Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

Best known as an astringent used to clean the skin, the witch hazel is a beautiful flowering shrub that is eye-catching in a winter landscape. Witch hazel flowers on bare stems with strange, eye-catching, thin-petalled yellow, orange or red flowers. An ideal pollinator for birds.

The flowers have a spicy scent, but it is the bark that is infused to make witch hazel skin treatment.

Before the flowers appear, the leaves colour to yellow or orange in autumn. They are discarded leaving bare stems which are soon massed with colourful flowers. The shrubs can grow 2-5m high depending on the variety.

Plant potted specimens year-round but look for bare-rooted plants in winter from hardware and garden centres. Plants can also be grown from suckers or softwood cuttings taken in early spring.

Growing conditions

Aspect Full sun to part shade in hot climates. They flower best in full sun.

Soil Witch hazel grows best in rich, slightly acidic to neutral, well-drained soils with regular moisture especially in summer. Before planting or to improve the soil, add homemade compost and organic matter and/or Seasol Super Compost.

Climate Witch hazel is native to North America and is therefore best suited to cool temperate climates.

General care

Watering Although drought hardy once established plants benefit from regular watering after planting and during dry periods especially in summer. Witch hazel does not do well in soggy soil.

Feeding Fertilise throughout the growing season with a complete plant food. Witch hazel grow best with fortnightly applications of PowerFeed All Purpose including Natives. For sustained nutrition, apply  PowerFeed Controlled Release All Purpose including Natives.

Mulch Add a layer of organic mulch on top of the soil to retain moisture and to suppress weed growth.

Pruning Little pruning is needed but pruning after flowering encourages new growth and better flowering. Stems can also be picked and used indoors as a cut flower. Plants can sucker. Remove unwanted suckers with a sharp spade.

Watch out No major pest and disease problems affect witch hazel. Aphids, leaf spot, or powdery mildew may attack witch hazel shrubs, but the plants usually do not suffer significant damage.