Winter Blooming Shrub - Knowledgebase Question

Chicago, IL
Avatar for fool4sail
Question by fool4sail
December 11, 1997
There's tree/shrub is currently blooming here in Chicago. The blossoms are pale yellow green, with four long, very narrow petals that meet in the center, and four tiny balls between the leaves, spaced evenly. The blossoms are approximately 3/4" across, and appear in clumps of three. What is it, and how can I propagate it?

Chuck Kmiec

Answer from NGA
December 11, 1997
I sounds like a witch hazel (Hammamelis)! These remarkable shrubs blossom in fall, winter and early spring, depending on the species. The "balls" in the center hold the immature seeds. When they're ripe, the pods pop open and expel the seeds with some force out into the world! Some witch hazels bloom in very bright shades of yellow, orange, even red! But some of these more spectacular varieties are hardy only to zone 6. They thrive in moist soils in full sun or partial shade.

To propagate witch hazel, have your growing trays set up before you set out to take cuttings. Propogating trays should contain pre-moistened medium (equal parts perlite and sphagnum peat) In spring just after leaves appear, take 6" cuttings of softwood (bends and snaps easily, and doesn't yet have a hard bark). Choose cuttings from healthy branches only. Transport them home in a dark plastic bag in a cooler. Rooting hormone will increase success of rooting, and is available in most garden centers. Removeall but 2-4 leaves from the cutting, and if the leaves are so large that they'll touch in the rooting flat, trim them slightly. Stick the cuttings into the medium, but avoid sticking them all the way to the bottom, as that's where moisture will puddle. Place a plastic bag over the setup, and mist the plants a couple of times daily. Keep them in moderate rather than direct light, and provide temperatures around 70-75F. They take at least several weeks to develop roots. Here's a source of different witch hazels if you want to take a look at what else is out there: Carrol Gardens, 444 East Main St., Westminster, MD 21157; ph# 800/638-6334. Enjoy!

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