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A North American native, fothergilla deserves a place in every shade garden for its profuse honey-sweet brushy blooms and open, airy habit. The leathery leaves feature light undersides and turn to fiery shades of red, orange, and bright yellow in autumn. The tangled branch structure intrigues even in winter landscapes. An added plus: This shrub requires only light pruning as part of its low-maintenance lifestyle.
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Solution for Shade
Bursting with spring blossoms and fall color, fothergilla (also known as witch hazel) is an all-around great shrub. Plant it near a partially shaded entryway or patio where you can enjoy the sweet fragrance of its bottle-brushlike flowers each spring. Or add it to a perennial garden or shrub border for a bold display of fall color at the end of the season. Fothergilla's round, dense shape blends well with a host of different garden plants and container combinations. This multi-season shrub comes in two species: Fothergilla major, which grows 6 to 10 feet tall, and dwarf Fothergilla gardenia which reaches 3 to 5 feet tall.
Fothergilla looks particularly at home in woodland garden settings where its informal structure can be appreciated. Plant this shrub with rhododendron hybrids such as 'Anna H. Hall' (pink buds that open to white flowers) and 'Roseum Elegans' (rosy lavender flowers) since they share the same soil requirements. Add large clumps of daffodils, snow drops, and other favorite spring bulbs for a bold early season show of color.
As both a wildlife nectar source and nesting spot, deer-resistant fothergilla is a favorite plant of other species of wildlife. Plant it alongside viburnum, spicebush, and elderberry to create a robust wildlife habitat in your own landscape. Blanket the area around the shrubs with a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch to suppress weeds and pave the way for easy maintenance around equally easy-to-care-for shrubs.
Fothergilla Care Must-Knows
Fothergilla grows best in part sun or shade and acidic, well-drained, moist, nutrient-rich soil. Water this shrub regularly during the first growing season after planting. Once it establishes an extensive root system, it can withstand prolonged dry periods and rarely requires supplemental watering. Cover the soil around fothergilla with a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch to suppress weeds and prevent soil-moisture loss. Light pruning may be needed once every so often to remove suckers at the base. Do not shear this shrub. Fothergilla has a pleasing informal branching habit and doesn't tolerate tight pruning well.