En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - May 29, 2009

From: Livingston, NJ
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Non-Natives, Pruning, Trees
Title: Pruning smoketree in New Jersey
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

How far from ground level do I prune a relatively young Smoke tree to get the bush effect?

ANSWER:

This is a classic example of really needing the Latin name for a plant, because common names can be given to totally different plants in different places. We started out by looking in our Native Plant Database for "smoke tree" or "smoketree." First, we looked at  Cotinus obovatus (American smoketree), which, of course, in Texas we call a "Texas Smoketree." This tree only occurs in a few Southern and Southwestern states and is not shown in the USDA Plant Profile as appearing in New Jersey at all. Next on the natives list was Psorothamnus spinosus (smoketree), which is hardy to USDA Zones 9 to 11, common to desert washes of southern part of California, Arizona and Baja California. Spiny, nearly leafless shrub or small tree and is also known under the synonym Dalea spinosa. Scratch that one. Not only is it really not an ornamental you would be interested in raising, but it would probably freeze to death by October in New Jersey.

Since those were the only two plants known by that common name in our database, we went Googling and found Cotinus coggygria, (Smoke tree) which is native to Southern Europe and Central China, and is hardy to Zone 5 or a protected spot in Zone 4. Since a non-native is out of our range of expertise, we found this  Floridata site which can give you more complete information. As it is in the same genus, Cotinus, as the native listed above, you would probably be safe in just letting it develop naturally. It actually would take pruning to keep it from appearing bush-like. They usually develop multiple trunks, with leafing no more than 2 feet above the soil. Refer to these Images for more guidelines on how the bush grows.


Cotinus obovatus

Cotinus obovatus

Psorothamnus spinosus

Psorothamnus spinosus

 

 

More Pruning Questions

Problem with crapemyrtle shoots in Victoria, TX
May 13, 2009 - I have a problem with crepe myrtle shoots coming up in my flowerbed. I had to remove a large crepe myrtle tree (18" diameter stump) and digging out the stump was not possible. I killed the stump wi...
view the full question and answer

Hail damage to Cenizo in Austin
August 03, 2009 - We have some Texas sage Silverado. After the latest hail, they look very sad. If about the half of plant is OK and the other half looks dried/dead?, should we prune the dried half? Are they ever comin...
view the full question and answer

Pruning live oak shoots from San Antonio
September 10, 2011 - I am new to TX and am curious about removing suckers/water sprouts from my Live Oaks. Everything I've read about pruning Live Oaks states that you must paint ALL cuts, so I assume that all means al...
view the full question and answer

Pruning for Spring
January 21, 2007 - When should I cut back (and how far should I cut back) the following plants in order to promote growth in the spring: Salvia gregii, Salvia leucantha, Ruellia (Mexican petunia), Plumbago, Sku...
view the full question and answer

Trimming iris leaves in Pickerington OH
June 08, 2010 - I recently trimmed the stems and leaves of my iris plants in late May - I realize now this was a bit early. The leaves are still about 3-4" out of the ground. I would like to half them and move som...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center