How to Transplant a Smoke Tree


Smoketrees (Cotinus coggygria) are small deciduous trees that slowly grow 15 to 30 feet tall. This yellow wood tree has oval leaves and produce yellow blossoms in June and July. These ornamental trees form fruit drupes covered with greenish and purplish hairs, which ripen in July and August. In the fall, the leaves turn yellow, orange, red and purple for four weeks. The best time to plant smoketrees is in the early spring while they are still dormant.

Step 1

Remove the smoketree from its container or packaging. In a large tub, mix 1 tbsp. of sugar for every gallon of water used to fill the tub. Place the rootball in the tub of water for a day. The sugar water gives the smoketree simple carbohydrates to help it stay strong during transplanting.

Step 2

Choose a planting site for the smoketree that is large enough to accommodate the mature size of the tree. Smoketrees are messy in the fall, so place it where the debris will not get in the way. Remove all weeds and grass from the planting site.

Step 3

Dig a hole that is twice as wide as the rootball and just as deep with a shovel. Rough the sides and bottom of the hole up with the edge of the shovel. This helps the roots work their way out of the planting hole.

Step 4

Break up the soil removed from the hole so there is no more large dirt clumps. Remove the rootball from the water and gently loosen the roots with your fingers. Straighten the roots out so that they are not growing in a circular motion.

Step 5

Place the rootball in the hole and fill halfway with the soil. Pour the sugar water into the hole. Finish filling the hole in with the soil.

Step 6

Spread 2 to 4 inches of sawdust around the planting area. Mulch reduces competition from weeds and grass. It also means that string trimmers or lawn mowers are not required near the smoketree. This prevents accidental damage to the smoketree by lawn equipment.

Tips and Warnings

  • Smoketrees occasionally escape captivity and grow wild in disturbed areas. So far, they do not seem to be a threat to native plant life.

Things You'll Need

  • Smoketree in a container
  • Large tub
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Shovel
  • Sawdust mulch


  • The Ohio State University---Ohio Trees: Smoketree
  • Yale University---Plant of the Week: American Smoketree
Keywords: transplanting smoketree, planting smoketree, Cotinus coggygria

About this Author

Karen Carter has spent the last three years working as a technology specialist in the public school system. This position included hardware/software installation, customer support, and writing training manuals. She also spent four years as a newspaper editor/reporter at the Willapa Harbor Herald.