How to Trim a Smoke Bush


The smoke bush gets its name from a flower that makes the whole bush look like a cloud of red smoke. Even when not in full bloom, the smoke bush is an attractive addition to the landscape. The deep purple, glossy leaves make a rich color point in the garden. Left untended, smoke bushes can get very tall and leggy, making them look gangly and unattractive. Heavy pruning every three to four years will keep your shrub looking compact, healthy and vibrant while yearly light pruning will keep your smoke bush looking neat and trim.

Step 1

Look at the basic structure of your smoke bush and identify three to five main branches. If the shrub has become too tall or scraggly, these are the ones to go. Cut them down to 3 to 4 feet from the ground.

Step 2

Cut out any branches that are crossing another branch and any wood that looks weak, dead or diseased. Use clean pruning shears and disinfect them between cuts to avoid spreading disease.

Step 3

Inspect the interior structure of the plant and take out every other or every third branch. Make the cut at the base of the branch where it emerges from the main trunk.

Step 4

In the following year take out the branches you left the previous year. That way the shrub will not look hacked after the first pruning.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Tree saw


  • University of Minnesota Extension: Pruning Trees and Shrubs
  • Green Bites: The Journal of the Horticultural Society of New York: Best time to Prune Smoke Bush
  • NPR Plant Profiles: Cotinus
Keywords: pruning shrubs, shrub care, maintenance of shrubs

About this Author

Olivia Parker has been a freelance writer with Demand Studios for the past year, writing for Garden Guides and eHow. She has studied herbal and alternative medicine and worked as a landscape artist and gardener. Parker is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Arts from Boston University Online.