When should I prune my Hamamelis?

Hamamelis species and cultivars are an absolutely glorious addition to the garden. There is literally nothing else which produces such a bold and yet bizarre display of late winter blooms. Unfortunately throughout the rest of the growing season I have to be honest and say, that when it comes to all-round-interest, boring is an understatement. But you know you can always hide them at the back of a border and use them as a backdrop for something more ornamental. So going back to their fantastic flowers, you are going to want your specimen to produce its best show and pruning will be an essential element to this. The question is therefore this, when should I prune my Hamamelis? Get this wrong and you could lose your seasonal display.

Native to North America, Japan and China the genus Hamamelis is composed or relatively slow growing deciduous shrubs, though arguably small trees which depending on the species can reach an overall height of between 10 and 40 feet tall. Selected cultivars will be considerably smaller. In general, Hamamelis will not require regular pruning so feel free to let them grow as the will. However it is always advisable to remove any dead, damaged, congested, crossing or weak shoots.

If you have planted one of the larger species and need to restrict the size of your specimen then cut back the previous season’s growth to two leaf buds from the main stem. This should be carried out immediately after flowering. Hamamelis flowers on the previous season new growth and usually before leaf-but break. If this cut is done later on in the year you will be removing the flowering wood. Be aware that leaf buds are longer and narrower than the more rounded flower buds, so always take care not to remove the flower buds in the process

If you have inherited a particularly large plant that has outgrown its allotted space don't worry. You can remedy this by remove some of the older, larger branches by cutting them back to a healthy new shoot. It’s best to stage this pruning over two or three years. Even over this is done in stages over a few years this will still stress your Hamamelis causing it to recover slowly. Furthermore these kind of hard cuts on grafted cultivars can encourage the rootstock to produce lots of suckers - long vigorous stems sprouting from the base o the stem

These suckers can be recognised as they usually hold on to their leaves longer in autumn. Try to spot these when they are as small as possible and tear them away from the rootstock. If you chose to cut them this can encourage even more suckering.

For related articles click onto the following link:
How to Grow Witch-hazel - Hamamelis
The Witch-Hazel - Hamamelis species

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