine.

  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    A dwarf purple smoke-bush has been put on the market, try looking on the web for that one.

    The leggy regrowth (and lack of smoke) on stooled smoke-bushes doesn't appeal to me at all (making a foliage plant become a see-through one is at cross purposes with the specimen providing a solid color effect based on its leaves). Especially when they come back all floppy and disoriented looking, something I have seen happen multiple times.

  • 5 years ago

    Just want to say that the above has not been my experience at all!! Stooled/coppiced or pollarded smokebushes can form very dense, heavily leafed shrubs and certainly do not have to be "all floppy and disoriented looking". You do miss the 'smoke' (but that is the least appealing feature of these shrubs to me) but you increase the foliage development and size by doing so.

  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    'Grace' is the most ill-behaved, ungainly shrub that I have ever experienced. The C. coggygria cultivars are manageable with little effort. 'Grace''s parentage is 1/2 ovatifolia. Therein lies the cause of her obstreperous behavior.

  • 5 years ago

    My experience is the same as Gardengal's.

  • 5 years ago

    And mine is the same as Embo’s so I don’t know what makes the difference - particular cultivar of smokebush, or pruning technique or light levels or what.

  • 5 years ago

    Thank you, ckerr, for the advice. I’m checking with local nurseries.


    NHbabs, I thought of a physocarpus, but I think it would be wider than y’all, which is not what I need. I need a y’all, relatively narrow shrub.


    I‘ve been looking at the new dwarf ‘Winecraft Black,’ and I think it would be close to perfect for what I need. if I can find it local, that’s probable what I’ll do.


    thanks to everyone for the information and experiences! I appreciate learning from your wisdom.

  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    All anyone here has to do to see how cutting them back down to near the ground makes them see-through and graceless, with a small number of whip like stems is to look at the above photos.

  • 5 years ago

    No way nohow is a Cotinus ever going to be tall and narrow!

  • 5 years ago

    Following with interest. I am considering Royal Purple for a corner of my yard as well, but I only have a 10x10ish space for it.

  • 5 years ago

    Royal Purple should be ok there. You may have to prune it from time to time but it's not crazy like Grace.

  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I recommend Summer Wine Ninebark. It’s my goto plant for dark foliage. Another favorite for fall color is Red Chokeberry. All can be pruned to size after flowering. Happy gardening!

  • 2 years ago

    My ninebark monlos are very good for dark foliage and trouble-free existence. Nothing seems to both ninebarks... great plant.