Monday, October 24, 2011

Growing Hamamelis Virginiana (Witchhazel)

This year, I've been so enchanted by Hamamelis, both H. vernalis and H. virginiana (witchhazel). One of the earliest blooming shrubs (late winter/early spring), the scent of H. vernalis hits you at a time when you're craving the fresh smells of nature. H. virginiana sends out it's ribbon-like blooms in the fall (it's blooming right now) just when the garden is putting itself to bed for the season.

Both species are native to the Chicago area. I picked up my H. virginiana at a native plant sale earlier this year, and only caught a couple of blooms on it. Luckily, I saw this one at Midwest Groundcovers' Garden Writer's Day, and snapped a pic that I love. Don't the blooms look like little firecrackers?

Hamamelis virginiana (Witchhazel)

Hamamelis is an easy to grow, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub growing anywhere from 10-15 feet to 25-30 feet in optimal conditions. It prefers moist sites and partial shade in zones 4-8. As you probably already know, the leaves and bark are an astringent, so the plant is used for a variety of skin treatments from acne to insect bites, as it reduces itchiness and swelling.

H. virginiana's ribbon-like flowers

While the flowers open in October in our area, the fruit does not ripen until the next fall. The Hamamelis fruit is a woody four-sided capsule that is said to pop open and "explosively" release the 2-4 seeds inside a few yards from the parent plant. Watch out! Hamamelis is propegated by seed, with little dispersal by birds.

Hamamelis virginiana seed capsule
photo credit
The plant has stunning fall color, yellow to apricot, and can be used as a screen for neighbors or unsightly views in the home landscape.

Hamamelis fall color
photo credit
Hamamelis is an important food source for winter insects, grouse, quail, butterflies, moths, squirrels, and pheasant, so it is an important part of any wildlife garden.


  1. I adore these flowering trees and look forward to their blooms each year~gail

  2. I do too, Gail! I love the smell.