En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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 Trees Questions

Problems with Acer rubrum in Sacramento
September 06, 2009 - We live in Sacramento California and have two seven year old Magenta Maple trees in our front yard that are planted about 65 feet from each other. This is the second year in a row that the tree on th...
view the full question and answer

Jelly made from local plums from Amarillo TX
July 29, 2011 - On Wednesday, August 5, 2009 you answered a question on native plants in the Austin area in which you wrote:"Two kinds of local plums have also been used to make jellies: Mexican Plum (Prunus mexican...
view the full question and answer

Are hackberries harmful to other trees?
March 25, 2009 - A neighbor warned me that a hackberry tree that naturally sprouted up recently will harm the roots of other trees nearby and that it is such a bad tree we should take it down before it gets too big. I...
view the full question and answer

Care for oak acorns after planting from Huntsville TX
April 21, 2012 - I planted oak trees from acorns, how often and how much do I water them?
view the full question and answer

Problems with rusty blackhaw viburnum in Austin
May 07, 2010 - I have a four foot rusty blackhaw viburnum. Last summer the leaves turned reddish and in the late summer most of them fell off. This February the plant started to leaf out and then bloomed. It has ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center