By Susan Patterson, Master Gardener
The witch hazel bush (Hamamelis virginiana) is a small tree with fragrant yellow blooms that is a member of the Hamanelidacease family and closely related to the sweet gum. Although witch hazel has many common names, the generic name means “together with fruit,” which refers to the fact that this special tree is the only tree in North America to have flowers, ripe fruit and next year’s leaf buds on its branches at the same time.
The witch hazel bush, found in woody areas, is often called water-witch as its branches were once used to search and find underground sources of water and minerals. Witch hazel is commonly used to treat insect bites, sunburn and as a refreshing lotion for after shaving.
How to Grow Witch Hazel Shrubs
Witch hazel shrubs can reach 30 feet high and 15 feet wide at maturity and are often referred to as a tree due to this. The plant sets out pretty yellow flowers that are fragrant and resemble dainty ribbons in the fall.
Growing witch hazel shrubs is a favorite amongst gardeners looking for winter color and fragrance. Many people plant witch hazel in a location where they can enjoy not only its beauty but also its sweet aroma.
Witch hazel shrubs are excellent as a border, mixed hedge or even a specimen plant, if given enough room to spread. Learning how to grow witch hazel is easy since they require very little care.
Witch Hazel Growing Requirements
This attractive bush thrives in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) planting zones 3-9.
Witch hazel shrubs like moist soil but are adaptable. Even though they are considered an understory plant, they will thrive in part shade to full sun.
Care for witch hazel requires minimal time apart from regular water the first season and pruning only to shape as desired.
Witch hazel is not bothered by any serious pests or disease and will tolerate deer some browsing. Some homeowners, who have a lot of deer, put netting around the base of young shrubs to keep the deer from munching.