Plant of the Week: Grace smokebush

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. This week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop.
This burgundy showstopper, Cotinus 'Grace' is a hybrid of the European smokebush (Cotinus coggygria) and the American smoke tree (Cotinus obovatus). Commonly known as Grace smokebush, Cotinus 'Grace' is very popular here at the High Line due to its uniqueness and multi-seasonal interest.

Round green and red spring leaves give way to large pink and cloudy, smoke-like panicles in early summer. The autumn color ranges from purple to red to orange and lasts until the end of the year when most trees have already lost their foliage. This low maintenance deciduous shrub is a vigorous grower that does best in full sun and well-drained soil. The foliage will be greener in part shade. It is drought tolerant once established and can grow up to 15 feet tall and wide.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop.
Cotinus 'Grace' is a member of the Anacardiaceae family which also includes cashew, mango, sumac trees and poison ivy.


Cotinus 'Grace' can be pruned hard in the spring before new growth emerges, especially if it gets leggy or lopsided. Grace smokebush has no significant pest problems but is susceptible to verticillium wilt and powdery mildew in dry conditions. Cotinus 'Grace' can be used as specimens in shrub borders and in masses. Its burgundy foliage combines well with most plants in the garden.


Grace smokebush can be found in the Washington Grasslands & Woodland Edge (Little West 12th and West 13th Streets) and at 10th Avenue Square (West 17th Street).

Additional smokebushes on the High Line are the Cotinus coggygria 'Young Lady' which can be found in the Chelsea Thicket (West 20th and West 22nd Streets) and the Cotinus obovatus located at the 23rd Street Lawn and Seating Steps (West 22nd and West 23rd Streets).

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects.

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