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Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak': 'Velvet Cloak' Smoketree

Edward F. Gilman, Dennis G. Watson, Ryan W. Klein, and Deborah R. Hilbert


This slow-growing, open-crown, round, small tree eventually reaches to 10 to 15 feet tall (occasionally 20) and 12 to 15 feet wide. The large panicles of wispy purple-colored flowers produced in spring and early summer give the effect of a cloud of smoke. They make a wonderful accent in a shrub border and can be planted as a specimen or as a patio tree where the black, showy, multiple trunks can be displayed. Planting smoketree is a good way to extend the spring flowering-tree season into the summer before the crape-myrtles come into full bloom. This cultivar has deep red-purple foliage which does not turn green in the summer. Fall color is usually a spectacular red-purple. Many people grow it simply to enjoy the vivid fall color.

Figure 1. Middle-aged Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak': 'Velvet Cloak' Smoketree
Figure 1.  Middle-aged Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak': 'Velvet Cloak' smoketree.


General Information

Scientific name: Cotinus coggygria

Pronunciation: koe-TYE-nus koe-GUY-gree-uh

Common name(s): 'Velvet Cloak' smoketree, 'Velvet Cloak' wig-tree, 'Velvet Cloak' smokebush

Family: Anacardiaceae

USDA hardiness zones: 5B through 8B (Figure 2)

Origin: not native to North America

Invasive potential: not assessed/incomplete assessment

Uses: specimen; deck or patio; street without sidewalk; container or planter; reclamation; trained as a standard; screen; parking lot island < 100 sq ft; parking lot island 100–200 sq ft; parking lot island > 200 sq ft; tree lawn 3–4 feet wide; tree lawn 4–6 feet wide; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; highway median

Figure 2. Range
Figure 2.  Range.



Height: 10 to 15 feet

Spread: 10 to 15 feet

Crown uniformity: symmetrical

Crown shape: round

Crown density: dense

Growth rate: slow

Texture: medium


Leaf arrangement: alternate (Figure 3)

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: entire

Leaf shape: obovate, elliptic (oval)

Leaf venation: reticulate, pinnate

Leaf type and persistence: deciduous

Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches

Leaf color: purple/red

Fall color: red, purple

Fall characteristic: showy

Figure 3. Foliage
Figure 3.  Foliage



Flower color: purple, white/cream/gray

Flower characteristics: very showy


Fruit shape: oval, irregular

Fruit length: less than 0.5 inch

Fruit covering: dry or hard

Fruit color: brown

Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; showy; typically multi-trunked; thorns

Pruning requirement: little required

Breakage: resistant

Current year twig color: brown

Current year twig thickness: medium, thick

Wood specific gravity: unknown


Light requirement: full sun

Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; acidic; alkaline; well-drained

Drought tolerance: high

Aerosol salt tolerance: moderate


Roots: not a problem

Winter interest: no

Outstanding tree: yes

Ozone sensitivity: unknown

Verticillium wilt susceptibility: susceptible

Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

The tree is tough and adapts to restricted soil spaces. It could be used along a street under power lines and would not require pruning for many years. It is a small tree, well-adapted to urban areas with almost year-round interest which should be used more in our landscapes.

Smoketree grows best in a sunny location and a well-drained loam. It will grow asymmetrically and lean toward the light in a partially sunny area, so it is best to locate it in full day sun where the crown will develop symmetrically. Though sometimes short-lived in rich soil, smoketree is useful in dry, rocky soil where there is no irrigation. It also grows in a wide range of soil pH, including alkaline. Probably short-lived (20 years—maybe more) in most situations but who cares—the tree is great while it's around!

Propagation of cultivars is by cuttings.

Cultivars include: 'Daydream'—heavy production of panicles, dense habit of growth; 'Flame'—brilliant orange-red fall color, pink inflorescences; 'Nordine'—resembles 'Royal Purple'; 'Notcutt's Variety'—dark maroon-purple leaves (also known as 'Foliis Purpureis Notcutt's Variety' and 'Rubrifolius'); 'Purpureus'—leaves bronze-green, inflorescences purplish-pink; 'Royal Purple'—leaves are darker purple than 'Notcutt's Variety', rich red-purple fall color, purplish-red inflorescences; 'Pendulus'—pendulous branches.


Oblique-banded leaf roller mines and rolls the leaves, usually in June. The insect rarely occurs in sufficient numbers to warrant control. When it does occur, they can be picked off by hand or sprayed with Bacillus thuringiensis.


Leaf spots can be caused by various genera of fungi but are usually not serious.

Scab may cause leaf drop. No controls are listed.

The most serious disease is Verticillium wilt. Smoketree is very susceptible, and entire branches wilt and die. Prune out infected branches, fertilize, and water the plant during dry weather.

A stem canker can be a problem in the eastern US.

Publication #ENH366

Release Date:February 28, 2024

Related Collections

Part of Southern Trees Fact Sheets

  • Critical Issue: 1. Agricultural and Horticultural Enterprises
Organism ID

About this Publication

This document is ENH366, one of a series of the Department of Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006 and January 2024. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering; Ryan W. Klein, assistant professor, arboriculture; and Deborah R. Hilbert, UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center; Department of Environmental Horticulture; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


  • Michael Andreu
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