Cotinus obovatus - American Smoke Tree

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Deer ResistantPart ShadeBird Friendly

American Smoke Tree
Cotinus obovatus

The common name comes not from its large greenish yellow flower clusters in June, but from the billowy, smoky pink plumes that follow the flowers. This is an easy to grow small tree or large shrub that will be happy in poor soil and is drought resistant once established. It has fantastic fall color in shades of yellow, orange, red and reddish purple. Looks great planted in groups in a shrub border and the long lasting display of ‘smoke’ makes it a showy accent plant.


  • 6-10' long panicles flower clusters resemble pink puffs of smoke
  • Amazing fall color scarlet, pumpkin-orange and purple
  • Tough enough to tolerate long droughts, heat, and dry and gravelly soils
  • Provides cover for birds and other wildlife
  • Moderate deer resistance

Native Range

The Ozark Mountains of Arkansas and adjacent Missouri and Oklahoma; also Kentucky and Tennessee to Alabama and Georgia and Edwards Plateau of Texas on hillsides, limestone outcrops and rocky woods.

Map Credit: The Biota of North America 
Map Key: Green (native), Teal (native, adventive), Blue (present), Yellow (present & rare), Red (extinct)


Foliage turns a variety of colors in the fall including yellow, red, orange and reddish purple, and produces some of the best fall color of any of the native American trees and shrubs.




American smoke tree prefers rocky, well-drained, limestone soils, sand, loam, or clay. Once it is established, it thrives on tough conditions and neglect and should not be over-watered. Rich soil and too much water may create a weak plant. 


Mature Size: 20-30' Tall x 20-30' Wide

Hardiness Zone: 4-8

Sun Exposure: Full Sun to Part Shade

Coming Soon!

    American Beauties Offer Solution Based Plant Collections to Help you Choose

    Quick Tips for Choosing Plants:

    • Planting a variety of native trees, shrubs, perennials and vines increases biodiversity and gives wildlife a source for food, cover and nesting
    • Choose a mixture of deciduous and evergreen trees so birds and other wildlife will always be able to find shelter
    • Plant trees and large shrubs where they will block winter winds from the house and shade it in summer, that will save energy and lower your carbon footprint
    • Try your best to buy plants that were grown locally, your independent garden center will be your best bet
    • Think about ultimate height and width of the plant you choose, make sure it will fit the space you have for it when it's reached maturity
    • Plant nectar plants in groups, to attract butterflies and other beneficial insects more easily
    • Ask for help if you need it. Most garden centers either have a landscape designer on staff or they can give you a reference of a designer that is adept at native plant wildlife gardening. There will be upfront costs but they are small when compared to having to redo a landscape that wasn't what you really wanted

    Our Plant Tags Hold the Secrets to Success

    Choosing the right plants for your garden can seem like a daunting task but we’re here to help. Our horticulturists have spent a considerable amount of time researching and writing our beautiful, American Beauties plant tags to help you be successful. First of all, when you see an American Beauties branded pot at your garden center you can be confident that the plant is native to your area and a responsible choice. 

    When you look at our tag you’ll find information about the plants natural habitat. That will give you a clue to how it will work in your backyard. For instance if the plant is naturally founded and moist, shade and you have full sun, it’s not the plant for you. The “Features” section gives you an overview or plant description so you’ll know what to expect. While the “Benefits” section talks about the plants strong suits and how the plant will benefit wildlife. 

    A Special Note About Exposure

    Full sun: Prefers six or more hours of direct sunshine a day
    Partial shade: Thrives in three to six hours of daily sunshine
    Shade: Generally does well with less than three hours of sun per day. Having said that even shade loving plants will struggle in extremely deep shade.


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