witch hazel retaining leaves

frances_in_nj(z6 NJ)January 31, 2014

I have a witch hazel "Arnold's Promise". Each winter, some of the the branches retain dead brown leaves, which really detract from the beauty of the blooms when they come, usually in Feb. for me. This year, the problem seems worse than ever! Can anybody advise me - is there something I could do (short of pulling each one off by hand, which would be daunting for so large a plant) to keep this from happening, to make the leaves fall? Is it something culturally that I am doing wrong? Or perhaps its an issue with this particular variety? (I have certainly seen plenty of witch hazels that don't have this problem). I'm beginning to think I'll just dig Arnold up, if I can't solve this problem - he just doesn't look that good with all those dead leaves! Thanks in advance!

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

any chance you fertilizer it??? .. or have highly amended soil????

often.. plants that do not harden off properly.. in fall ... retain leaves when they arent supposed to .. and plants growing too fast due to fert.. do not harden off properly ....

also./.. if winter comes in with a fury..before a plant hardens off.. also might cause such ...

but all that said... if it happens every year.. perhaps you should shovel prune it.. said pruning solves most problems... lol,


    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 12:20PM
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This is a very common issue with any number of cultivars of witch hazel, although 'Arnold's Promise' typically isn't as affected as some others. Has nothing to do with soil conditions or fertilization and unfortunately not much you can do to prevent or otherwise deter the leaf retention. Picking off the leaves is really not that much of an issue......Hamamelis just don't get all that big for such a task to be unmanageable and is certainly worth the effort if you have a nice, well-established specimen.

Gardening DOES require some effort after all.........:-)

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 5:32PM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

I'd knock them off with a jet of water from a hose before they blossomed.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 8:28PM
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There's a book on witch hazels by Christopher Lane, who is a British expert on them. One of the things he rates plants on is leaf retention/drop, so perhaps you can borrow a copy from the library to research other selections that might work better for you. I don't know if growing conditions contribute to the issue, and I imagine your growing conditions would be pretty different than those in the British Isles, so it might not help if they are important.

I will try Mike's strategy with the H. vernus I have which hangs on to its leaves to see how well it works.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 9:30PM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

I'm going to ask frances_in_nj to post some images of this Witch-hazel. Show us the whole plant, and then some closer shots of the stems with the persistent leaves, and of the base of the plant where trunks/branches emerge from the ground.

With no more information than provided, I would guess that it is quite possible that you could have some suckering of the understock occurring. Many clones of Hamamelis are grafted, and all too often they are grafted onto Hamamelis vernalis - which has no qualms about suckering. As one of the finest growers of Witch-hazel on this planet has stated, when asked about using Vernal Witch-hazel as rootstock:

"You might as well graft onto Johnsongrass."

Hamamelis vernalis is also well-known to hold dead foliage all winter, masking the fragrant orangey yellow blooms.

Let's see some pics...

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 10:42PM
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Hamamelis virginiana is also commonly used for understock, and they routinely retain their leaves all winter as well. If it's determined that you have suckering stems from the understock, they need to be trimmed off at ground level, as eventually they will overtake Arnold (no 's) Promise. This will be a yearly regime. It's worth the trouble if you love witch hazels.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 1:52PM
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Yeah, this was a problem I had with mine...just had to live with it...and enjoy the Dec/Jan fragrant blooms :)
Of course if you feel anal, you could get out after frost and manually prune off each leaf.....

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 6:30PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

As some elluded to it seems to vary by cultivar. Of my Hamamelis ÃÂ intermedia cultivars 'Arnold's Promise' and 'Jelena' both hold onto their leaves. Depending how early late season freezes hit will dictate the amount of leaves left behind. None remain by mid winter. But 'Girard's Purple' loses its leaves.

My H. vernalis cultivars all lose their leaves in fall. H. vernalis is much more reliable for fall color compared to H x intermedia. I've yet to see fall color on Jelena.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 9:41PM
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It is normal for Hamamelis intermedia cultivars to hold on to some of their leaves. Some cultivars hold on to their leaves more than others. My Hamamelis (cultivar unknown) holds on to approximately 10% of its leaves. I cut the dead leaves off with my secateurs because I think they look awful in combination with the flowers.

The Scott Arboretum (Swarthmore, PA) has looked at the leaf retention of Hamamelis. Unfortunately, it did this for just one year. In my experience it differs somewhat from year to year.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hamamelis Leaf Retention

This post was edited by GardenPrince on Thu, Feb 6, 14 at 4:53

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 4:51AM
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Each witch hazel is unique in it's ability to shed leaves , and I believe even within it's own named variety. 'Princeton Gold', which I went to some trouble to obtain years ago, was touted as always shedding it's leaves. No so with mine. Each year is different as to how many leaves are retained. This past fall was the least amount. I have read from some sources that age is a factor in eventually loosing this trait. Also the traits of the rootstock, commonly virginiana, and their leaf shedding habit, will differ from plant to plant.
I don't mind going out with my little snippers and cutting off each leaf over winter. I can assure you hosing will NOT work - they are fastened on tightly. I'm looking at my Princeton Gold and Primavera now in bloom and I tell ya it's worth it to get out there and snip off leaves.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 5:42PM
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Birdsong72(7/Northshore NJ)

I have 'Diane' and I don't have a problem 'picking' and 'snipping' the dead leaves in order to enjoy her red dress. She's not a diminutive gal either.

I look at it this way. I'm doing it in Oct and Nov on nice crisp fall days and it's extremely relaxing (which I do over 2-3 sessions of at least half an hour) when I finally finish.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 7:47PM
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Just read about a new study that sais 'Harvest Moon' drops leaves quickest out of the maybe 50 cultivars they tested

    Bookmark   September 25, 2014 at 11:59AM
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Dan - Can you reference the study for us?


    Bookmark   September 25, 2014 at 2:10PM
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