This should be the shortest page on the website, for the Witch Hazels - Hamamelis - rarely if ever, need any pruning.
But of course, all of us gardeners need to do things that don't really need doing, or have to rectify something we did or planted many years previous, as we find out that the said shrub or plants, does indeed grow to the height stated on the label. This is as it is with Hamamelis.
Witch Hazels are so slow growing, that it is often planted in a situation where we feel that it will never outgrow. Time moves on, and plants grow, as does the ponderous Hamamelis. Sure as the sun will sometimes shine, the Hamamelis will indeed reach it's stated height and spread of 12 feet - or 4 metres, and the spread will be similar. That is why I write a page about pruning Hamamelis
If you are reading this page in preparation for buying and planting a Witch Hazel, be aware - not warned - that it will eventually grow as stated. A magnificent show for winter, and also autumn. Plant it in the right place, and you never have to refer to this page again.
If on the other hand, you are having to access this page because of a 'planting error' many years ago, then read carefully.
Firstly, you will not kill or damage your Hamamelis by pruning at any time of the year. Though they do tend to weep from cuts made in the growing season, but soon themselves, re-seal the pruning wound without you needing to do anything. The mystique around pruning Hamamelis, is simply because it does not actually need to be pruned either to enhance its flowering or shape. In fact there are those - me amongst them - that would say, one of the main beauties of the Hamamelis is its spreading canopy. It is not a troublesome canopy, but it does deviate from the vertical somewhat.
Hamamelis flower on either old wood (branches) or on twigs that have been generated at the start of the previous growing season. that is to say early spring, soon after flowering. Shoot grow that grows in the mid or late summer will not have flower bud in time for the winter. In reality, this is normally less than 4in at the tip.
Any pruning cuts should be made immediately after flowering, and in the dormant season, in order to allow growth to start in time to produce flower buds for the following late winter.
You may have to prune your Witch Hazel simply because you did not take into account, the ultimate height and spread, or maybe a garden shed has to be erected nearby, or - very unlikely - there are a few dead branches to be removed.
Crossing branches, rubbing against each other are a rarity, for the Hamamelis has an open habit of growth.
The smaller the portion you remove, the better the shape you will end up with for your Hamamelis. Do bear that in mind. Any cuts that you make should be minimal, and at the narrowest point of the stem or branch that you can. Do not go snipping bits off the end as does a hairdresser. Take out only what is necessary, stand back and view what you have done in stages, and do not try to basically change the shape or growth habit.
There is no need to 'paint' the wound unless you are in an area that is prone to coral spot disease. Then a fungicidal paint may help to prevent the spores from entering - though the risk of this is minimal.
If cutting back to one of the main branches, do not cut off flush with the parent branch. Cut straight through an inch or so away from the parent limb. The Hamamelis is slow growing, and as a result is also slow healing. it will not quickly callus over the wound. For that reason the cut should be absolutely minimal. So minimal in fact, that you should prefer not to do it!!!
Hamamelis - commonly known as Witch Hazels - are a group of winter flowering shrubs, which are happy to flower regardless of weather conditions for much of the winter. They have a range of flower colours - but mainly yellow - which are attractive spider-like blooms along generally spreading but upright branches.
All types of Hamamelis are deciduous, and generally have good - sometimes spectacular - foliage colours before leaf fall in autumn.
Other than being seen in large gardens and estates, Hamamelis are not often planted in private gardens. This is surprising, seeing as the Witch Hazel is virtually maintenance-free and will grow in most garden soils. They are also happy in most situations between woodland shade and full sun. There is no 'gardening mystique' about growing one of these shrubs, and given that it has a quite open growth habit and is not a provider of dense shade, it can be under-plated with a wide range of complimentary subjects, and well suited to having bulbs naturalised at the base.
That's the end of the 'commercial'. Now down to the basic facts.
All of the Witch Hazels have an ultimate height of around 12ft - 4m and a slightly less spread. They are one of the few shrubs which will give height and body to shrub beds, or at rear of herbaceous borders, without being overly intrusive. Most grow from a low central stem at the base and then send spreading but upright branches which are lightly clad with attractive foliage. The shrubs are grafted onto the ground-level stem, so do not form a clump or thicket, nor do they spread at ground level .
Hamamelis will grow in virtually any garden soil, but do not fare quite so well in alkaline conditions, though they tolerate to a certain degree, if bolstered with a good annual mulch of organic material. Woodland settings normally provide an neutral to acid soil and this is where they seem to grow best.
Bear in mind their ultimate height - 12 ft max and slowly - when choosing a planting position, for mature Hamamelis do not transplant well. Neither do they require routine pruning, so growth is not generally kept in check. Witch Hazels are slow growing - rarely more than 10in per year - decreasing as the shrub matures, so the ultimate size may take up to 15 or more years to attain.
Hamamelis are happy in full sun - as a specimen in lawn centre for instance, or can be blended into shrub and perennial borders or woodland settings.
Nothing to worry about - other than if you are in a Honey Fungus area. They are sometimes affected by this disease. The stems may also suffer - rarely - from coral spot disease. There is no available 'cure' for this fungus, but providing the plant is growing well, it is rarely a problem of Witch Hazels. It prefers a weakened shrub.
Hamamelis are prone to sending up suckers from the base. These should be removed as soon as noticed (The foliage is different) for they will eventually take over the plant, and you will be left with a poor specimen.
Hamamelis are split into two main popular groups for gardening purposes - being Hamamelis mollis types and Hamamelis x intermedia cultivars. The growth habits of both are similar, and the flower colour range is to be found in both types. Hamamelis mollis are simply better known because they have been around longer, but I think you will find that the Hamamelis x intermedia types will be more spectacular.
Head of this group, resulted from a cross hybridization of Hamamelis mollis and Hamamelis japonica. (Now you can see why this group is 'younger' than Hamamelis mollis).
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jermyns' - Good golden yellow form of Witch Hazel. Spreading - but slowly Hamamelis x intermedia 'Allgold' - Smaller flowers than most, but very showy and flowers for at least two months.
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise' - Some of the largest of the Hamamelis flowers - bright yellow Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane'
A stunning red variety, spring flowering scented at that. Good autumn foliage colour of orange yellow and reds.
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena' - Beautiful coppery bronze flowers and very prolific. Same colours for the autumn foliage as well!
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Pallida' - Upright but spreading habit. Bright sulphur-yellow flowers. I have found this to be well-scented.
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Sunburst' Upright growing and well suited to a smaller overhead space. Pale yellow flowers and plenty of them
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Vesna' - Large flowers, bright yellow and with attractive red markings at base of petals
Hamamelis x intermedia ' Glowing Embers'. Not as red as Diane. More orange red, but very good.
Hamamelis x intermedia ' Orange Peel'. The colour not texture of orange peel - just.
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Orange Beauty'. I liked this a lot when I found it.
Hamamelis x intermedia ' Strawberry Cream' Some would consider a bit 'wishy-washy' but a nice variation.
And so the list goes on.............