How to Plant and Grow Witch Hazel

The flowers of this shrub may be small, but they make up for it in quantity and fragrance.

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When you hear the name witch hazel, you may think of skin care products. But this large shrub or small tree (depending on whom you ask) should be on every gardener's wish list. Their golden-yellow, ribbon-like flowers release a spicy scent when they bloom in the fall.

Witch Hazel Overview

Genus Name Hamamelis
Common Name Witch Hazel
Plant Type Shrub
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 8 to 20 feet
Width 3 to 12 feet
Flower Color Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, Yellow
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Chartreuse/Gold
Season Features Colorful Fall Foliage, Fall Bloom, Spring Bloom, Winter Bloom
Special Features Fragrance, Low Maintenance
Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Seed

Colorful Combinations

Although they are small, witch hazel blossoms are worth planting the shrub. Depending on the species, witch hazel blooms at odd times, usually when not many other flowers are out. The blooms are generally not much bigger than a penny, composed of ribbon-like petals in a variety of colors such as orange, yellow, red, pink, and purple. What these little flowers lack in size, they make up for in quantity and timing.

One of the U.S. native species, vernal witch hazel, blooms in late winter to early spring before other plants begin leafing out. Bare stems covered in colorful ribbons are stunning, and they are also fragrant. An even more fragrant species is Chinese witch hazel, which blooms even earlier in mid- to late winter. A single shrub of Chinese witch hazel can easily perfume an entire yard. The other U.S. native is common witch hazel (H. virginiana), which blooms in late fall.

Witch Hazel Care Tips

Witch hazel is easy to grow in a variety of conditions. It is mildly picky about soil, preferring a slightly acidic loamy soil and a little temperamental in clay soil. Though it's important witch hazel doesn't get too wet, make sure it doesn't dry out during the heat of summer; otherwise it will suffer from leaf scorch. If you have heavier soil, amend it with plenty of organic matter before planting.

In the wild, you can see witch hazel growing as an understory plant beneath larger trees. While it is tolerant of these conditions, be sure to plant in full sun for the most stunning display of winter flowers. Witch hazel can grow fine in part shade, but expect fewer blossoms and more muted fall colors.

New Innovations

Some of the most recent introductions of witch hazel are the result of a cross between Japanese witch hazel and Chinese witch hazel, often categorized as H. x intermedia. These hybrids bloom in mid- to late winter and come in a surprising array of colors. Many retain the lovely fragrance of their Chinese parentage.

Varieties of Witch Hazel

'Arnold's Promise' Witch Hazel

Arnold's Promise witch hazel
Dency Kane

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold's Promise' shows off yellow fall foliage and large yellow flowers in mid- to late winter. It grows 12 feet tall and wide. Plant in zones 5-9.

Chinese Witch Hazel

Chinese witch hazel
Denny Schrock

Hamamelis mollis has some of the most fragrant flowers of all the species. Reaches upward of 20 feet. Plant in zones 5-9.

Common Witch Hazel

Common witch hazel
Marty Baldwin

Hamamelis virginiana is a North American native offering yellow flowers in autumn and brilliant golden fall foliage. It grows 12 feet tall and wide. Plant in zones 3-8.

'Jelena' Witch Hazel

Jelena Witch Hazel
Stephen Cridland

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena' offers lovely orange-red flowers in early winter. In autumn, the foliage turns shades of orange and red. It grows 12 feet tall and wide. Plant in zones 5-9.

'Sandra' Witch Hazel

Sandra witch hazel
Dency Kane

Hamamelis vernalis 'Sandra' offers golden-yellow flowers in late winter or early spring and yellow autumn foliage. It grows 10 feet tall and wide. Plant in zones 4-8.

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