Cotinus 'Royal Purple': lovely purple foliage and superb autumn colour
One of my absolutely favourite plants, Cotinus ‘Royal Purple’ (smokebush) is suitable for almost any garden. A reliable performer in many of the planting schemes I design, it is one of the stars of our autumnal gardens.
C. ‘Royal Purple’ is an attractive deciduous purple-leaved shrub. It can grow pretty large over a prolonged period of time, but it doesn’t mind the occasional hard pruning and can be kept to the desired size (simply remove any dead wood or prune to size in late winter or early spring). It loves full sun or partial shade, and it is content in most soil types providing they are well-drained. It is sufficiently hardy to survive UK winters and can cope with exposed positions, but usually performs better in warmer locations with a little bit of shelter.
From a design point of view, C. ‘Royal Purple’ is a very useful ‘contrast’ plant. Its large oval leaves work well alongside plants with finer foliage and green or variegated colouring. As with all purple plants, however, there is a danger that they can become too visually dominant as part of a mixed planting scheme. As such, I find that C. ‘Royal Purple’ is usually beter deployed as a single ‘statement’ plant rather than in larger groups or clusters. C. ‘Royal Purple’ flowers in warmer summers, getting its common name of ‘smokebush’ from the plumes of small pinkish white flowers that seem to billow around the plant like soft wisps of smoke from a fresh bonfire. But then, as autumn takes hold, the purple leaves gradually turn red and orange, adding plenty of colour and interest to the October garden.
So, there you have it. Cotinus ‘Royal Purple’ is a very useful shrub throughout much of the year but is definitely a star performer in autumn.
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