Hamamelis x intermedia commonly known as Witch Hazel is one of the first shrubs to come into bloom in cold climates. We usually see our first flashes of color in February, (some nearby folks were reporting blossoms before this weekend’s arctic blast). Often you will realize they are in bloom as their fragrance fills the air.
Witch Hazels set their flower buds during the previous year’s growing season. Outdoors, once plants have experienced a 6-8 week cold spell followed by mild moist weather, the spidery flowers will begin to open. It is after this cold stretch that you can take cuttings. If you have a nice big plant in your garden, why not sacrifice a few budded branches for indoor arrangements? Simply put your cut branches in a vase with lukewarm water and wait a few days.
If you are thinking about adding Witch Hazel to your garden, here are a few things to consider:
- Give plants room. Slow growing at first, Hamamelis can get quite large with age. Expect plants to grow 8-10’ or taller and 10-12’ wide. They enjoy full sun or partial shade, and well-drained soil.
- Winter food for bees. Honeybees will seek out their blossoms during a late winter/early spring thaw.
- Flower buds form in spring and early summer. If you cut back plants in summer and fall, you will sacrifice next year’s blossoms.
- The winter blooming varieties are hybrids of the Japanese (H. japonicus) and Chinese (H. mollis) forms, and are grafted on native Hamamelis vernalis rootstock. Sometimes strong branches will break below the graft, and you might notice, in autumn, that these branches will bear yellow flowers of Hamamelis vernalis. We recommend removing the branches that break below the graft because the fall blooming native plants are more vigorous and may overwhelm your winter blooming stock.