Top Tips for Success with Witch Hazel

If you are looking for a winter flowering shrub that is virtually maintenance-free and resistant to most pests and diseases you should consider Witch Hazel. With its unique blooms that are both colorful and fragrant the Witch Hazel has much to recommend it. This article by Janet Loughrey & Michele Owens which I found on the Garden Design Magazine website describes the four types of Witch Hazel and includes tips on their care.

Witch hazel is a large deciduous shrub with colorful, fragrant flowers during the winter that can be grown in USDA Zones 3-9. Witch hazel is virtually maintenance-free and resistant to most pests and diseases.

Loughrey_hamamelis_intermedia_orange_beauty_h._mollis_pallida Garden Design Calimesa, CA

Hamamelis mollis (left), H. ?intermedia ‘Orange Beauty’ (right). Photo by: Janet Loughrey.


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 5-9. Once established, witch hazels are virtually maintenance-free and resistant to most pests and diseases.
'Aphrodite' - Photo by: Janet Loughrey.
Photo by Janet Loughrey


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.
Success tips:

  • Witch hazels require a winter chill to attain full flowering
  • They also need summer water
  • Mulching is beneficial for retaining moisture


  • Companion plants such as hellebores, winter heath, and bulbs of hardy cyclamen and snowdrop can be naturalized around the base. To extend seasonal interest into summer, smaller forms of clematis such as C. viticella are attractive when trained through the branches.
  • The spidery flowers and heady fragrance are best appreciated when witch hazels are sited near a doorway or well-used pathway.
  • Scott Canning, director of horticulture at Wave Hill, recommends siting witch hazel for maximum wintertime drama: put them in a spot where they’ll be backlit in the afternoon and the warm sun will encourage their flowers and scent to unfurl.

See more at Garden Design Magazine
Feature photo: Janet Loughrey