Cotinus Species, European Smoke Tree, Cooke's Purple Smoketree

Cotinus coggygria

Family: Anacardiaceae (an-a-kard-ee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Cotinus (ko-TYE-nus) (Info)
Species: coggygria (kog-GY-gree-uh) (Info)
Synonym:Cotinus arenaria
Synonym:Cotinus cinerea
Synonym:Cotinus coriaria
Synonym:Cotinus cotinus
Synonym:Cotinus velutina
View this plant in a garden



Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun


Unknown - Tell us

Foliage Color:



12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)


12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)


USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:


Medium Purple

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

By dividing the rootball

From softwood cuttings

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

From seed; sow indoors before last frost

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Pelham, Alabama

Prescott, Arizona

Clovis, California

Hesperia, California

Long Beach, California

NORTH FORK, California

Penn Valley, California

Centerville, Georgia

Decatur, Georgia

Fayetteville, Georgia

Marietta, Georgia

Boise, Idaho

Aurora, Illinois

Hancock, Iowa

Barbourville, Kentucky

Calvert City, Kentucky

Fort Thomas, Kentucky

Camden, Maine

Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

Mendon, Massachusetts

Sterling, Massachusetts

Wareham, Massachusetts

Fennville, Michigan

Minneapolis, Minnesota(3 reports)

Republic, Missouri

Springfield, Missouri

Polson, Montana

Omaha, Nebraska

Sparks, Nevada

Kingston, New Hampshire

Goshen, New York

Medina, New York

Sodus, New York

West Kill, New York

Columbus, North Carolina

Sanford, North Carolina

Vale, North Carolina

Walkertown, North Carolina

Cincinnati, Ohio

Loveland, Ohio

Jay, Oklahoma

Portland, Oregon

Camp Hill, Pennsylvania

Watsontown, Pennsylvania

Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

Lenoir City, Tennessee

Mc Minnville, Tennessee

Iredell, Texas

Overton, Texas

Tooele, Utah

Leesburg, Virginia

Bellevue, Washington

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On May 24, 2015, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

A tough, adaptable shrub. The colored-leaf forms, purple or chartreuse, are exceptional foliage plants. May be cut back very hard in early spring to encourage branching and restrain height---this also prevents the development of flowering and the "smoke" seeds.


On May 24, 2015, Meig from Timnath, CO (Zone 5b) wrote:

Does not do well on my windy property. Planted as tree, with one main trunk, it died down to the ground the first winter. I was going to compost it, but noticed it was growing from the base again so I left it. It gets long whip-like branches in the spring and summer, but they all die and dry out over the winter, so have to be cut down every spring. The plant sends up shoots again from the roots. I've left it in the ground for at least 5 years now and every year is the same. I never get the smoke-like flowers. I have seen no new growth yet this season so I'm not even sure it made it through this past winter. I really wanted this to succeed, so I'm pretty disappointed in it.


On Oct 7, 2012, rosalma from Mendon, MA wrote:

I planted the lime green variety (very light pink flowers) in 2004. Continually grew taller (about 15 ft.) each year with very long whips. I planted it in front of a kitchen window where I would always have it in view (love the color - also changes to a peachy green in fall). However the taller it grew, the less I liked it because it was actually too close to the window (about 8 feet away), and hid some beautiful plants on the incline that is in back of it). I was too afraid to trim or cut back, but after getting more knowledge re: this plant, I basically cut it all back to about 3 ft. this past March. Because it takes such a long time to leaf out (one of the last in Spring), I was fearful I had killed it. By mid-May it was in full leaf and absolutely perfect for me at that height. It ... read more


On Aug 31, 2012, Mike_W from Sterling, MA wrote:

We had a smoke tree growing next to our garage ever since I can remember. My father said he planted it when he was younger. It was quite large, at least 15 feet tall and had green leaves and tan colored smoke puffs every summer. The little smoke puffs looked like tumbleweeds on a breezy day as they rolled and bounced along the ground.

Unfortunately, we lost the tree last fall when the northeast was hit by that freak Halloween snow storm. The snow was wet and heavy and broke most branches on the tree and we had to cut it down. The good news is that it send new growth from the old stump, so we now have a smoke "bush" growing in the same spot.


On Jul 15, 2012, Kacey12 from BELLVUE, CO wrote:

This unique tree had been planted in my yard in about 1977, the orginal builder brought it from Missouri. We have lived here for 24 years, for many years it did nothing, we thought it was some sort of natural shrub, then it started growing taller and the last three years had produced the smoke like appearance in spring and pretty fall foliage. It catches everyone's attention because it is unusual for this area, the Rocky Mt. foothills, our altitude is 5400 ft. We never water it, our climate is dry, and it is in full brutal sun, and we can get some extremely cold temps in winter, yet it does beautifully. I just love this tree!


On Jun 5, 2012, amitrica from Montreal,
Canada wrote:

Just planted one in May with purple foliage. Little flowers appeared in the end of May. Still waitinf for the real "smoke" - guess that this will happen in the summer


On Mar 30, 2012, delbertyoung56m from Medina, NY wrote:

Lovely bush or tree. I planted mine in 2001 and it is now about 15 ft tall after 11 years. I finally trimmed all the lower limbs off it this past Winter so that the daffodils underneath can get more light. It seems to look really nice with an open bottom. The smoke it a great asset to any yard.


On Apr 15, 2010, MObarb from Springfield, MO wrote:

This is the hardiest plant I've ever met. My son brought home a twig from school on Arbor Day, I threw it in a pot, it moved with us 3 times in that pot, was left forgotten in the pot outside other than occasional waterings over 3 years (sorry). Finally I planted it in the current yard. It survived two bad ice storms since going into the ground (in MO), but it is growing beautifully, just keeps on keeping on every Spring. Now about 7 feet tall, has had no special attention, but looks great. Aside from the sentimental value, it is a tree/shrub I would recommend for it's hardiness, reliability, balanced shape, blue-green leaf color. Great tree.


On Apr 13, 2009, purplesun from Krapets,
Bulgaria (Zone 8a) wrote:

Please, note, this is not a plant for wet or heavy soils! Here in Bulgaria, where it is native, it grows on sites that are highly unsuitable for other plants, i.e. dry, rocky, hot, infertile, calcareous soils. It is to be seen at such places along roads, and is easy to recognise in fall, when it is most conspicuous due to the brilliant crimson colour; otherwise it blends with other plants into a green mass.
I grow a Royal Purple individual in Krapets, and it does fairly well, considering the soil, which is very fertile, yet dryish.
It has attained massive proportions and a great age in Balchik, as can be seen from the photo I've posted. The soil is perfect - a poor, shallow chalk, overlain with the thinest of humus layers.


On Jun 25, 2008, dakotaroser from Kingston, NH wrote:

One of my favorite shrubs/trees, especially the purple varieties(I do own a young lady(green) and its a small beauty,
really flowers out and its tuff. I put in a nice velvet cloak
several years back and even though it had some die back
occasssionally it was always beautiful dark deep marron
colors. This year I waited for it to do its thing and nothing,
it did not come back, well I trimmed its 5 ft size down to
3 ft. and after a couple weeks there is some growth coming
out of the base but I may wait and cut the rest down to this
new growth and hopefull start again. My two royal purple
smokes are ok, a really nice selection as well, just amazing
color but it doesn't "smoke" out like the greener ones, its
still ... read more


On Apr 4, 2008, Malus2006 from Coon Rapids, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

In Minnesota most planting are of the purple leaf varieties. The harsher climates of zone 4 here keep most plants small - in some area they are almost herb - like, dying back to a few inches above the ground every year - in a suburban yard I have seen a medium size shrub at about 6 feet in height, and yet there are huge speciments at a private college near or in St. Paul - I forgot the name but the smoke trees were in a central plaza surrounded by buildings next to walls so it increase a zone there and are more of small trees to about 20 feet tall - maybe more but hard to remember. Hardiness may vary like crazy, especially between different cultivars.

This species is very suspectible to verticillium wilts that causes diebacks of the branches and sometimes kill the entire p... read more


On Aug 4, 2006, GreenerGardens from Goshen, NY wrote:

For the past 4 or 5 years I've had several of these smoke trees as I love their color and texture. All of a sudden the tips of one of mine has turned brown and appears to be dying. I don't get it - all of my trees have been doing so well. Any thoughts - anyone?


On Jul 18, 2006, SmokeTreeWoe from Toronto,
Canada wrote:

My smoke tree is doing poorly, perhaps owing to the clay-heavy, non-draining soil. I think it's just too wet. The top leaves on each branch are wilting and dying.


On Sep 21, 2004, CatskillKarma from West Kill, NY wrote:

I have three of these that have made it through three winters in the Catskills. They are in full sun on a hillside with lousy soil--clay and rocks. The are quite full, growing as shrubs. I have neither watered nor fertilized, although I did wrap them in burlap their first winter. I was inspired to plant them by a really spectacular old tree in a local cemetery.


On Sep 20, 2004, HAMMERMAN from Loveland, OH wrote:

I planted this about Sept. 2002. Although it leafed out and created "smoke" normally this spring, the growth is almost on one side and and doesn't seem to be creating any ladder branches. I think this is referred to as "lions tail".

As it has only been in the ground for a year, my intention was to let it start to find its own shape before attempting any pruning but I am concerned about winter snow-ice-wind damaging it.


On Jun 14, 2004, cleeertofly from South Bend, IN wrote:

I have two plants. One is a burgandy color and the other is green. Both of them have a condition I believe is called "Lions Tail" which results in very long branches with the blooms and smoke at the ends.


On Jan 13, 2003, lupinelover from Grove City, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

Seedlings show a lot of variability in the leaf color; best to get cuttings of known varieties rather than seed-grown (which are much cheaper).


On Nov 9, 2002, WAYNEB wrote:

In America, this is often called the European Smoke Tree to distinguish it from Cotinus obovatus, the native American smoke tree. The showy "smoke" actually appears after the flowers which are small, kind of dull yellow and inconspicuous. It is composed of the seeds and seed stems. It is very unique and eye catching. As with many purple leaved trees and shrubs, the leaves of the purple-leaved varieties such as 'Royal Purple' and 'Velvet Cloak' are most intensely purple early in the season and gradually fade somewhat towards green as the leaf ages. This effect seems more pronounced on cotinus when in the shade. A relatively new variety, 'Grace', is reported to have especially large 'smoke'. It is a cross between C. obovatus and C. coggygria.


On Aug 25, 2002, ricotra2 wrote:

In the beginning of Spring, (when I planted the tree), the leaves have a grayish burgundy color and do not get wet by water (like waterproof). Stays very healthy looking with no effects from insects and bugs ( up until the summer, now)


On Aug 8, 2002, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Needs well drained soil and moderate watering when young. Once established, it's drought tolerant.


On Jul 30, 2002, darius from So.App.Mtns.,
United States (Zone 5b) wrote:

This plant has done better since I moved it from too much shade. Not as 'purple' as the nursery photos showed however. During the summer, leaves have a reddish green tint, and more red in the Fall. Slow to moderate grower.

It produces inconspicuous plume-like puffs, hence the name.


On Aug 15, 2001, dave wrote:

A deciduous shrub that may be trained as a tree, growing to 15 feet tall.
Leaves are alternating colors, with green on the top and blue on the bottom. This causes a very interesting and appealing pattern when a gentle breeze blows the leaves around.

In June, blooms appear. The flowers have plumy hairs, resulting in a smoky appearance surrounding the flowers, hence the name "Smoke Tree".