Choose a witch hazel when it is in flower, as only then can you be sure that the colour and aroma are what you are looking for.
Growers graft witch hazel, as this is the only way to produce them true to type and profitably. Always buy a plant with a well-knit graft and without shoots growing from below the graft. Make sure you check the roots of plants which have been grown in pots. If the plant is healthy, the roots will grow throughout the entire pot.
Arboretum Kalmthout's plant centre offers an extensive range of special witch hazel plants.
The right spot in the garden
Witch hazel is best planted in its permanent position, as it does not like being replanted. Although witch hazel does not grow particularly quickly, bear in mind that it will often eventually become wide.
It likes light and sun, but avoid letting it dry out or get burnt during the summer months. More flowers will grow on it in sunny places than in shadow. Choose a sheltered spot, as witch hazel has a considerably shorter flowering period in drafty spots where there is a wintry, northerly wind.
Select a spot where you are able to see the witch hazel from indoors, or a spot you regularly walk past during its flowering period. Cultivars with yellow flowers show up better when placed against a background of evergreen shrubs or conifers. Cultivars with orange and red flowers are best placed in areas where the low winter sun can shine through their branches.
The only thing that is truly essential for witch hazel is a well-drained soil which also holds sufficient moisture in the summer. Few garden owners are in this luxury position. It can therefore sometimes be necessary in summer to give (young) witch hazels extra water.
A slightly acidic or neutral soil is ideal. Witch hazel does not like limy soil.
If your garden is relatively large, you can allow witch hazel to grow freely until it has reached its natural dimensions. You do not need to prune it even then; only dead or sick branches need to be removed.
In smaller gardens, you can keep witch hazel fairly compact by pruning it annually. During the winter, prune the branches from the previous summer back to two or three buds. This way you will end up with tightly branched and abundantly flowering shrubs. You can also train witch hazel along a trellis. In that case, use the same pruning technique.