Pruning witch hazel: pro tips for proper pruning


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Witch hazel will enchant your garden with its sea of flowers. But how do you prune the brightly flowering witch hazel correctly and what do you need to bear in mind? Find out about pruning witch hazel here.

orange spiderlike hamamelis jelena flowers
The delightful Jelena witch hazel displays bright orange flowers and scarlet leaves [Photo: egschiller/]

With its delicate flowers, witch hazel (Hamamelis) fills the home garden with the first splashes of colour and fragrance from December to March. But this elegant winter bloomer grows very slowly and resprouts poorly from old wood. One should therefore cut back as rarely as possible and if so, only a little. Even without help, the plants form beautiful, funnel-shaped upright, loosely branched crowns. Pruning can even lead to the loss of this typical growth. Therefore, it is best to resort to the shears only if now and then a branch is to be used as a vase decoration, or if you want to keep your plant small. However, a lot can go wrong in the process. To ensure that your witch hazel does not suffer unnecessarily, we have compiled everything you need to know for successful pruning.

Witch hazel: when to prune?

If you want to do some pruning of your witch hazel, spring after flowering is recommended. It is best to cut back your witch hazel regularly and only moderately. This is much better tolerated than severe pruning.

yellow spider-shaped hamamelis flowers
When pruning witch hazel, less is more [Photo: Mariola Anna S/]

Pruning witch hazel: a guide

When pruning witch hazel, the key is to pace yourself. After all, with radical pruning the plant is very likely to wither. Flowering in subsequent years will be equally absent or very sparse. If the plant is weakened too much by pruning, it will even die. With these expensive and slow-growing shrubs, this is incredibly frustrating. Therefore, it is better to cut your plant into the desired shape very carefully. After flowering, it is best to thin the bush only slightly. You also cannot go wrong by removing old, dry branches. The sensitive witch hazel will also thank you for that. Just make sure that you use only very sharp and clean tools for cutting because of poor wound healing. But even with the right tools, major cuts should be avoided. Therefore, perform topiary only on young shoots, because the more mature and thicker the branches, the more problematic pruning is for the plant. The resulting wounds are best closed with a little wax.

small witch hazel tree
The Diane witch hazel variety naturally stays small [Photo: Peter Turner Photography/]

Note: A good alternative to pruning is to plant small varieties such as ‘Arnold Promise’ or ‘Diane’.

For more information on planting witch hazel and the different varieties, see our special article on witch hazel.

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