How to Grow Smoke Tree from Seed


The smoke tree (Cotinus obovatus) is native to the United States where it can be found growing in rocky soils in Oklahoma, Alabama and up into Tennessee and Kentucky. This is actually classified as a shrub, although it can be trained to grow as a tree and it will grow from 15 to 30 feet high.

The best part of growing the smoke tree are the flowers from hence comes its name. From a distance, when the shrub is covered in them, it appears to be smothered in smoke. Smoke trees also offer interest in autumn with lovely fall-colored foliage.

Smoke Tree Seeds

They’re tiny and you’ll need to wait until after the last frost date (in fact, wait until there is absolutely no danger of frost) to plant them.

Place the smoke tree seeds in a bowl and pour warm water over them. Allow them to soak for 24 hours. Change the water with clean, warm water after the first 12 hours. Allow the seeds to completely air dry.

While you’re waiting for them to dry, choose a sunny spot in which to germinate the smoke tree seeds. They not particular about the texture of the soil in which they are planted, only that it be well-drained. Pour a 3-inch layer of sand over the planting area and mix it to a depth of 8 inches.

Push the smoke tree seeds 3/8 inch into the soil, 12 inches apart. Water the area with the fine mist setting on your hose until the top 2 inches of soil is moist and ensure that it remains moist during germination. Be very careful when you water. As mentioned earlier, the seeds are quite small and will wash away if you don’t exercise caution.

Germination of smoke tree seeds is slow and variable; it may take up to two springs.


Image: By Sb2s3 (Own work) CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons