Weekly Green Tip: The Allure of Witch Hazel ✨

Witch hazel’s alien-like blooms are pollinated by flies and moths in the fall/winter. Shown here is the unique quality of witch hazel, supporting both new blooms AND fruit/seed from the prior season.

 

While strolling through the aisles of your local convenience store, you have likely passed products comprised from our Plant of the Month: Witch hazel. This native shrub of North America, that has long been celebrated for its cosmetic and medicinal properties. But beyond its benefits for the human body, the shrub is visually appealing year-round, wonderfully fragrant, and supportive of wildlife habitat.

 

More often than not, the bottom edge of the witch hazel leaf will be asymmetrical. This identifier may help you when discovering and them in the wild.

Witch hazel has unique visual properties through all four seasons. During spring and summer, the canopy fills out nicely and shows off its green, oddly shaped leaves. As fall approaches, the leaves begin to turn yellow or yellow-orange, adding seasonal charm to any garden. With fall in full swing, the shrub’s fragrant, bright, and spindly flowers come out. These blooms will persist well into the winter and offer your garden a burst of color and valuable habitat for pollinators.

Interestingly, its fruit matures so slowly that they can remain attached to the shrub for a full year. This means that there can be an overlap where the plant simultaneously supports the growth of new flowers AND the maturation of old fruits… When witch hazel fruit is extra ripe, it is known to EXPLODE open and actually launch its shiny black seeds like a cannon. 

Establishing witch hazel in your garden is simple, requiring just occasional watering and pruning. It will naturally fill out like any typical shrub, but many folks like to prune its canopy upwards to give it more of a “small tree” look.

For optimal growth, plant it in early spring or late fall. While it thrives in sunny locations, witch hazel can certainly tolerate some shade, especially in hotter climates. Here in Atlanta, it is not uncommon to find it healthy and happy in shadier areas. Witch hazel is resistant to most pests and diseases, making it a hassle-free addition to your garden. Bursting with blooms and totally bare of foliage!

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