Witch-hazel, the tree with golden stars

Witch-hazel: the spooky name betrays its uniqueness.

Magical and mysterious, witch-hazel is covered in winter with strange gold yellow flowers and in fall is draped in amazing hues.

Witch-hazel is a shrub to grow as a standalone or to plant in small groves of three to five specimens. Place them near the entrance to the garden, as a welcome gift or in a prominent area near your main door. Pair them with Camellia sasanqua or grasses. You can plant many bulb flowers at its foot: colchicum to match the leafage in fall and bluebells to color around it in spring at a time when it seems a bit naked – this is the moment where it has finished blooming but hasn’t yet grown new leaves.

Proper care for witch-hazel

Witch-hazel is always offered for sale with its clump, or in a container, because it doesn’t cope very well with bare-root transplanting. Remember this if ever you need to transplant your witch-hazel from one spot to another yourself. Flowering witch-hazels in their containers are best simply left in their pot until the end of the blooming, at which point they may be settled into the ground. Plants purchased while already 24 to 48 inches (60 to 120 cm) tall will have the highest transplant success rate. Very young plants are quite fragile.

These shrubs appreciate rather acidic soil that doesn’t get too dry in summer. Set up the witch-hazel in part sun in a slightly moist environment, without too much heat. It is important that the plant bask in maximum possible light in winter to bloom abundantly. A good recommendation is to water well after times of high temperatures and even wet the leaves thoroughly in the evening. Witch-hazel that lacks water might take on its autumn hues as early as July.

Pruning isn’t needed, except perhaps to balance the tree’s bearing. A slow-growing plant, it will reach a size of about 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall by 6 œ feet (2 meters) wide after 5 years. After ten years it will be about 10 feet (3 meters) tall by 13 feet (4 meters) wide, and after 20 years it will have grown to only 17 x 20 feet (5 x 6 m) tall and wide. Planting distance: 10 to 13 feet (3 to 4 m).

Every year, in April-May, careful gardeners can spread permanent mulch about 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) thick, inside the entire drip zone of the tree. Ideally a blend of peat and garden compost, this will ensure proper growth and will help it cope with the strong summer heat.