Hamamelis virginiana, known as common witch hazel, is a fall-blooming, deciduous shrub or small tree that is native to woodlands, forest margins and stream banks in eastern North America. It typically grows 15-20’ tall with a similar spread in cultivation, but can reach 30’ tall in its native habitat. Stem-hugging clusters of fragrant bright yellow flowers, each with four crinkly, ribbon-shaped petals, appear along the branches from October to December, usually after leaf drop but sometimes at the time of fall color. Fertilized flowers will form fruit over a long period extending through winter and into the following growing season. Fruits are greenish seed capsules that become woody with age and mature to light brown. Each seed capsule splits open in fall of the following year, exploding the 1-2 black seeds within for up to 30 feet. Oval to obovate, medium to dark green leaves (to 6” long) with dentate to wavy margins turn quality shades of yellow in fall. Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best flowering in full sun. Prefers moist, acidic, organically rich soils. Tolerates heavy clay soils. Shrub borders, woodland gardens. Screen or tall hedge. Hardy in zones 3-9.
Growing Instructions for the Witch Hazel
The seeds are dormant and can take a period of time to germinate. The seeds take 1-2 years to sprout. Seeds collected and planted in the fall may germinate the following spring or they may germinate the second spring or even longer. The seeds need a period of warm stratification followed by a period of cold stratification to break their dormancy and germinate. They can be planted outdoors or they can be stratified to break their dormancy. 1. Soak the seeds for 24 hours. Warm stratify the seeds for 4 months. 2. Cold stratify the seeds for 3 months. 3. sow the seeds on rich, moist soil. 4. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. 5 When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.