This is one part in a weekly series featuring the UC Davis Arboretum’s “Garden Gems” series – 45 can’t-fail, easy-care, low-water plants well adapted to our region and that add sparkle to drought-tolerant landscapes.
Old Fashioned smoke bush
Cotinus coggygria “Old Fashioned”
Size: 10 to 12 feet if left unpruned; 5 to 6 feet pruned.
Bloom season: In spring, tiny greenish blooms elongate into stalks covered with fuzzy lavender-pink hairs and look like puffs of smoke.
Exposure: Full sun.
Pruning needs: Prune when young to encourage branching; prune back every year in winter or very early spring to keep a rounded shrub.
Water needs: Low to medium; once established, water deeply once a week or every other week.
Snapshot: Despite its “Old Fashioned” name, this interesting water-wise shrub is not an heirloom, but a hybrid introduced in 2006. A deciduous medium to large shrub, smoke bush features blue-gray leaves that contrast beautifully with young purple foliage in spring. In fall, the leaves turn shimmering orange. In spring, puffs of fuzzy blooms look like lavender smoke, hence its nickname. This shrub can get tall, but looks best when pruned each winter to encourage its colorful and compact foliage display.
For more on “Garden Gems,” click on arboretum.ucdavis.edu.