How to Prune a Cotinus Coggygria

Written by jessica jewell
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How to Prune a Cotinus Coggygria
Use hand pruners for stems that are 1/2 inch diameter or less. (Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

The Cotinus coggygria, smokebush, also known as a smoketree, is a medium-sized shrub that can grow between 10 and 12 feet in both height and width. The flower stalks on the smokebush appear in the early summer and resemble beige, fuzzy clumps of fur or hair. Depending on the cultivar, the Cotinus coggygria produces deep purple, red or green foliage. In addition to full sunshine and well-draining soil, a smokebush must be pruned thoroughly once a year so that new, healthy stems will grow the following season.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Hand pruners
  • Lopping shears
  • Pruning saw

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  1. 1

    Find the three oldest stems on your shrub. These will be the stems that are the thickest. Cut them out of the shrub at ground level using pruning shears.

  2. 2

    Remove 1/3 of the rest of the shrub's branches. Remove branches randomly from all over the shrub, not just from one side or one section. Prune these branches at the base of the shrub, and start with the dead, weak or damaged stems first.

  3. 3

    Cut away any stems, tips or branches that look out of place. You can make these cuts at any place in the stem or branch. This final maintenance step is just for aesthetic purposes, so don't prune off too much of the shrub.

Tips and warnings

  • Wait until your shrub is three years old before you prune it. When it is three, prune it once every year in the early spring.
  • Do not prune your smokebush with hedge shearers. Though they shape the shrub, they do not remove the stems, which can be susceptible to diseases as they grow older. Choose hand pruners for small stems, lopping shears for medium stems and a pruning saw for large, thick stems.

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