January Plant of the Month | Hamamelis

Hamamelis | Witch Hazel

Hamamelis, better known as witch hazel, is a genus of beautiful medium to large shrubs or small trees. Mainly flowering in winter, they bring colour, texture and delightful scent to the garden at a time when it most needs it. 

The branches are typically covered with distinctive, spider-like flowers in shades of yellow, orange and red from December through to early spring. These are borne on bare branches after the attractive autumn foliage has fallen and are highly fragranced.


Hamamelis Varieties

There are a wide range of hamamelis varieties available. Some of our favourites include varieties of Hamamelis mollis, which is native to central and eastern China, and Hamamelis x intermedia, which is a hybrid of H. mollis and H. japonica and includes many varieties with the RHS Award of Garden Merit. (RHS AGM)


Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’

A vigorous, deciduous shrub with ovate green leaves that turn red- yellow in autumn. The freely borne spidery flowers appear in winter, bringing bright yellow to the garden along with a beautiful fragrance. Has the RHS AGM. 

Flowering time: December to March

Sun Requirements: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Any moist but well-drained soil

Hardiness: Hardy to -15 °C 

Size: Grows to 4m height x 4m spread


Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Barmstedt Gold’

A hardy, upright and large shrub. The green leaves take on attractive yellow colour in the autumn. Large deep, golden-yellow flowers with a faint scent are produced on the bare branches in late winter into early spring. Has the RHS AGM.  

Flowering time: December to March

Sun Requirements: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Any moist but well-drained soil

Hardiness: Hardy to -15 °C 

Size: Grows to 4m height x 4m spread


Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’

A superb variety of Hamamelis with a vigorous, spreading habit. The broad green leaves of H. ‘Jelena’ turn red and yellow in autumn. The dense clusters of attractively scented coppery-orange flowers emerge from late winter. Has the RHS AGM.  

Flowering time: December to March

Sun Requirements: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Any moist but well-drained soil

Hardiness: Hardy to -15 °C 

Size: Grows to 4m height x 4m spread


Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Rubin’

This variety of Hamamelis x intermedia is a German selection with scented ruby- red flowers. The broadly oval green leaves turn yellow and orange in autumn. Has the RHS AGM.

Flowering time: December to March

Sun Requirements: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Any moist but well-drained soil

Hardiness: Hardy to -15 °C 

Size: Grows to 3m height x 3m spread


Hamamelis mollis ‘Jermyns Gold’  

An attractive, erect variety of Hamamelis with rounded, softly hairy leaves. The clusters of large, sweetly-fragranced yellow flowers are borne from December to March. Originally collected by plant hunter Ernest Wilson, it was named by Hillier Nurseries in 2000. Has the RHS AGM.

Flowering time: December to March

Sun Requirements: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Any moist but well-drained soil

Hardiness: Hardy to -15 °C 

Size: Grows to 1.8m height x 2m spread


Hamamelis Growing Guide

Planting

Hamamelis do best positioned in a sunny spot, although they will also tolerate partial shade. Plant in moist, well-drained soil. 

Pruning

Prune after flowering in mid to late spring to maintain a neat, attractive shape. Remove any dead or damaged wood and prune each branch back to healthy, young growth. It will tolerate more severe pruning if you want to reduce its size. 


Hamamelis Planting Ideas

Underplant hamamelis with winter and early spring perennials. Winter hellebores, such as H. niger and H. x ericsmithii varieties, will flower before Christmas bringing added brightness to the garden. You may also want to try underplanting with hardy cyclamen, winter aconites or snowdrops.


Hamamelis Fact

Despite the sound of its common name, Witch Hazel is unlikely to be originally derived from the word ‘witch’. Instead, the word originates from the Old English wice, which means ‘bendable’.