How to grow witch hazel from seed

The Witch hazel, Hamamelis species and cultivar, is a popular deciduous garden plant noted for its unusual winter blooms. Most species are associated with North America, however there are two further lesser-known species, one in Japan the other in China.

Witch hazel seed pods -
Hybrids of Hamamelis japonica and Hamamelis mollis have proven to be the most popular as garden plants due to their relatively small size and spider-like yellow or reddish flower which appear after leaf-drop in the winter.

The 'Witch' in witch-hazel is a derivative of the Old English word 'wice' which means pliant or bendable. The hazel' part is simply due to the foliage looking similar to that of the native European hazel - Corylus species.

Witch hazel seeds are easy to collect during the early autumn. Be aware that the seed pods do have a habit of explosively shooting out their seeds so it is easier to collect unopened capsules and bring them into a warm, dry place inside a fine mesh bag. Once the seeds are released they are best sown immediately.

Freshly collected seeds will have a high germination rate and can be expected to emerge after about 18 months to two years. Packaged seeds will not only have a lower germination rate but will also take longer to germinate.

Witch hazel seedlings -
Using 7-9 cm pots, fill with a good quality seed compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting'. Gently compress the compost into the pot and then press one seed into the surface of each pot. Avoid burying the seed, and then cover the seed with a thin layer of horticultural grit. Gently water in and the place in a heated propagator for approximately 8 weeks at approximately 24 degrees Celsius. Keep the compost moist throughout this period. Alternatively seal the pots inside a clear polythene bag and place on a warm, bright windowsill. After this period move the pots outside into a bright cold frame for the winter period. Allow the surface of the compost to dry out between waterings to prevent fungal growth, However make sure that the compost below the surface remains moist.

As the seedlings emerged they can be removed for the cold frame and positioned in a sheltered out of direct sunlight. They can then be hardened off for a couple of weeks before placing in full sun and potted on as necessary.

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