How to Grow Hamamelis in a Container

by Jenny Harrington

Witch hazels (Hamamelis spp.) burst into bloom in late fall and winter, adding their own bewitching touch to the winter landscape. The yellow, orange and red spiderlike flowers adorn the bare branches of the tree, even withstanding frost. In summer, witch hazel delights with lush green foliage, and fall brings on a riot of copper and red leaves. Witch hazels grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 8. You can grow the small trees in pots in containers as long as you set them in full sun and provide proper care.

1 Plant the witch hazel in a container that is at least 16 inches across and 16 inches deep, using any well-draining potting soil. Plant the tree so the top of the roots are two to three inches beneath the soil and the soil surface sits one inch beneath the container rim.

2 Feel the soil in the container daily and water when the top one to two inches begins to feel dry. Supply water until the excess drains from the bottom of the pot to ensure that the moisture penetrates to the bottom of the container where most of the roots are located.

3 Apply an all-purpose soluble fertilizer once monthly during the spring and summer growing season. Use a fertilizer formulated specifically for trees and shrubs, or dilute 1 tablespoon 24-8-16 general-purpose fertilizer in each gallon of water. Water the witch hazel with the solution.

4 Cut off suckers, which are upright shoots that grow low on the trunk, in fall. Most suckers sprout directly from the roots or just beneath the soil surface, and they often retain their foliage after the rest of the leaves on the witch hazel have fallen. Cut these off where they connect to the main root or trunk using a sharp, clean knife.

5 Prune the witch hazel immediately after flowering in late winter or early spring to maintain its size, using bypass shears or a pruning saw. Cut back the previous season's growth on each branch to the second leaf bud. Leaf buds are long and narrow, compared to the more rounded flower buds.

Items you will need

  • 16-inch pot
  • Potting soil
  • All-purpose soluble fertilizer
  • Pruning shears
  • Pruning saw

Tip

  • Container-grown witch hazels rarely suffer problems, although poor drainage or overwatering can result in root rot. Wet foliage may lead to fungal leaf problems, so avoid overwatering.