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Cotinus: a super all-round performer for the garden border

If you’re looking for a versatile, sculptural plant that adds interest to the garden border throughout the spring, summer and autumn, then one of the most useful plants Ladybrook Nursery would recommend would be the Cotinus, or smoke bush.

Few species can provide the same sort of textural qualities as the Cotinus. They are principally grown for their large, plume-like panicles, which appear after the flowers, and for the long-lasting, smoky haze to their branch tips. Their smooth, rounded leaves come in wide range of shades, from clear pinkish-bronze and yellow to deep purple and green. Most species and Cotinus cultivars produce magnificent fall colour, but it’s also easy to forget that they can add interest to the garden border form late spring too when their leaves start to emerge.

Cotinus are mainly grown as specimens in a shrub border; however, they are also an excellent choice for mass planting for hedges. Established Cotinus plants need little pruning to keep their shape, but they can also be coppiced, though this will inevitably affect the number of flowers that the plant produces. Best grown in full sun in a warm position in the garden, the Cotinus will reward gardeners with panicles of fluffy flowers for years to come.

Cotinus coggygria ‘Flame’

Cotinus coggygria Flame’, or the smoke bush ‘Flame’, is a large deciduous RHS AGM award-winning shrub, with rounded leaves turning bright orange and red in autumn, and large, feathery panicles of tiny pink flowers in summer. ‘Flame’ will tolerate most soils, but performs best when planted in moist well-drained soil in sun or partial shade. Cotinus ‘Flame’ will reach a height of 6m and a spread of 4m after 10-20 years.

Type: shrub or small tree

Height: 6m

Foliage: green turning orange-red in autumn

Flower colour: dusky-pink smoke-like plumes

Flowering: summer

Aspect: full sun to partial shade

Cotinus coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’


Cotinus coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’ is a medium-sized, dense, deciduous shrub with golden-yellow leaves that turn red-orange in autumn and plumes of silver/grey flowers in summer turning smoky-white autumn. ‘Golden Spirit’ will tolerate most soils, but performs best when planted in moist well-drained soil in sun or partial shade. Cotinus ‘Golden Spirit’ will reach a height of 4/5m and a spread of 4m after 10-20 years.

Type: shrub or small tree

Height: 5m

Foliage: golden yellow turning coral, orange-red in autumn

Flower colour: green smoke-like plumes

Flowering: June to September

Aspect: full sun

Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’


Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ is a bushy, large RHS AGM award-winning deciduous shrub, with rounded, deep purple leaves turning red in autumn and large, feathery, panicles of pink flowers in summer. ‘Royal Purple’ will tolerate most soils, but performs best when planted in moist well-drained soil in sun or partial shade. Cotinus ‘Royal Purple’ will reach a height of 5m and a spread of 4m after 10-20 years.

Type: shrub or small tree

Height: 5m

Foliage: dark red/purple turning scarlet in autumn

Flower colour: purplish/pink smoke-like plumes

Flowering: July to August

Aspect: full sun

Cotinus dummeri ‘Grace’


Cotinus dummeri ‘Grace’ is a large, bushy, RHS AGM award-winning deciduous shrub, with rounded leaves that emerge deep red, maturing to dusky-reddish-blue and then bright orange-red in autumn. ‘Grace’ produces masses of large, deep pink panicles in early summer. ‘Grace’ will tolerate most soils, but performs best when planted in moist well-drained soil in sun or partial shade. Cotinus ‘Grace’ will reach a height of 6m and a spread of 4m after 10-20 years.

Type: shrub or small tree

Height: 6m

Foliage: wine/red becoming purple, turning orange/red in autumn

Flower colour: deep pink smoke-like plumes

Flowering: June to July

Aspect: full sun to partial shade

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