A large deciduous shrub with colorful, fragrant flowers during the winter, witch hazel is virtually maintenance-free and resistant to most pests and diseases. Witch hazels perform best in full sun (or filtered shade in hotter regions), where the flowers glow like fiery embers in the backlight of the low winter sun. They prefer well-amended soil and regular water and are tolerant of acid or alkaline conditions. Native forms are hardier, while most hybrid cultivars grow in USDA Zones 5-8. A more heat tolerant variety, Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane', can be grown in Zones 5-9. Once established, they are virtually maintenance-free and resistant to most pests and diseases. Witch hazel extract is commonly used for cosmetic and medicinal purposes.
WITCH HAZEL CARE
While most varieties reach 10-20 feet high and wide at maturity, witch hazels can be kept smaller with pruning once they are finished blooming. Prune before summer so that the following year’s buds can develop. Suckering twigs that form around the base should be removed. Once new flower buds appear, branches can be cut and forced to bloom inside.
2021 TRIAL SPECIES "Witchhazel"
The arboretum's trial species for 2021 will be the Witchhazel. This unique species was originally introduced well over 20 years ago to the arboretum but due to unseen circumstances it failed to materialize. We have chosen to try again with 2 species and 4 cultivars. Hamamelis virginiana (zone 4) will be planted in Wolf Woodland 3 located at wolf junction (Wolf viewing ramp to Waterways to Wolf Bridge). Hamamelis vernalis (zone 5) will replanted in Wolf Woodland 1 located across from the wolf building.
AMERICAN WITCH HAZEL
Mature size: Up to 20’ tall and wide
Bloom time: October to December
These east coast native shrubs or small trees are commonly found in wooded areas from Canada to Georgia. Clusters of citrus-scented petals appear in late fall before the leaves have dropped. Known for its medicinal properties, the bark extract is used as a time-honored remedy for a variety of skin and other bodily ailments.
OZARK WITCH HAZEL
Mature size: Up to 10’ tall and 15’ wide
Bloom time: January to April
Native to Missouri and Arkansas, this is the most shrub-like species. Its yellow or red flowers are small, but profuse and appear between January and April.
A Few Facts
Will witch hazel grow in shade?
As natural understory plants, many will do fine in part shade. However, more sun leads to a longer and better bloom. Heavy shade causes leggy growth and lackluster flowers. The ideal growing situation is morning sun, with light shade during the hot afternoon.
Can witch hazel be grown in pots?
In yards with limited space, witch hazels will thrive in containers for many years, though they will eventually need to be planted in the ground. Containers should be kept moist and the roots protected during extreme cold spells.
Is witch hazel deer resistant?
Although not deer resistant, most sources label them as seldom severely damaged. In other words, they aren’t a deer’s favorite food, but they will eat them on occasion. When witch hazels are young, you can protect them with chicken wire and possibly even a deer repellent.
Why is my witch hazel not flowering?
Witch hazels are usually fairly dependable bloomers. However, the weather can change their bloom time, leaving you confused. In addition, those that are too young might not flower, as well as those in deep shade, or those stressed by bugs or disease.
WITCH HAZEL: THE EXTRACT
The American Indians first discovered that witch hazel bark, boiled into a tea or mixed with animal fats into a poultice, has therapeutic qualities. A natural astringent, it soothes irritated skin and shrinks inflamed tissues, and is a key component of everything from facial cleansers to pore-tightening products, aftershave lotions, and hemorrhoid pads.