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 n the fall.
|genus name|| |
|plant type|| |
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 Must-Knows
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.
Related: Soil Amendments & Nutrients
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.
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.
More Varieties of Witch Hazel
'Arnold's Promise' witch hazel
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. Zones 5-9.
Chinese witch hazel
Hamamelis mollis has some of the most fragrant flowers of all the species. Reaches upward of 20 feet. Zones 5-9
Common witch hazel
Hamamelis virginiana is a North American native offering yellow flowers in autumn and brilliant golden fall foliage. It grows 12 feet tall and wide. Zones 3-8.
'Jelena' Witch Hazel
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. Zones 5-9.