Q. Last year I wrote to ask if we should cut back our smoke tree for the winter and you said it wasn’t necessary, so we didn’t. I may have neglected to point out that the plant was already 6 to 7 feet tall. Now this year it has really taken off and is currently about 15 feet tall. So I’ll ask again…should I cut this back and is there a certain way to approach a cut-back as to not damage the plant?
A. Hi, Jeff: The common smoke tree/bush can reach 10 to 15 feet tall and wide. They can put on a lot of new growth during one season. Annual pruning is needed if you want to keep it more compact. The best time to get your tools out is during the late winter or early spring while the plant is dormant. They can be grown as small trees or as ornamental shrubs. Pruning will depend on what shape you are after and may dictate space limitations. When the time comes, and you’ve decided on the framework, use clean, sharp tools and remove branches at the base of the plant. Do not tip prune. Pruning close to the ground will create a more compact shrub. Prune to maintain this shape annually. Throughout the growing season it is fine to remove any branches that are broken or diseased. Branches that are crossing or rubbing should also be removed. For details on proper pruning techniques visit http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/ho/ho45/ho45.pdf.
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