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Pruning / training containerised Cotinus

jamesharcourtjamesharcourt Posts: 465
edited November 2019 in Plants
Hi, I have a Cotinus in a pot replacing a stolen 6’ A.P Bloodgood which was a tree but not single leader.  I’d like try and grow this Cotinus into a roughly similar shape.  Looking at the photos below, any advice about cuts and timings appreciated.  I’m thinking of doing this in March or April and taking out the thinnest lower stems bar 2 or maybe 3.  But not sure if that’s best. 

Any help appreciated:-)

Original (stolen :-() tree followed by the replacement as it is today ...


  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 33,719
    if you cut a cotinus hard it'll put out masses of new growth, shoots up to 6ft long each. Ok, so not so likely in a pot, but IMHO you wont be able to have it on a single stem unless you're constantly at it with secateurs.
  • I agree with @Hostafan1 ... they're different plants with different growth habits ... you can't really turn one into the other.

    I would prefer to encourage your cotinus to perform to its optimum, rather than be a pale imitation of something else.

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • I'm fascinated that someone would bother to steal the Acer but presumably leave the pot behind. 
    To Plant a Garden is to Believe in Tomorrow
  • When you say "cutting hard", I generally see that as cutting the whole thing down to 3" from the base, which I've seen people do with these plants in many videos.  

    I'm not talking about such hard pruning, more training / encouraging upward growth with fewer stems.  

    I have 3 others which are growing unchecked and allowed to be whaetever shape they naturally choose - so I'm happy to make an exception for this one.

    I have seen some Cotinus trained to standards in nearby roads but never see the people pruning them ... so figured it must be possible.   My other ones don't exactly grow fast!
  • I'm fascinated that someone would bother to steal the Acer but presumably leave the pot behind. 
    No they didn't leave the pot.  I had already repotted down that same year but the following year (this year - in August) they nicked it.

    It's possible that leaving in the old pot might have made them leave it alone, as it is much heavier.

    But I think the thieves were quite beefy blokes and could have hauled even this pot away.

    Still gutted about it.
  • BijdezeeBijdezee Posts: 1,484
    edited November 2019
    I'm fascinated that someone would bother to steal the Acer but presumably leave the pot behind. 
    A decent sized one costs a lot to buy. I have a 2 metre one and they are about 170 pounds (euro equivalent) to buy in garden centres, so I assume that's the motivation.

    My mother (UK) had one of those large blue shiny earthenware pots out the front of her house planted up with nothing special but that got swiped.

    Seems to be a thing.

    You could try a sambucus nigra, they have a bit of an acer form to them.i had a large one in a pot and it looked very nice. 
  • Oh it's horrible @jamesharcourt when opportunists thieve whatever they can. I suppose the only way to put them off is to make the pots so heavy that they can't be carried easily. I'll wish you better luck with the replacement.
    To Plant a Garden is to Believe in Tomorrow
  • TopbirdTopbird Posts: 7,707
    Sorry to hear about the theft James - some people are real b*stards aren't they?

    I agree that a cotinus isn't really suitable to train as a standard but you can prune or coppice them back to a stool in early spring. The stool gets a bit bigger each year so it's a similar form to training to a standard - but always on a short stem.

    If you want to have a go I would completely remove the branch coming out from the base of your plant (it's at about 5 o'clock in your photos).

    I would reduce the other stems by about half for this first season (to give the plant a chance to develop stronger roots) and then prune all the growth back to the stool in subsequent years.

    As Hosta said the plant will respond by making lots of new long, leggy growth each year. You can remove any new low stems to try to get the shape you want and even trim the upper branches into more of a rounded shape.

    You've already got the plant so, if you want to have a go, I think you've nothing to lose. But be prepared for lots of snipping and tidying through the season to keep the plant to the shape you want.

    If it doesn't work - stick it in the ground and try with something else🙂
    Heaven is ... sitting in the garden with a G&T and a cat while watching the sun go down
  • Thanks @Topbird.

    My only problem cutting to a stool is that the plant just disappears for a month while it tries to grow back.

    I was hoping to achieve a permanent branch structure of some description.

    I like a challenge to perhaps I'll just try to shape it without coppicing.
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