Pruning Witch Hazel: Does Witch Hazel Need To Be Pruned

By: Teo Spengler

Witch hazel is a shrub that can light up your garden in winter. Does witch hazel need to be pruned? It does. For best results, you’ll need to start pruning witch hazel on a regular basis. Read on for information on witch hazel pruning.

Pruning Witch Hazel

If you are looking for a plant to jazz up your garden in winter, witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is one to consider. This shrub offers red or yellow blossoms that are both fragrant and abundant all winter long. Winter? Yes, you read that right. Witch hazel flowers when little else blossoms. And talk about easy maintenance! The shrub thrives in ordinary soil without fertilizer. You do, however, have to think about witch hazel pruning.

Witch hazel doesn’t require special treatment in the garden to perform well. But if you want to preserve and accentuate its horizontal growth habit, you’ll need to do regular witch hazel pruning. When to prune witch hazel in this way? You should do this kind of shape pruning just after the plant finishes flowering. Then, in autumn, prune out suckers growing from the base of the shrub.

You’ll want to prune witch hazel back severely if the shrubs are old and need rejuvenation. Prune to rejuvenate them just after flowering.

How to Prune Witch Hazel

If you are pruning witch hazel to shape them, first clip out dead or damaged wood. Prune each branch back to healthy young growth. Trim out any crossing or weak branches.

If you are pruning witch hazel to reduce its size, prune back the prior season’s growth to two buds. Leave as many of the floral buds as possible. They are rounder than the oval leaf buds.

To rejuvenate a witch hazel, first take out all of the suckers at the base of the plant. Once this done, prune the main stems of the witch hazel to 6 to 10 inches (15-25 cm.) from the ground. Remove all branches and sprouts that have appeared below the graft. Then trim back branches above it to two buds.

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Native Witch-Hazel

The American witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is one of those plants that would like to have everyone's undivided attention. You know the type: a bit of a rebel, marches to the beat of its own drum. This native shrub's unwillingness to heed convention has made it popular among gardeners for hundreds of years.

American witch-hazel has a number of traits that help it steal the limelight, including smooth gray bark, attractive architecture, and colorful fall foliage. But the real showstopper comes when you least expect it. As November approaches and most respectable plants have dropped their leaves and gone to seed, Hamamelis virginiana bursts forth in floristic splendor. Clusters of small, pale yellow blooms, each with four streamerlike petals, hug the twigs. Some flowers may linger on the branches into December.

The flowers are not as fragrant as those of the widely planted Chinese witch-hazel (Hamamelis mollis) or the popular hybrid H. × intermedia (a lovechild of H. mollis and H. japonica, the Japanese witch-hazel). But these witch-hazels all bloom in early spring. Hamamelis virginiana is the only witch-hazel that provides a dazzling late-fall display.

How to grow witch hazel

Find out all you need to know about growing witch hazel (Hamamelis), in our practical Grow Guide.

Published: Tuesday, 26 February, 2019 at 10:42 am

Do not Plant in September

Plant does flower in January

Plant does flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does not flower in April

Plant does not flower in May

Plant does not flower in June

Plant does not flower in July

Plant does not flower in August

Plant does not flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Do not Prune in September

Witch hazels, Hamamelis, are popular plants for the winter garden. Forming large shrubs or small trees, they come into their own in late winter and early spring, when scented, flame-coloured, ribbon-like flowers appear on bare branches. Some cultivars also have good autumn leaf colour, and their stems are lovely to bring indoors for a cut flower display. Although they have a reputation for being tricky to grow, if you get the soil conditions right, they can thrive.

Browse our practical guide to growing witch hazel, below.

Where to plant witch hazel

Witch hazels need good drainage. Choose a spot in full sun or partial shade and make sure the soil is well-drained. Although the advice is that witch hazels do best in a slightly acidic soil, they don’t need fully ericaceous compost and can cope with neutral soil, as long as you add plenty of organic matter.

How to plant witch hazels

Plant witch hazels as you would other shrubs:

Propagating witch hazels

Witch hazels are not easy to propagate, but if you want a challenge, the formal method is to take softwood cuttings in spring. Then, try to root them in free draining compost in a heated propagator.

Hamamelis: problem solving

Witch hazels are reliably pest and disease-free.

Looking after witch hazels

Witch hazels are quite easy to care for once established. They need watering during dry spells, and a sprinkling of fertiliser or a mulch of well-rotted compost or manure each spring. Unless you want to restrict the size or improve the shape of your shrub, witch hazels don’t need pruning other than removing crossing or diseased branches in early spring. Remove suckering shoots from the rootstock of grafted plants.

How to Prune Witch Hazel to the Ground

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The flowers of the Hamamelis, or witch hazel, brighten the dark days of winter across the United States. The native varieties, Hamamelis virginiana and Hamamelis vernalis, provide bright flowers and a rich fragrance to enhance the winter garden. However, the less hardy Hamamelis mollis and Hamamelis japonica hybrids are often cultivated due to their red, orange and yellow flowers. The hybrid shrubs are usually grafted onto native rootstock. To rejuvenate an overgrown witch hazel, prune it back close to the ground. Continue pruning to shape the shrub as it regrows.

Rake debris, dead leaves and twigs away from the base of the witch hazel.

Examine the stems rising from the soil to determine which is the original, grafted stem and which are suckers growing from the roots. If you can reach it, mark the main stem with a ribbon or splash of paint.

Remove the suckers with anvil pruners or loppers, cutting them off at ground level. Work your way around the perimeter of the shrub as you prune, being careful to avoid the main stem.

Prune the main stem of the witch hazel shrub after removing the suckers. Cut the main stem at 6 to 10 inches above the ground, making sure to cut well above the graft. Make the cut at a 45-degree angle and 1/4 inch above a bud.

Cut any remaining branches above the graft back to an outward facing bud. Remove branches growing below the graft these limbs are growing from the rootstock.

Prune to shape the witch hazel into a shrub or treelike form as it regrows. Remove up to one-half of the new branches when shaping the vigorous new growth. Prune the remaining branches as needed, cutting back to an outward facing bud. Remove root suckers as soon as they sprout.

Add 3 to 4 inches of mulch around the witch hazel, pulling the mulch back four inches from the stem. Mulch helps keeps the soil moist, reducing the need for watering during the dry summer months.

Monitor the witch hazel's new growth carefully. Water when the soil is dry to the touch. Fertilize in the spring with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer according to the manufacturer's directions.

Watch the video: Propagating Witch Hazel

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