Though often overlooked, witch hazel has many merits

Imagine a flowering shrub that not only blooms in late fall, winter, or very early spring when most other flowers are dead or dormant, but also:

  • Has pleasantly scented blossoms
  • Offers varieties with yellow, orange, red, or copper-colored flowers
  • Has beautiful green foliage in summer, turning brilliant colors in fall
  • Grows in full sun or half shade
  • Can be grown as a tall shrub or small tree
  • Needs little or no pruning
  • Is quite resistant to disease, insects, and deer

Wouldn’t you think a shrub like that would be wildly popular? Although such a shrub – namely, witch hazel – actually has been around for many years, it is often overlooked by gardeners. Many folks recognize the name because of the soothing astringent solution made from the leaves or bark, but would not recognize a witch hazel shrub if they saw one. That is changing, however, as more nurseries begin carrying witch hazels. They are seen most commonly in the northeastern states down through Virginia, but can be found as far west as Seattle and as far south as Georgia and Texas. If you are looking for something a little different for your yard and the qualities listed above sound appealing, consider one of these witch hazels:

Hamemelis virginiana is native to the United States and is the best choice for cold climates. Its yellow flowers appear in late fall or early winter.

Hamemelis vernalis, another U.S. native, will light up your yard with yellow blooms in early spring – even before the forsythia!

Hamemelis mollis, originally from China, has golden-yellow blossoms that open in mid-winter. Though not quite as cold-hardy as other witch hazels, it can be grown successfully as far north as zone 6.

Hamemelis x intermedia (hybrid) cultivars are perhaps the most commonly found in American garden centers and offer a variety of colors. ‘Arnold Promise’ has showy yellow flowers. ‘Diane’ has deep red flowers, striking in good light. And the beautiful ‘Jelena’ has coppery orange flowers that glow on dark days or against a dark background of evergreens.

Any of these varieties will make a beautiful specimen plant that adds welcome color to your yard when few other plants are blooming. For best results, no matter which you choose, mix   garden soil for trees, shrubs & ornamentals with the native soil when planting. Sprinkle  plant food around the planted shrub, then water thoroughly.