Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Dwarf Fothergilla, Dwarf Witch Alder
Fothergilla gardenii

Family: Hamamelidaceae
Genus: Fothergilla (foth-er-GIL-la) (Info)
Species: gardenii (gar-DEN-ee-eye) (Info)

5 vendors have this plant for sale.

10 members have or want this plant for trade.


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade
Partial to Full Shade


Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring
Mid Spring


Other details:
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From softwood cuttings
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:
Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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3 positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive coriaceous On Feb 21, 2015, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

Fall color can be spectacular.

The spring flowers are often described as powerfully honey-scented, and I've sometimes found them to be so. But the fragrance seems to vary a lot from one plant to the next, and I sometimes detect the scent of raspberries/violets.

The true F. gardenii typically grows 2-3' tall and suckers to at least as wide. Most of the cultivars identified in the trade as F. gardenii are actually hybrids with the much larger F. major.

This is not a highly adaptable plant, and is less adaptable than F. major. Acid soil, consistent moisture, and good drainage are essential for vigorous growth and longevity. Flowering and fall color are best in full sun here in Massachusetts, but probably best with some protection from afternoon sun in hot summer climates.

The common name "witch-alder" is only encountered in the literature. I've never heard anyone actually call it anything but dwarf fothergilla.

There's a great article on Fothergillas in The Plantsman:

Positive CatskillDeb On Apr 22, 2009, CatskillDeb from Oneonta, NY (Zone 4a) wrote:

Fothergilla gardenii blooms here in upstate NY in mid-May and the flowers have a wonderful fragrance of honey. The fall foliage colors (orange, yellow, red all at once) are outstanding. Its foliage is never bothered by bugs or disease, but it requires protection from deer in the winter else the branch tips will definitely be browsed.
Fothergilla is hardy in my zone 4 garden in a protected spot just east of the house. My two shrubs are thriving in morning and mid-day sun with shade after about 2:30 pm. One of the two is in more shade from a viburnum and is a little leggier and has less fall color, but still blooms reliably.

Positive mcced On Jun 13, 2003, mcced from Klamath Falls, OR wrote:

Fothergillas are native to the eastern United States and are one of the most beautiful shrubs in my zone 5 Oregon garden. The flowers are white in May to June and the leaves are green and very attractive. The best part is the spectacular fall color, of reds, orange, yellow and purple.

Neutral smiln32 On Aug 5, 2002, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

The genus honors the English physician John Fothergill, who aside from his affinity for plants contributed much to the body of medical knowledge in the 18th century. The species gardenii is named for Dr. Alexander Garden, a Scots physician and botanist who lived in South Carolina and was instrumental in introducing a great many new-world plants to Europe.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Berkeley, California
Grayslake, Illinois
Plainfield, Illinois
Prophetstown, Illinois
Round Lake, Illinois
Iowa City, Iowa
Latonia, Kentucky
Lexington, Massachusetts
Oneonta, New York
Boone, North Carolina
Rufus, Oregon
Rockton, Pennsylvania
West Chester, Pennsylvania
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Clarksville, Tennessee
Smyrna, Tennessee
Orlean, Virginia
Vancouver, Washington

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