I Love Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ aka Royal Purple Smoke Bush

Jul 16, 2021 | Love This!

Name:   Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ aka Royal Purple Smoke Bush

Type of Plant:  A large bush or small tree…but accept that it’s going to get big! Hardy in Zones 4-8, and best grown in full sun. This plant can easily grow to 15 feet tall and nearly that wide.

Why I Love/Hate this plant:  This plant is most desirable for the foliage color and ease of growth. It makes a great background shrub for lower bushes and perennials, and a good component for a mixed-shrub border or screening.

A Word to the Wise: Don’t expect smoke bushes to stay small! They are fast growing, and not good if you’re trying to keep shrubs under four feet tall. 

Know that you can, however, prune to promote bushiness to make a fuller plant. The new growth can be cut back twice in a season, and the plant can be hard-pruned in the spring. Since the newest growth is the most colorful, frequent pruning will help provide the best color.

These plants are dioecious, meaning that they are either male or female. Although they are seldom labeled as such, so you seldom know which one you’re planting, be aware that the males tend to have showier flowers than the females. So if you’re wondering why your neighbor’s Cotinus has better “smoke” than yours, it’s probably because they have a male and yours is female.  

This purple foliage is valuable in many parts of the garden. Even if this plant didn’t “make smoke” the leaves alone are the reason to place this in a landscape.

I love how the raindrops are displayed on the leaves like diamonds.

The newest growth is the most colorful, so don’t be shy about pruning this plant frequently to stimulate the new growth.

If you’re planting this behind other shrubs, perennials or annuals, know that it perfectly compliments plants with pink or purple flowers.

Where does the setting sun light up your landscape? That’s the place to plant a smokebush, since it’s so amazing when back-lit in the evenings.


  1. William Moore

    Can I grow a royal purple smoke tree in a container?

    • CL Fornari

      If it’s a very large container (3 feet in diameter) and if you live in a warm Zone 6 or higher, you should be fine.


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