Smokebush, also known as smoketree or by its Latin name, Cotinus coggygria, is a deciduous shrub native to southern Europe and areas of central China. Smokebush reaches up to 15 feet in height and produces fruit clusters after flowering that are covered in fine hairs. These hairs produce a "smoky" appearance, from which the plant's common name derives. Gardeners value the shrub for its attractive flowers, fruits and foliage, and its ease of care in the home landscape. Hardy in zones 4 through 9, the plant thrives in most areas of the United States with only minimal maintenance.
Plant smokebush in a location that receives full sunlight throughout the day for optimal growth. Ensure that the site consists of moist, well-drained soil, though some dryness is tolerable. Space smokebush 8 to 10 feet apart.
Plant smokebush during the spring to allow the plant to establish itself before extreme weather occurs. Dig a hole of equal depth and three times as wide as the root ball. Insert the roots into the hole and gently cover with soil. Water thoroughly to a depth of at least 6 inches to initiate growth.
Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch over the ground, surrounding the bush to increase moisture retention, deter weeds and insulate the plant's roots. Replenish the mulch whenever necessary to keep it about 2 inches thick.
Water smokebush once each week during the first spring and summer of growth. Decrease watering frequency thereafter to once every two weeks. Soak the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches at each application. Do not water during winter, when the plant is dormant and moisture requirements are much lower.
Feed three times per year, once in March, June and August, during the first year of growth with balanced 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer. Follow the manufacturer's directions. Reduce fertilizing frequency to twice per year, once in April and June, for the remainder of the plant's life.
Prune smokebush lightly immediately after blooming ends. Remove damaged, diseased, leggy or excessively long branches with pruning shears to improve the appearance and health of the plant.