Winter is for Witch Hazel

Winter can be a bleak time for your landscape, with leafless trees and few flowers in sight. To add a pop of color to a dreary winter yard, consider a Missouri native: witch hazel. 

About the plant: Hamamelis vernalis is commonly called Ozark witch hazel or vernal witch hazel. Its specific epithet vernalis means “spring flowering”, an appropriate name given its early spring or even late winter flowering.

Where it’s from: Its native range is southern and central United States, which includes Missouri.

When it blooms: January to April

Blooms and foliage: A warm, sunny day will typically trigger the yellow to red-orange blooms to open, releasing a spicy fragrance that is subtle but pleasing. In fall, the leaves turn bright, golden yellow. Mature plants will reach 6-10 feet tall and often have a shrubby rather than tree-like growth habit, although removal of root suckers and side branches can create a more formal appearance.

Tips on Growing Witch Hazel

Overall, Ozark witch hazels are fairly low maintenance and will provide consistent, multi-season interest once established. The Missouri Botanica Garden’s Center for Home Gardening shares the following tips to help it thrive:

Soil: Ozark witch hazels grow best in evenly moist, well-draining soils. They can tolerate clay soils as long as the soil does not stay waterlogged for too long.This can lead to root rot.

Light: Witch hazel does best in full, with some afternoon shade. Overly shady conditions will result in poor flowering.

Water: This plant may need extra water during hot, summer droughts to prevent leaf scorch and reduce overall stress. 

Justine Kandra

Catherine Martin
Public Information Officer

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