Witch Hazel - How will it grow?

Brooklyn, NY

Ok...I planted a young Witch Hazel (Diane) more than 2 years ago and it is doing really well. I have been accumulating questions about it that I have not been able to get answered via my online research so here go the questions for all you Witch Hazel and tree experts:

1) It bloomed the first winter but not the 2nd. Was that because we had a warm winter, not enough water during the winter or does it need special food?

2) It is about 5' tall / 5' wide right now and I am beginning to think I didn't pick the best spot for it...the spot I picked might not be giving it enough room to branch out the way it wants to/needs to. I may need to move it but want to see if there is another way to keep it happy first. If I leave it where it is, one side of the tree will not be able to grow comfortably as there is a wooden fence 5' behind the tree. This is a small backyard so there isn't tons of space anywhere, but will the tree suffer if I want it to grow on three sides but don't worry about keeping the back corner of it happy?

3) The material I have read says that it wants to grow 10' tall by 8' (is that in circumfrance?).

4) Can you recommend some good perennials to plant around it, for a good combination planting or should I just let it stand alone.

I really love this tree and it is my favorite plant/shrub so I want to keep it happy. I only regret that I don't have enough space to plant one of every species of the WHs because they are so eclectic and cool!


You have Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane' if you want to look up information online. I don't have that one but I have Hamamelis virginiana and H. vernalis.

I don't have 'Diane' so I can't answer why it bloomed one year and not the next. Could very well have been the whacky weather we've had.

My Hamamelis seem to be tolerant of different soil types and different pH so I haven't done much other than to mulch them well. But mine are not Asian and yours are so maybe if you poke around for information you will find some recommendations for a fertilizer.

I don't think you need to move it because you are 5' from the fence. Circumference is the distance around the perimeter but the 8' above is actually the distance across the circle which is the diameter. This means you have a radius of 4' so you are clear of the fence.

As far as what to plant underneath them, I've been working on this myself and haven't come up with anything that knocks my socks off yet. So far I have planted Rhus aromatica 'Gro-Low' around the base of one. The others don't have anything planted around them yet but I have other plants in close proximity that are acid loving.

Saint Bonifacius, MN(Zone 4a)

Whether a witch hazel plant blooms or not is due to the growth in the summer, not the winter, as that is when flower buds are initiated (even though they bloom the following winter/spring). Hazels that grow very vigorously tend not to flower much, so don't fertilize. If you have been watering, you might want to slack off on that too. I suspect this is the reason for your lack of bloom. It had bloomed in the pot because it was constricted in root mass, that prevented very vigorous growth. Your plant should settle down on its own.

A three sided bush/little tree is just fine. In nature, plants grow one sided at the edge of woods all the time, no problems. But I would actually prune the fence side so branches don't continually rub against the fence. Not a good thing, as this produces constant wounding on the hazel and perfect entrances for pathogens.

I haven't grown anything under my witch hazels, but I would think woodland plants should work. I am sure epimediums (from Asian woodlands) would do fine too.

Brooklyn, NY

Thanks so much for both your replies. When we trim the fence side, need we seal the ends where we cut to protect it?

I was discussing the topic with my DH and he reminded me that our backyard is only 14' wide (small urban garden) so a tree that will be 8' across will be too much for the yard so cutting back on one side and leaving it where it is will be best for us (it will break my heart to do this though as I really love the tree and hope this won't hurt it).

Good advice on cutting back on watering and food...who knew!

What time of year do you recommend we cut those branches on the fence side back? Cheryl

When the plant is dormant.

Don't seal off the ends after you prune the tree.

Brooklyn, NY

This shrub is dormant after it flowers in the winter? Or after the leaves fall off in the fall? Sorry but it is a bit of an odd thing to have something flower in the winter, prepare to flower in the summer and be in leaf in the spring and fall.

Thanks for your help! Cheryl

It would be dormant sometime after the leaves drop. I would think that late fall should be fine to prune it. At least that's when I would prune mine if I was going to prune it.

I just did a quick search on line using Hamamelis x intermedia + prune and came up with a bunch of hits for this one claiming it is best to prune in spring after flowering to control shape and size.

SE Mass, MA(Zone 6b)

Hi Cheryl - Can you post a pic of your Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane' ? I have one!!!

It's one of my favorite things I put in last year. It flowered all winter long....I even brought a small branch in to show the 1st graders where I work - they loved it! Sounds like ours are about the same size - I fell in love with those huge leaves, and when I found out it was called "Diane", that clinched it - that's my mothers name and I'm goofy like that! I love the vase shape of mine - and I'm hoping it will get big and fill in the space.

My Hamamelis is in a very big (30+ feet), semi-shade hill bed - and when I look at the pics I see that I need to plant MORE in there - but there's that money obstacle! I have hosta (I think it's Blue Angel) and Korean Azalea (that a new thing this year - it's supposed to turn orange and red in the fall so I thought that would look nice with the fall colors of the Diane). I also have some Kousa seedlings (volunteers from my neighbors very old Kousas) and fern nearby.

I love the idea of epimedium too...I have some I could move over there....

Would love to see a picture of what yours looks like. I almost don't want to post my pic because this bed looks so bad - but here it is - we need more plants and mulch....this is just one part of this huge bed!


Thumbnail by plymouthgarden
SE Mass, MA(Zone 6b)

Another closer view.....

Thumbnail by plymouthgarden
Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)


For those of us who know and grow Hamamelis, there is nothing finer than watching the sun backlight the fine crinkly blossoms on a crisp winter day. Let's you know that spring shall too come.

A small urban backyard can accommodate your plant, maybe just not in the way a larger property might. You will have to manage this plant's canopy, possibly by elevating the branching as it grows. This will require planning and judicious pruning on your part, but it is certainly doable.

As far as timing of pruning -- there really is one best time, and a second plausible time. I wouldn't prune in the fall, ever, because you are simply removing the best reason to have a witchhazel -- the flowers that open during fall, winter, or late winter depending on the selection. 'Diane' is a winter/late winter bloomer. You can accomplish two really stellar results by pruning while or after blooming.

Because you want to manipulate the form on your plant to fit your restricted space, you will be able to observe the plant's form/branching best while the foliage is off. Pruning during winter bloom gives you an excuse to engage this plant while it is displaying its color. Finally, taking the branches while blooming allows you to use them for indoor display instead of just pitching bare branches. Some may call this a win-win.

All this closeup observation will gain you a lot of personal knowledge in how this plant behaves. This will give you the confidence to do additional occasional pruning in summer months as new growth extensions occur. Directional pruning (away from areas you need to occupy otherwise and/or for upward growth) can be really useful then, before the next flower buds are set. You can also do early removal of what I'd term unnecessary growth, which are branches growing back into space that you don't want this plant to occupy. This could be low branches, or sprouts from the base of the plant that may be from the understock. You will get sprouting if you remove an excess amount of branches all at one time.

Again, if you proceed with this endeavor with deliberation, you will learn a lot about the plant and certainly have every expectation of success. If you ultimately decide that it will occupy too much real estate at your location, you can remove it after multiple seasons of educational enjoyment.

Your first question asked about lack of bloom. You didn't say, but I'm guessing that you acquired your 'Diane' as a balled and burlapped plant (5' x 5' is pretty big). If so, then it is not unusual for a newly transplanted tree/shrub to open the flowers it had when it was dug (usually plenty of them), and then spend the next couple growing seasons investing resources in replenishing the lost roots left behind when it was dug up and moved. Thus, successive bloom seasons are more disappointing because the plant isn't producing as many reproductive parts. After the root system has returned to adequate size, you should get much more bud set and heavier flowering.

Plants purchased in containers have all their roots with them, so this situation doesn't occur quite as often. There are many precocious plants, too, which seem like you could abuse them to no end and they'd flower anyway just to be spiteful. Witchhazel are going to land in the category of "need recovery, then I'll flower".

Good luck with your shrub; it's a keeper.

Brooklyn, NY

WOW! Awesome info Viburnum Valley. I will post pics this weekend Plymouth Garden. I will say however that yours is lovely the way it branches out. Mine is a bit uneven in it's branching (as you will see) which makes the pruning idea a very good one. The points about pruning when I can enjoy the branches indoors is awesome!

I would gather from the description of the plant recovering that I really shouldn't cut back on watering necessarily, during the summer as the reason it didn't flower had more to do with it's recovering?

Viburnum Valley, I think I will also post some questions about a little (very slow growing) viburnum that came to me already lobsided (only growth on one side) and is taking forever to grow to a shrub size...and hasn't flowered. I will post pics and put a sep posting up for that this weekend. Really appreciate your expertise! Cheryl

Saint Bonifacius, MN(Zone 4a)

I might also add to VV's most excellent advice that, this should not preclude you from snipping away branches rubbing against the fence, whenever it may occur.

Duxbury, MA(Zone 7a)

I am going to resurrect this thread, because I have an additional question about my witch hazel that I haven't seen addressed anywhere on Dave's Garden. I just went outside today and I do see some flowers on my witch hazel, I usually miss them because I forget to look so early. However, mine still has all it's brown leaves from last year. Does anyone else have a witch hazel today with all it's ugly brown leaves still attached? The flowers look a little dead, but maybe that's just how they are supposed to look. Here's a photo, sorry it's a little blurry, I'm not sure how to adjust this little camera's focus area

Thumbnail by cindyeo
Duxbury, MA(Zone 7a)

and, one more question. Can you see 3 or 4 suckers growing up now from the ground in this photo? Should I let them grow?

Thumbnail by cindyeo
Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

Hey, cindyeo! You're making us feel a little like Lazarus (or a zombie, if you prefer) bringing old threads like this back to life.

Do you know the name of your Witch Hazel (botanical Latin name, or cultivar/clone)? It looks like a Vernal Witch Hazel to me (Hamamelis vernalis) and this species is well known for having its old foliage persist through the winter (termed marcescence). Those small orangey yellow flowers are typical for Vernal Witch Hazel too, and they look normal for this time of year. If you have any warm sunny weather, you should be able to smell them pretty well.

Many/most of the named selections of Witch Hazel do NOT have persistent foliage through winter, because that trait is usually objectionable in landscapes and does tend to hide the flowers. It is a trait that can be used to advantage, if there is something that needs screening through winter. I notice persistent leaves on Hamamelis 'Pallida' rather often around here. It flowers quite heavily in a brighter paler yellow that show up against brown leaves, and is pretty fragrant too.

As far as whether to retain the suckers, I'll straddle the fence again:

IF you have a Vernal Witch Hazel, and you wish to have a shrub with more density than the current two stems you have - then keep the new ones and prune the plant into the form you desire.

IF you have a named selection of Witch Hazel that is NOT a Vernal Witch Hazel, then you should remove the suckers because they are likely going to be part of the more vigorous species understock that named selections are budded/grafted on. You don't want that growing at the expense of the named selection you paid for.

Duxbury, MA(Zone 7a)

Viburnum - I totally understand your last paragraph, because I accidentally let that happen to a Meyer's Lemon tree that I was growing in a pot. I let the rootstock take over, got the huge ugly pulpy lemons and the Meyer's branch died. Had to throw it away and start over. I'm going to go see if I can find the receipt, but I ordered that witch hazel from some catalog several years ago, it was very inexpensive, so I'm going to assume you are right and it's the vernal. Maybe I will start again on this one, too, because I was thinking I need to dig it up and move it closer to my door so I'll see it in the late winter. Maybe I'll just buy another, named, variety and leave this one alone. Thanks for your quick response.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Hi Cindyeo and VV. I have a Hamamelis 'Pallida" I planted about 4-5 years ago. It's about 5 ft tall and very healthy, but it keeps the hideous leaves until spring too. I started a thread about it somewhere, and nobody had any good ideas. I got what seemed like good advice from a nurseryman that it needed more summer water (here near Seattle it's true it rains 9 months of the year, but it is a drought July-Sept). I tried this this summer and it made no difference. Last week I called a local garden guru on his TV show (Ciscoe Morris)-he said it will probably grow out of this bad habit as tree matures. Yay. Meanwhile I read an article about Witch Hazels in last months "The American Gardener" magazine. Now I want a golden one for the other side of the house! How is your tree?

Milford, DE

Contact Gossler Farms Nursery in Springfield, OR

Roger is the guru of Hamamelis




Duxbury, MA(Zone 7a)

Deciding I had purchased a less than desirable variety, I pulled mine out last summer and have not replaced it yet. I think I will see what Gossler Farms has to say

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Have fun and let us know! I drooled over their website. I also got a book out of the library that is entirely about witch hazels-they said sometimes it is the rootstock of grafted plants that makes the leaves stay on. I think I will layer a low branch this year and make an "own root" Pallida and see if it is better.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Hi again. just spent more time than I care to admit trying to find the right hybrid Witch Hazel with gold or orange flowers that would NOT spread widely and would have nice fall leaves too. Now I need advice from you tree and shrub folks. Options seem to be:
Barmstadt Gold

what do you think? I think ViburnumValley said somewhere that Primavera spreads out but the book Witch Hazels by Chris Lane says it is ultimately vase shaped and 3x3 m. That would be fine, taller ok too, I could even prune it as a small tree. I found mail order sources for all these, the cheapest being Primavera from Gossler Farms in OR (I live near Seattle so west coast is best). It seems most local nurseries sell Arnold Promise which would be fine but it sounds like it gets some kind of disease.Vesna sounds fabulous but the nearest nursery selling it is 3000 miles away and they are big so shipping would be $$$.
p.s. Thank you VV for all the posts over the years.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

Thank you for the kind words, mlmlakestevens. I've always been happy to relate my experiences so that others can evaluate their situations better. I wouldn't mind if you linked past conversations with this one, especially if you believed that information was helpful.

I don't think that you will find a great deal of difference in the growth habit of these various selections of Hamamelis x intermedia. The greatest variation is in some of the other elements of plant behavior - leaf persistence, flower color, and timing of bloom. If you are willing to work with the plant by occasional pruning - especially when starting with a young plant - I think you will find years of enjoyment from whichever Witch-hazel bewitches you.

I used to have a list of links to see many of these Witch-hazel selections in bloom. If I can scare that up, I'll post those links here. There were two/three/four different ones it seems. Some were from US sources and some were European. If you've already consulted this kind of information, I'll cease and desist.

Tim Brotzman and Harald Neubauer are two of the finest producers of Hamamelis in the United States. I have purchased many of their plants over the years - but they are both in the eastern US, and they do not sell retail. For WA, I'd use Gossler or one of the other fine west coast firms. There aren't many plants worth shipping all the way across the continent - big or small.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

VV-I have great pictures in the book"Witch Hazels" by Chris Lane, so don't worry about finding the link.
Thanks for the info on the x intermedia characteristics. I am not afraid to use pruners! With that in mind, My priorities are : leaves not retained when blooming, warm yellow or orange flowers, pretty fall colors, and nice scent (in that order). Forest Farm has small "Orange Beauty" plants for $20. Seems to fit and Chris Lane does not mention any diseases or problems, so I think I will order it. They have some other stuff I want this spring, so this sounds nice and easy. I have "Blue Muffin" Viburnum that I think needs a spouse.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

All your witch hazel choices sound spot on - go for it.

As far as BM Arrowwood Viburnum goes...it ought to go. I think almost every other named selection of Viburnum dentatum outperforms this one, but it has been mass marketed everywhere and a lot of folks have it in their landscape.

It is among the early blooming squad. Rather than me listing what I like, tell me what you have run across that interests you - that'll save time. I can tell you whether BM overlaps in bloom time with it, and then you will soon be flummoxed by fructiferousness.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Thank you VV- I got the viburnum because of the blue berries, but there aren't very many. I am attempting a blue theme in that area, and so a trouble-free shrub with white flowers and blue berries seemed great. It is very healthy, and needs no care or watering, but is already 7 feet and showing no signs of stopping. I would prefer something that maxes out at about 5 feet tall. I don't know if any of the other viburnums stay that small. I wouldn't mind some fall color, but it is not a big deal. Do any cultivars seem just right?

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

Sounds like you need Viburnum dentatum Little Joe™. Blue Blaze™ is another compact version of Arrowwood Viburnum. I have both, and I like them a lot for compactness and shortness (5-6') compared to the rest of the standard sized types (8-12').

You should take a look at offerings from Classic Viburnums, based in Nebraska. Good folks with good plants.

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