Unusual and colorful shrub-trees creating broad, urn-shaped mass usually as wide as high. Naturally multistemmed but can be trained to a single trunk. Common name derived from dramatic puffs of smoke from fading flowers: As the tiny greenish blooms wither, they send out elongated stalks clothed in a profusion of fuzzy, lavender-pink hairs. Plants tolerate poor or rocky soil. In cultivated gardens, give them fast drainage and avoid overly wet conditions. Not browsed by deer.
C. coggygria. SMOKE TREE. Native from southern Europe to central China. Typically 1215 ft. high and wide, though it may eventually reach 25 ft. The roundish, 1- to 3-in. leaves are bluish green in the species, but purple-leafed types are more commonly grown. Leaves of 'Nordine' ('Nordine Red') and 'Purpureus' emerge purple and gradually turn green; 'Notcutt's Variety', 'Royal Purple', and 'Velvet Cloak' hold their purple color through most of the summer. Those with purple foliage have richer purple smoke puffs than the species. 'Golden Spirit' reaches about 7 ft. high and 6 ft. wide, with leaves that are lime-green in spring and turn golden yellow in summer. 'Pink Champagne' is a green-leafed selection with pinkish tan puffs. Leaves of all types change in fall, taking on colors ranging from yellow to orange-red.
C. 'Grace'. Handsome hybrid between C. coggygria and C. obovatus. To 15 ft. tall and wide, with blue-green foliage shaded purple. Large deep pink puffs. Orange and purple-red fall foliage.
C. obovatus. AMERICAN SMOKE TREE. From eastern U.S. Small, rounded tree to 2030 ft. tall and wide; deserves much wider use. Blue-green leaves turn yellow, orange, and reddish purple in fall. Takes alkaline soil; often found growing wild on Edwards Plateau in Texas.