Marin Master Gardeners
University of California
Marin Master Gardeners

Plant Guide

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'

Common Name
Royal Purple Smokebush
CA Native
Plant Type
15' x 15'
Flower Color
Pale Pink
Bloom Time
  • Spring
Burgundy, Scarlet in Fall
Deer Resistant
Seldom Damaged
Wildlife Value
Growth Rate
Adverse Growth Factors
Special Features
  • Fall Color
  • Low Maintenance
  • Showy Flowers
Water Use
  • Low
Soil pH
6.5-7.5 (neutral)
  • Full Sun
Soil Type
Not Particular
Good Drainage
Description and Cultural Plant Tips

Cottinus can be grown as a small tree or a shrub. The large panicles of wispy pinkish to cream colored flowers give it a smoke-like appearance. It can be used as an accent shrub in a shrub border or as a speciman or patio plant. Leaf colors change with the season. Depending on the varieltal the leaf color ranges from a rich maroon to a deep purple. The leaf veins and edging are a bright red.

Plant slightly above soil grade with no amendments or fertilizers. Does best in poor rocky soils, short lived in rich soils. Do not disturb root ball. Mulch top of soil within 2 -3 feet of the trunk. Leaf color development is best in full sun and will grow asymmetrically  leaning toward the light if grown in partial shade. Bark is thin and easily damaged.

To keep plant shrub-like, coppice it in late winter. This will produce vigorous shoot development and larger leaves. May reduce the number of flowers that develop.  If growing as a tree, trim off only crossing or wayward branches.

Verticillium wilt may be a problem.  Powdery mildew may also develop on the purple varieties in wet spring weather or on plants in sheltered, shady locations. Needs good drainage and infrequent watering or it will develop root rot.

Master Gardener Comments

I like to use this plant in the back of my perennial border. I have golden pineapple sage (Salvia elegans)in front of it. It also looks good with Artemisia 'Powis Castle' in front  for contrast.


C. coggygria 'Royal Purple' - maroon red leaves in spring which turn to shades of scarlet in fall

C. coggygria 'Purpureus' - deep purple leaves

C. coggygria 'Daydreams' - green leaves with creamy flowers

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