Smoke Bush Guide: Popular Varieties, How to Care and Grow Smoke Trees

Often used as a garden specimen thanks to its beautiful purple-pink smokey plumes and the purple leaves found on some cultivars.

By: THURSD. | 06-04-2024 | 12 min read
Flowers Garden Plants Outdoor Plants
Smoke Trees Are a Real Eye-Catcher in Your Garden

Have you ever witnessed a shrub that seems to have emerged from a fairy tale? Look no further than the mesmerizing smoke bush, also known as the smoke tree. Picture a scene where clouds of delicate smoke effortlessly dance amidst a magical landscape, and you'll be close to envisioning the allure of this captivating plant.

One of the most sought-after varieties is the Royal Purple Smoke Bush. Its name alone evokes images of regal grandeur, and rightly so. With its vibrant and velvety deep purple foliage, this botanical masterpiece stands out like royalty in any garden or landscape.

What Is a Smoke Bush or Smoke Tree?

Native to Europe and Eurasia, the smoke bush answers to many monikers, including the European Smoke Tree and the Eurasian Smoke Tree. Its enchanting characteristics are derived from the clusters of feathery flowers that bear an uncanny resemblance to ethereal puffs of smoke.


smoke bushes have clusters of feathery flowers
Smoke Bush by artoxana


Also known as the smoke tree, the smoke bush is a fascinating and eye-catching shrub that belongs to the Anacardiaceae family. One popular variety is the royal purple smoke bush, which displays stunning deep purple foliage. With its unique appearance and captivating name, the smoke bush has become a beloved addition to many gardens and landscapes.

The smoke bush's scientific name, Cotinus Coggygria, reveals its origin in Europe and Eurasia. The shrub's distinct feature is its fluffy, cloud-like clusters of tiny flowers, which resemble puffs of smoke, hence the name smoke bush or smoke tree. These delicate blossoms appear in the late spring or early summer, creating a striking visual effect.

The Smoke Bush Has a Mesmerizing Appearance and Is Also a Tenacious Survivor

As if its mesmerizing appearance wasn't enough, the smoke bush is a true chameleon of the plant world, offering a kaleidoscope of foliage colors. While the royal purple smoke bush steals the show with its majestic hues, you'll also find varieties flaunting fiery reds, dazzling oranges, and even golden tones. Each one is a living work of art, infusing any garden with an explosion of color.


pink and green colored smoke bush
A smoke bush by @red_horticultural


If you think the smoke bush is merely a pretty face, think again! This resilient shrub is a tenacious survivor, adapting to a wide range of soil conditions and climates. Its ability to withstand both drought and frost makes it a reliable companion for green-thumbed adventurers seeking low-maintenance plants with a touch of drama.

But the smoke bush's appeal goes beyond its ornamental splendor. Delving into history, you'll uncover its intriguing roles as the Venice sumach and Dyer's sumach. These names hark back to ancient times when the shrub's leaves were harvested for their tannins. Extracted from its foliage, these tannins yielded vibrant purple or red dyes that were prized in the textile and leather industries. The smoke bush is a living source of creativity and inspiration!


Smoke bush glows in pink colors
Smoke Bush by dference


Which Are the Most Known Smoke Bush Varieties?

There are quite a number of smoke tree varieties that gardening enthusiasts can invest in to spruce their gardens. However, these ten smoke tree varieties are perhaps the most common, and you can invest in them to get your garden in colorful plumes of smoke

Royal Purple Smoke Bush Is the Reigning Majesty of Your Garden Oasis

Behold the king of the smoke bush realm! With its regal name and majestic presence, the Royal Purple Smoke Tree is one that commands attention and admiration. Its deep purple foliage reigns supreme, creating a striking focal point that exudes an air of sophistication and elegance. With this beauty in your garden, be prepared to be enchanted by its royal aura!


Purple colored smoke bush foliage
Smoke Tree by


Golden Spirit Smoke Bush Is Where Sunshine Meets Sublime Beauty

In a world longing for warmth and radiance, the Golden Spirit Smoke Tree steps in as a radiant savior. Its golden-yellow leaves light up the landscape like pure sunshine, casting a golden glow that captivates all who behold it. When you grow this plant, get ready to bask in the luminous embrace of this stunning variety!

Grace Smoke Bush Is an Ethereal Ballet of Green and Blush

Picture a delicate dancer pirouetting through your garden. The Grace Smoke Tree embodies gracefulness and charm with its pale green leaves blushing with hints of pink. Like a ballerina in mid-twirl, this variety adds an ethereal touch to any landscape, infusing it with a sense of tranquility and enchantment.


Smoke bushes and foliage
Smoke bush and foliage by @n_gardenlife


Young Lady Smoke Bush Is a Playful Symphony of Pink, Purple, and Green

Enter the realm of youthful charm and whimsy with the Young Lady smoke bush. This vivacious cultivar showcases a delightful medley of pink, purple, and green leaves, creating a vibrant symphony of colors. As you revel in its playful spirit, prepare to be transported to a world of innocence and joy.


A marvelous smoke bush tree with pink, purple and green leaves
Smoke Bush by @momomiichan


Velvet Cloak Smoke Bush Wraps Your Garden in a Lush Maroon Veil

For those who seek drama and opulence, the Velvet Cloak Smoke Tree is the embodiment of their desires. Cloaked in velvety maroon foliage, this variety creates a mesmerizing and luxurious ambiance. Witness as your garden transforms into a sumptuous haven, captivating all with its rich and velvety allure.

Daydream Smoke Bush Makes You Lose Yourself in a Whimsical Reverie

You can close your eyes and let your imagination run wild with the Daydream smoke bush. This enchanting variety transports you to a world of magic and wonder. Its blend of purple, pink, and green hues invites you to indulge in daydreams and whimsical reveries. The Daydream smoke bush is sure to sweep you away on a fantastical journey through your own imagination!

Royal Burgundy Smoke Bush Lets You Embrace Burgundy’s Aristocracy

Welcome to the court of sophistication and grandeur! The Royal Burgundy Smoke Tree reigns as the sophisticated noble of the smoke tree realm. With its rich burgundy leaves, it adds an element of refinement and elegance to your garden. Plant it in your garden and witness your landscape transform into a regal masterpiece.

Ancot Smoke Bush Is the Colorful Showstopper of Autumn

As the seasons shift, the Ancot Smoke Tree takes centerstage, offering a mesmerizing display of autumnal hues. Its orange, red, and purple foliage steal the spotlight, painting your garden in a riot of captivating colors. You can therefore brace yourself for an unforgettable autumn spectacle that will definitely leave you breathless.

Golden Ruby Smoke Bush Offers Jewels That Glisten in Your Garden

Prepare for a garden adorned with gilded jewels! The Golden Ruby Smoke Tree casts its golden and ruby-red leaves, transforming your landscape into a treasure trove of radiant beauty. With the Golden Ruby Smoke Bush, you have an opportunity to let the glistening colors of precious gemstones infuse your surroundings with a touch of opulence and splendor.


Smoke bush also known as smoke trees
Colorful smoke bushes by IlonaBurschl


How to Care for a Smoke Bush

If you've fallen under the spell of these mesmerizing plants, you'll be delighted to know that caring for the smoke tree plant is easier than you might think. With a little love and expertise, you can ensure that your smoke bush thrives and enchants your garden for years to come. Here are some essential tips to guide you along the way.

Smoke bushes thrive in full sun, so select a spot in your garden that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. They can tolerate a variety of soil types but prefer well-drained soil, so ensure good drainage to prevent waterlogging.

Smoke bushes are generally drought-tolerant once established. Water deeply and thoroughly during the initial growth period to help the roots establish themselves. Once established, water sparingly, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so it's important to strike a balance.


smoke bush decorative arrangement.
Smoke Bush and other foliage by @n_gardenlife


Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the smoke bush to help retain moisture, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weed growth. Keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunk to prevent moisture-related issues.

Smoke bushes generally don't require much fertilization. However, you can apply a balanced slow-release fertilizer in early spring to provide a nutrient boost. Follow the package instructions for the recommended amount and frequency of application.


Smoke tree outsie a grand doorway
Smoke tree by @wilkiem


Smoke bushes are relatively resistant to pests and diseases. However, keep an eye out for common garden pests like aphids or spider mites. If necessary, treat affected areas with an appropriate organic insecticide or consult a local gardening professional for guidance.

Most smoke bushes are hardy plants. However, if you live in an area with harsh winters, consider providing winter protection, especially for young or newly planted smoke bushes. Apply a layer of mulch around the base and consider wrapping the plant with burlap or using a protective cover to shield it from freezing temperatures and harsh winds.


Decorative piece made up of smoke bushes
Smoke Bush decorative piece by @tatemi_1229


Remember, each smoke bush is unique, and its care may vary slightly depending on the specific variety. Always consult the plant's label or reputable gardening resources for cultivar-specific care instructions.

How and When to Prune a Smoke Bush

Pruning a smoke bush is a key aspect of its care to maintain its shape, promote healthy growth, and enhance its overall beauty. Understanding the proper techniques and timing for pruning will ensure optimal results.

The best time to prune a smoke bush is in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. This dormant period allows the plant to recover quickly and minimizes the risk of interfering with blooming. Use sharp and clean pruning tools such as bypass pruners or loppers, depending on the thickness of the branches. Clean tools help prevent the spread of diseases.

Start by inspecting the smoke bush for any dead, diseased, or damaged branches. These should be pruned back to healthy wood or removed entirely. Make clean cuts just above a healthy bud or branch collar, leaving no stubs.


Vased smoke tree and flowers
Smoke Tree and flowers in a vase by @npomint87


To maintain the desired shape and size of the smoke bush, selectively prune longer branches to encourage branching and a fuller appearance. Focus on removing one-third of the old wood by cutting it back to a healthy outward-facing bud or branch. Thin out overcrowded areas to improve air circulation and reduce the risk of disease.

Smoke bushes tolerate hard pruning if needed for rejuvenation. If your smoke bush has become overgrown, you can prune it back more severely, cutting it back to about 6-12 inches from the ground. This drastic pruning can be done every few years to stimulate new growth and revitalize the plant. However, be aware that it may result in a year without blooms.

Throughout the growing season, monitor the smoke bush for any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other. These can be pruned to prevent damage and maintain a healthy structure. Light pruning during the growing season may also be done to shape the plant if necessary.

Remember, the smoke bush's natural form is elegant and wild, so avoid excessive pruning that may hinder its beauty or diminish its flowering potential. Always step back and assess the plant's overall shape and structure before making any cuts.


Smoke tree along the roadside
Smoke Tree by @mineabandoned


How to Propagate a Smoke Bush

Propagating a smoke bush allows you to expand your collection or share the magic with friends and family. For this, you don't need a wizard's wand but just a bit of knowledge and a touch of green thumb magic. Here's how you can do it.

Harness the power of softwood cuttings to propagate your smoke bush. In early summer, look for healthy, non-flowering shoots that are still flexible. These young shoots hold the key to new smoke bush plants!

Prepare your tools and materials for success. Gather sharp and clean pruning shears, a clean pot or container, a well-draining potting mix, and a rooting hormone. This is optional but recommended for better results.

Select a healthy softwood shoot measuring around 4-6 inches in length. Using your sharp pruning shears, make a clean diagonal cut just below a leaf node. Remove the lower leaves, leaving a few at the top to harness the power of photosynthesis.


Smoke tree is a captivating plant.
Smoke Tree by @suzuka_lovely_garden


To enhance the chances of successful rooting, dip the cut end of the softwood cutting into a rooting hormone powder or gel. This spellbinding substance stimulates root growth and improves the cutting's ability to establish roots.

Fill your clean pot or container with a well-draining potting mix. Create a small hole in the soil using a pencil or your finger. Gently insert the cut end of the softwood cutting into the hole, ensuring that at least two nodes are submerged in the soil.

Water the soil thoroughly to ensure it's evenly moist, but not waterlogged. Mist the leaves with water to maintain humidity around the cutting. Place a clear plastic bag or a propagating dome over the pot to create a mini greenhouse, trapping moisture and promoting root development.

Place the pot in a warm and bright location without direct sunlight. Keep the soil consistently moist, but avoid overwatering, as it may cause rot. Remove any leaves that show signs of decay or mold to maintain a healthy environment.


flowering royal purple smoke bush
A flowering royal purple smoke bush by KAMcMillan


Patience is key! It may take several weeks for the cutting to root and establish. Keep a watchful eye on the cutting, ensuring the soil moisture and humidity levels remain consistent. Soon, the magic of new roots will begin to take hold!

Once the cutting has rooted and established a healthy root system, it's time to transplant it into a larger pot or into the garden. Choose a location with similar growing conditions as the parent plant and give it room to flourish.

Then share the magic! Gift your newly propagated smoke bush to friends, family, or fellow gardening enthusiasts, spreading the allure and beauty of these captivating plants far and wide.


smoke tree bush beautifully colored
Smoke Tree by @littlebluewren13


So, whether you're an avid gardener, an admirer of natural wonders, or a seeker of historical curiosities, the smoke bush is an enchanting choice that promises to transport you to a realm of beauty and intrigue. Be it the royal purple smoke bush or its equally captivating cousins, welcome the magic of the smoke tree into your world and prepare to be spellbound by its bewitching presence. And with that, let nature's captivating smoke show begin!


Featured image by @ours_flower, header image by @oursilentfriends



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