What is your favorite late fall flowering tree? Or what is your favorite mid-winter flowering shrub? If you didn’t think common witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana) let me introduce the two of you. Witchhazel (sometimes seen as witch hazel) is a small tree or large shrub that can be either multi stem or single trunk reaching between 15’-20’ tall.
The standout feature of this plant is the time of the year flowers: November. Flower consist of four papery-yellow petals that remind me of papier-mâché. Flowers last for up to a month depending on environmental conditions and will attract late season pollinators (moths and flies) to their blooms. They are not fussy where they grow but do appreciate the minimum of half day sun. Leaves are similar to alders and turn a pale yellow in the fall.
Another fun feature of this plant is the way they disperse their seeds. They do not rely on animals to spread them – they eject them with propulsion. Audible pops have been heard and some people report getting seeds shot at them. This is because the seeds are ejected with a force strong enough to break the seed capsule and shoot them up to 30’ away from the tree.
Witchhazel ‘Diane’ (Hamamelis x intermedia) is a cross between H. japonica and H. mollis that flower mid to late winter. Bloom color is a mixture of brick-red to copper-red. Like other witchazel they are deer resistant and can tolerate clay soils. However, they do appreciate slightly acidic soils (pH < 7). This cultivar is shorter than the common witchazel and only reaches about 10’-15’ tall. Makes an excellent addition to a smaller backyard where space is limited.