Cotinus obovatus

American smoke tree

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

Outstanding Qualities

A rare native of the southeastern United States, Cotinus obovatus (smoke tree) is a choice, small, landscape tree for any garden. This typically multistemmed deciduous tree is widely known for its spectacular autumn color. The rounded, deep-green leaves erupt into smoldering yellow-oranges, flaming reds and deep red-purples in early October. summer brings billowy, smoke-like inflorescences of hazy pink that will last for a month or more. Almost harvested to extinction in the mid 1800s for use as a yellow dye, it has slowly recovered in the wild and is becoming popular as a landscape plant. The twigs when broken reveal a bright orange-yellow wood and an unusual fruity-aromatic sap.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: tree

Foliage Type: deciduous

Plant Height: 15 ft. 0 in. (4.57 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 12 ft. 0 in. (3.66 meters)

Plant Height-Mature: 30 ft. 0 in. (9.14 meters)

Plant Width-Mature: 20 ft. 0 in. (6.10 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 8

Sun/Light Exposure: full sun to light or open shade, fall color best in more sun

Water Requirements: occasional watering

Wildlife Associations: bees

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: orange, red, gold

Great Color Partners: purple, lavender, green

Culture Notes
This smokebush thrives in full sun to light shade, although the fall color is brighter with more sun. Plant in a location with well-drained soil and provide with occasional watering during dry weather. It can grow awkwardly as a young plant, but will become fuller as it matures. With minimal pruning it will naturally form a small tree over time.