How to Grow a Smoke Bush


Smokebush, a flowering shrub also known as smoketree, thrives in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 9 and makes an ideal addition to lawns and gardens throughout the United States. Due to its large size and interesting foliage, gardeners typically grow smokebush as a solitary point of interest in the lawn. Extremely drought tolerant, smokebush requires little care once established and lasts for years in a single location. The flowers, while inconspicuous themselves, produce large tufts of hair-like fibers that give the plant the appearance of smoking, hence the name.

Step 1

Plant smokebush during spring or fall in a location that receives full sunlight and that contains moderately fertile, well-drained soil. Perform a soil test to ensure the soil has a pH of 3.7 to 6.8 for optimal growth. Amend the soil with dolomitic lime to increase pH or aluminum sulfate to decrease soil pH, if necessary. Use these products according to the manufacturer's instructions for best results.

Step 2

Dig a hole in the soil of equal depth and twice the width of the plant's current container. Remove the smokebush from the container, remove as much potting soil as possible from the roots and then insert the root system into the hole. Cover with soil and water lightly. Space smokebush 8 to 10 feet away from other plantings to allow room for the shrub's mature size.

Step 3

Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the ground surrounding smokebush to improve moisture retention and insulate the soil. Provide about 3 inches of room between the base of the plant and the layer of mulch. Placing the mulch against the plant's stems reduces air circulation, which can cause rotting or disease.

Step 4

Water smokebush once a week during the first two months of growth to establish the planting. Decrease the watering frequency thereafter to once every 10 days, allowing the soil to dry slightly between applications. Soak the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches each time to ensure the shrub's roots receive adequate moisture.

Step 5

Feed the plant three times a year--once during March, once in June and again in August--using a balanced 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer. Moisten the soil prior to feeding to reduce the risk of root burn. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer for proper application.

Step 6

Prune smokebush to the ground during late winter once each year during the first two years of growth to promote a bushy, compact growth habit. Remove any dead or damaged branches using pruning shears at any time to improve the plant's health and appearance.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil pH test
  • Dolomitic lime (optional)
  • Aluminum sulfate (optional)
  • Mulch
  • Fertilizer
  • Pruning shears


  • University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture: Smokebush
  • Virginia Cooperative Extension: Smokebush
  • "Georgia Gardener's Guide"; Erica Glasener, Walter Reeves; 2004

Who Can Help

  • The United States National Arboretum: USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
Keywords: grow smoke bush, smokebush plant care, growing smoke bush

About this Author

Willow Sidhe is a freelance writer living in the beautiful Hot Springs, AR. She is a certified aromatherapist with a background in herbalism. She has extensive experience gardening, with a specialty in indoor plants and herbs. Sidhe's work has been published on numerous Web sites, including