Plant Of The Week: Witchhazels
There are a few different types of Witchhazels available in the nurseries that we use, and they bloom at very different times. The latin name for Witchhazel is Hamamelis. You may want to use this term when searching for different types. Although this is not as well-known as Forsythia, this is a superior plant and deserves to be planted more in the landscape! Planting the native species will give you the benefit of the fall bloom and food for butterfly larvae if you have a butterfly garden, or consider planting one of the other species to give you that burst of color in late winter when we need it most…. it will give you promise of a spring not too far away! Here are some of the different types explained.
The first type I want to share with you is the most common, and you can find it in many wooded areas right here in Washtenaw county. This Witchhazel is Hamamelis virginiana, and it blooms in the fall. This is an understory tree that has a nice yellow fall color, with yellow flowers. They will generally grow 15-25’ tall and wide. It is a great plant to use in a moist, shaded location where a larger shrub or small tree is needed. This is one of my favorite native plants and is also a host for butterfly larvae.
The second type of Witchhazel that is not quite as common in the industry, but is very beautiful is Hamamelis mollis, also known as Chinese Witchhazel. This species is known for its beautiful scent, and late winter blooms. It does best planted in full sun or partial shade on well drained soils, but has been found to grow well on clay soils that are not too wet as well. This particular Witchhazel is smaller in stature than the native type, growing only 10-15’ tall and wide, often growing wider than tall, which makes for a unique and beautiful form. Some well-known cultivars include Pallida, Brevipetala and Princeton Gold. The flowers are generally yellow, and in fall the leaves turn orange or yellow.
A couple of other types, which are rarely found in the nurseries in southeast Michigan, are called Hamamelis japonica, (Japanese Witchhazel) and Hamamelis vernalis, (Vernal Witchhazel). This plant serves as a vehicle to create some of the more available Witchhazel crosses found in nurseries today. These crosses are referred to below.
Last, but not least are the Hamamelis x intermedia group which are crosses of Hamamelis japonica, Hamamelis mollis or Hamamelis vernalis. The most well-known variety is probably ‘Arnold’s Promise’, which is a large cultivar growing 15-20’ tall and wide in a vase shaped form. It has stunning yellow flowers, and blooms late winter-early spring, often when there is still snow on the ground.
In the Hamamelis x intermedia group there are also some other great colors available! One of these cultivars is ‘Diane’, which has red flowers, and another known as ‘Jelena’ has copper-orange blooms. Also in this group, the fall colors are amazing! Here are pictures of each of these cultivars mentioned.