Friday, November 13, 2009

Plant Envy: Cotinus ‘Grace’

By Gardennia nutti

I’m sure you’ve all experienced plant envy. It’s when you see a plant in several different locations over the course of many seasons and every fiber in your body says “I NEED that plant, I WANT that plant, just think how wonderful that would be in my yard!” Well…one of the plants I’ve drooled over for years is Cotinus ‘Grace’. Early spring leaves emerge deep red then mature into an iridescent reddish-blue-green. Summer brings pink florets up to fourteen inches high and twelve inches wide, thus earning it the ‘smoke tree’ common name. Fall brings glowing orange-red fall color (see photo for this color explosion).

Cotinus ‘Grace’ is hardy (USDA zones 5 to 9), loves the sun, is drought tolerant, and if you have the space will grow out gracefully without pruning (it can reach up to fifteen feet high and wide). The specimens I admire most are those allowed to spread their branches and grow naturally.

2009 was the year for me to realize my dream. I finally gathered the courage and strength to take out a dull, out-of-place, grossly overgrown rhododendron. In its place is Cotinus ‘Grace’.

For more information about this plant, visit one of my favorite websites - Great Plant Picks:


  1. I gave in to one of these shrubs when it was in full fall color. Can't wait to see it in the spring and summer in my newly replanted beds.

  2. I moved into a house a year ago that had a smoke tree in the back garden. After about 8 months, the leaves began to curl and the tree began to look terribly sick. I have no idea what happened to it. I suppose I need to take it out. Would love to hear from someone with a clue.

  3. Unfortunately I don't know what is wrong with your plant, but let me offer a suggestion about how to find the information you need. The Master Gardener program has hotlines you can call about any plant issue - just go to the "hotline" section of this website:

    Quick note: before you call be prepared - they will ask for photos or a sample of the plant to help them diagnose the problem and find solutions.
    -Gardennia nutti