Smoke Bush Growing Guide

Cotinus coggygria (formerly Rhus cotinus)

Smoke Bush

Crop Rotation Group



Moist, well-drained soil enriched with plenty of compost or other organic matter.


Full sun to part shade.

Frost tolerant

Smoke bush is a hardy woody deciduous shrub that can tolerate cold to -29°C (-20°F).


None generally needed.


Single Plants: 1.80m (5' 10") each way (minimum)
Rows: 1.80m (5' 10") with 1.80m (5' 10") row gap (minimum)

Sow and Plant

Set out purchased plants autumn through to spring, as long as your soil is not frozen. Container-grown plants can be transplanted until early summer. Water young plants regularly, and cover the root zone with an organic mulch to keep the soil moist at all times. Smoke bush becomes more drought tolerant after the plant becomes well rooted. If planting in containers, use one dwarf plant per 35 cm (14-inch) pot. Smoke bush is sometimes used in outdoor bonsai.
Our Garden Planner can produce a personalized calendar of when to sow, plant and harvest for your area.


Many smoke bush cultivars have been developed with varying leaf colour and growth habit. ‘Royal Purple’ and many other varieties have dark purple leaves that form a beautiful frame for the airy clouds of empty seed heads that persist on the plant all summer, hence the name smoke bush. Most smoke bushes are capable of growing quite tall, to 4m (12 feet), but they are easily shaped through pruning. ‘Young Lady’ and ‘Winecraft Black’ are rare dwarf smoke bush cultivars that grow to only 1.2m (4 feet) high and wide. Most dark-leaved smoke bushes turn brilliant red in the autumn. Smoke bush needs little pruning beyond the removal of damaged branches in summer. Any hard pruning done in spring will remove the flowering buds. Smoke bush is distantly related to poison ivy, and can cause similar skin irritation for some people. Always wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt when pruning smoke bush.


Leafy branches of red-leafed varieties make a high-contrast filler material for cut arrangements. The hairy flower heads can be cut at any point for indoor use.


Pests and diseases are uncommon with smoke bush. Overly wet conditions can lead to root rot.

Planting and Harvesting Calendar

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Pests which Affect Smoke Bush