Fertilizing Smoke Tree

One of the great benefits of planting a Smoke Tree (Cotinus spp.) in your landscape is that it is a low-maintenance shrub. This quality carries into its need, or lack thereof, for fertilizer. Once established, Smoke Trees need little more than occasional deep watering and lots of sun. One way to ensure the health of your Smoke Tree is to plant it in well-draining soil. If you wish to encourage more vigorous leaf growth, an application of a slow-release fertilizer or compost can be added in the spring. 


How to Fertilize Smoke Tree

Smoke Trees are easy-going trees and shrubs that do well in many different soil conditions, as long as there is decent drainage. To set your Smoke Tree up for success, amend the planting site with compost, soil conditioner, or other amendments to ensure proper drainage. After its first year in the ground, Smoke Trees do not require regular fertilizing. In the spring, you can add a slow-release fertilizer or compost to the soil for a bit of extra nutrients, but it is not a necessity. 

If you are noticing leaves turning yellow or brown, check that you are watering properly. In established plants, this means allowing the soil to dry out a bit in between waterings and watering deeply and thoroughly. Issues with Smoke Trees are more often than not related to care or growing conditions rather than nutrients. 

Best Time To Fertilize Smoke Trees

The best time to fertilize Smoke Trees is in early spring as the plant begins actively growing. Avoid adding fertilizer to your soil later in the year, as you don’t want to encourage too much new growth that could get damaged once the temperature drops. 

Best Fertilizer For Smoke Trees

If you elect to fertilize your Smoke Tree, use an all-purpose slow-release fertilizer. Apply the fertilizer to the base of the plant at the tree’s water line. A couple examples include Osmocote and Espoma. Fertilizers like this act by slowly releasing nutrients into the soil each time the plant is watered. Nutrient-rich compost can also be used in the same way. 

Smoke Tree Fertilizing Tips

  • Start with well-draining soil
  • Smoke Trees do not require regular fertilizer but can benefit from it
  • Add slow-release fertilizer in the spring


-Always wear protective gloves and a face mask when handling chemical fertilizers.

-Closely follow all directions and storage guidelines that are on the fertilizer label.

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 Author Lynn Gusman - Published 7-25-2023