I have a 20-foot witchhazel tree in my garden (in full sun) that has not bloomed in 20 years. Is there a secret, or should I cut it down?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Richard in Maine: Witchhazels (Hamamelis) are great for winter interest in the garden. There are five species of this genus and a lot more hybrids and cultivars within each species. The most cold-hardy of all of them is Hamamelis virginiana, or common witchhazel, hardy to zone 3. Other species are not as cold-tolerant and are hardy to zone 5 at best. Since you are gardening in zone 5 and without knowing which species/cultivar you are growing, I would suspect it has more to do with a hardiness issue than anything else. Is the plant happy otherwise? Does the foliage look healthy throughout the growing season? Twenty years is a long time for any blooming plant not to produce flowers, and since yours is growing in full sun I would think maybe you are growing a grafted specimen and the plant itself is hardy but the flowers are not. If this were a new planting or it just didn’t flower this winter, I would suspect too much fertilizer since feeding our plants more than they need actually discourages blooms. Do you prune your witchhazel? If so and you are pruning after the flower buds have formed for next season, you could be removing potential flowers. You are a very patient gardener! Most of us would not wait 20 years for something to bloom. Removing it is your decision but chances that it starts blooming now are pretty slim.