By: Teo Spengler
If you have Jelena witch hazel plants in your backyard, your winter landscape will blaze with their rich coppery-orange blossoms. Read on for more Jelena witch hazel information, including tips on how to grow Jelena witch hazel.
Jelena Witch Hazel Information
Say goodbye to empty garden blues in winter. All you have to do to liven up the backyard is to start growing Jelena witch hazel shrubs (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’) with their fabulous blossoms. The flowers on Jelena witch hazel plants are like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
The dense clusters of flowers cover the shrub’s naked branches in winter. Each flower is comprised of four long, wavy, spidery petals. The ribbon-like petals are in fiery shades of orange and red. They have a very pleasant fragrance.
Jelena is an upright witch hazel cultivar that grows slowly to some 12 feet (3.6 m.). It has ascending branches that spread fairly wide. Broad green leaves cover the plant all summer and turn orange-red in fall. Flowers appear in winter.
How to Grow Jelena Witch Hazel
If you want to know how to grow Jelena witch hazel, you’ll be happy to hear that it grows easily in average soil. However, that’s not to say it doesn’t have preferences.
Witch hazel prefers a moist, organically rich soil that leans toward acidic. You should keep that soil consistently moist. It makes the plant happy and prevents summer leaf scorch.
You can plant witch hazel Jelena in a full-sun location, but it also grows well in partial shade. However, the sunnier the site, the better flower display you can expect from the plant in winter.
One of the most important parts of witch hazel ‘Jelena’ care is pruning. You will want to trim the shrub to control its size and clean up its shape. When is the best time to prune Jelena witch hazel plants? Prune them in spring after flowering.
It’s also very important to dig out root suckers as they appear, especially those rising from below a graft union. Otherwise, the plant may spread much farther than you would like.
This article was last updated on
Read more about Witch Hazel
Witch Hazel 'Jelena' - Learn About Growing Jelena Witch Hazel Plants - garden
- The School
- Herbal Blog Contributors
- Equity Statement
- Community Giving
- The Healing Garden Book
- Student Reviews
- Student Herbal Business Directory
- Online Herbal Classes
- Online Herbal Immersion Program
- Online Herbal Medicine Making Course
- Online Foraging Course: Edible and Medicinal Wild Herbs
- Start Here
- Immune Support
- Medicinal Herb Gardening
- Container Gardening
- Herbal Medicine Making
- Calendula’s Uses
- Goldenrod’s Uses
- Violet’s Uses
- Witch Hazel’s Uses
- Sustainable Herbalism
- Botany & Ecology
- Materia Medica
- Food as Medicine
- View All
- Herbal Resources
- Guide for Budding Herbalists
- How to Become an Herbalist
- Getting an Herbal Education
- Herbalist Career Opportunities
- The Truth About “Herbal Certification”
- Legalities of Herbal Products Businesses
- Herbal Resources and Links
- Herbalism Schools Directory
- Log In
- 1 Growth
- 2 Etymology
- 3 Species
- 4 Cultivation
- 4.1 Garden shrubs
- 5 Phytochemicals and hamamelis water
- 5.1 Topical ointment
- 6 Folk medicine
- 7 History
- 8 Gallery
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
The witch-hazels are deciduous shrubs or (rarely) small trees growing to 10–25 feet (3.0–7.6 m) tall, rarely to 40 ft (12 m) tall. The leaves are alternately arranged, oval, 2–6 in (5.1–15.2 cm) long and 1–4 in (2.5–10.2 cm) broad, with a smooth or wavy margin. The genus name, Hamamelis, means "together with fruit", referring to the simultaneous occurrence of flowers with the maturing fruit from the previous year.  H. virginiana blooms in September–November while the other species bloom from January–March. Each flower has four slender strap-shaped petals 3 ⁄8 – 3 ⁄4 inch (0.95–1.91 cm) long, pale to dark yellow, orange, or red. The fruit is a two-part capsule 3 ⁄8 inch (0.95 cm) long, containing a single 1 ⁄4 inch (0.64 cm) glossy black seed in each of the two parts the capsule splits explosively at maturity in the autumn about 8 months after flowering, ejecting the seeds with sufficient force to fly for distances of up to 30 ft (9.1 m), thus another alternative name "Snapping Hazel".
The name witch in witch-hazel has its origins in Middle English wiche, from the Old English wice, meaning "pliant" or "bendable", and is not related to the word witch meaning a practitioner of magic.  Jacob George Strutt's 1822 book, Sylva Britannica attests that "Wych Hazel" was used in England as a synonym for wych elm, Ulmus glabra  The use of the twigs as divining rods, just as hazel twigs were used in England, may also have, [ citation needed ] by folk etymology, influenced the "witch" part of the name. 
Five species are recognized: 
- Hamamelis japonica Siebold & Zucc.
- Hamamelis mollis Oliv.
- Hamamelis ovalis S.W.Leonard
- Hamamelis vernalis Sarg.
- Hamamelis virginiana L.
Hamamelis mexicana is sometimes considered a species,  though as of 2020 [update] Kew's Plants of the World Online considers it a variety of H. virginiana. 
The Persian ironwood, a closely related tree formerly treated as Hamamelis persica, is now given a genus of its own, as Parrotia persica, as it differs in the flowers not having petals. Other closely allied genera are Parrotiopsis, Fothergilla, and Sycopsis (see under Hamamelidaceae). Witch-hazels are not closely related to the true Corylus hazels, though they have a few superficially similar characteristics which may cause one to believe that they are. [ clarification needed ]
They are popular ornamental plants, grown for their clusters of rich yellow to orange-red flowers which begin to expand in the autumn as or slightly before the leaves fall, and continue throughout the winter.
Garden shrubs Edit
Hamamelis virginiana was introduced into English gardens by Peter Collinson, who maintained correspondence with plant hunters in the American colonies. Nowadays, it is rarely seen in the nursery trade except for woodland/wildlife restoration projects and native plant enthusiasts. Much more common is H. mollis, which has bright yellow flowers that bloom in late winter instead of the yellow blossoms of H. virginiana which tend to be lost among the plant's fall foliage. The plant-hunter Charles Maries collected for Veitch Nurseries in the Chinese district of Jiujiang in 1879. It languished in nursery rows for years until it was noticed, propagated and put on the market in 1902. 
Numerous cultivars have been selected for use as garden shrubs, many of them derived from the hybrid H. × intermedia Rehder (H. japonica × H. mollis). Jelena and Robert de Belder of Arboretum Kalmthout, selecting for red cultivars, found three: the first, with bronze flowers, was named 'Jelena' the next, with red flowers, was named 'Diane' (the name of their daughter) the last, with deep red flowers, was called 'Livia' (the name of their granddaughter).
The main phytochemicals in witch-hazel leaves are polyphenols, including 3–10% tannins, flavonoids, and up to 0.5% essential oil, while the bark has a higher tannin content.   Hamamelis water, also called white hazel or witch hazel water prepared from a steam-distillation process using leaves, bark or twigs, is a clear, colorless liquid containing 13–15% ethanol having the odor of the essential oil, but with no tannins present.   Essential oil components, such as carvacrol and eugenol, may be present. 
As an ingredient and topical agent, witch-hazel water is regulated in the United States as an over-the-counter drug for external use only to soothe minor skin irritations.  Hamamelis (witch-hazel) water is diluted using water in a 1:3 preparation, and is not intended for oral use which may cause nausea, vomiting, or constipation. 
Topical ointment Edit
Witch-hazel may be sold as a semisolid ointment, cream, gel, or salve for topical use.   The ointment may ease discomfort from post-partum vaginal soreness and hemorrhoids.   It is commonly used to treat diaper rash in infants, and may reduce symptoms of inflammation from minor skin injuries.  A 2012 review (updated in October 2020) found little evidence of effectiveness from local cooling treatments (including witch-hazel pads) applied to the perineum following childbirth to relieve pain. 
The leaves and bark of the North American witch-hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, were used in folk medicine, herbalism, and skincare decoctions by Native Americans.    Extracts of witch-hazel may be used as a remedy for psoriasis and eczema, in aftershave and ingrown nail applications, to prevent dehydration of skin, and for insect bites and poison ivy.  There is limited clinical evidence to support witch-hazel as an effective treatment for any of these conditions.  Prepared by distillation, the essential oil of witch-hazel has such a small proportion of tannins or other polyphenols that it is unlikely to have any therapeutic effect, and may cause contact dermatitis when used topically.  
In 2017, one manufacturer of skincare products containing witch-hazel was warned by the Food and Drug Administration for making unsubstantiated health claims and for not providing evidence the products are safe. 
Early Puritan settlers in New England adopted witch-hazel as a supposed remedy from the natives, and its use became widely established in the United States during the 19th century.  A missionary, Dr. Charles Hawes, adopted the process of steam distillation of witch-hazel twigs,  creating a "Hawes Extract" product sold in Essex, Connecticut in 1846, by druggist and chemist, Alvan Whittemore.  Hawes' process was further refined by Thomas Newton Dickinson, Sr., who is credited with starting the commercial production of witch-hazel extract, also in Essex, Connecticut, in 1866, and eventually establishing nine production sites in eastern Connecticut during the 20th century.   Following his death, his two sons, Thomas N. Dickinson, Jr., of Mystic, Connecticut, and Everett E. Dickinson of Essex, each inherited parts of the family business and continued the manufacture of witch-hazel extract, operating competing "Dickinson's" businesses that were continued by their descendants until 1997 when the manufacturing operations from both companies were consolidated at the American Distilling plant in East Hampton, CT. 
Why witch hazels ( Hamamelis ) are not more widely grown is a mystery to me. These lovely, maintenance-free, and adaptable plants provide brilliant flower and leaf color at otherwise colorless times of year. And the sweet, penetrating fragrance of some flowers is a bonus.
All are medium to large deciduous shrubs, and most have a spreading habit and branches that grow in a zigzag fashion. Flowers have four strap-shaped petals in colors ranging from yellow to red. Bloom starts in January in USDA Hardiness Zones 7 and 8, no later than March in colder regions, and one species even blooms in fall. Cuttings from any of the spring-blooming kinds brought indoors now will brighten and scent an entire house.
Early one March, I encountered three kinds of witch hazels in bloom at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania (zone 6). All were spectacular -- far more so than forsythia, in my opinion. Then in early November, I saw the same three plants in full fall color. Again, all were gorgeous.
Witch hazels are outstanding landscape plants in zones 6 through 8, particularly in the eastern half of the country, but also in the Pacific Northwest west of the Cascade Range. Most varieties of H. intermedia (hybrids of H. japonica and H. mollis ) are reliable as far north as zone 5, and the hardiest of all, common witch hazel ( H. virginiana ), takes winters all the way to zone 3.
Witch hazels are easy to grow and usually free of pests and diseases. Optimum soil is well drained, evenly moist, and slightly acidic. Incorporating organic matter into the soil at planting time produces ideal conditions. Likewise, full sun is ideal, but they tolerate a considerable amount of shade. Most often the only pruning necessary is removal of dead branches.
Propagation is often by grafting, with H. virginiana as the typical rootstock. This is not a good idea, in my opinion. Time and again, I have observed suckering (vigorous growth from roots) and incompatibility between rootstock and scion. You can recognize suckers by their origin from the base of the plant. If these appear, remove them at once to prevent their overtaking the plant. In my garden, all the H. intermedia 'Arnold Promise' grow on their own roots, so if suckering occurs it presents no problem. Unfortunately most witch hazels, except H. vernalis and H. virginiana , are grafted more often than not (you can tell by the bulge at the base of the plant). I recommend taking the trouble to search out ungrafted plants.
Best Kinds of Witch Hazels
Even with only four main species and one hybrid species, there are nearly 100 named varieties (cultivars), most of them selections of H. intermedia , and many of these are duplicates or only slightly distinct. Here are a few of my favorites.
H. intermedia (hybrid of H. japonica and H. mollis ) zones 5 through 8 15 to 20 feet. Among these are the most highly regarded ornamental witch hazels. These hybrids were originally described in 1945 by horticultural taxonomist Alfred Rehder, who studied plants growing in Boston's Arnold Arboretum.
Plants are usually vigorous, upright-spreading, and rather loosely branched if not pruned. Some types display wide-spreading habits. They flower from late January into mid-March in the north, earlier farther south. Colors range from yellow to red. (Red-flowered types may also show more red fall coloration than the yellow-flowered types, but this is not absolute.)
Flower buds are not as hardy as branches. In 1994, after exposure to -22° to -24° F in the vicinity of Louisville, Kentucky, H. intermedia varieties did not flower where plants were not covered by snow.
The number of named varieties now available is staggering, and without a scorecard it is difficult to separate the best. These six are my favorites.
'Arnold Promise'. Clear yellow, fragrant flowers have a reddish base. Each petal is almost an inch long. Bloom in Boston (zone 6) generally begins in late February and lasts until mid-March. The plant reaches about 20 feet tall and wide. Excellent yellow, orange, and red fall color.
'Barmstedt Gold'. Blooms of this German introduction are rich golden yellow suffused with red at the base fragrance is sweet. Each very narrow petal is almost an inch long flowers have a claret calyx cup. They appear in late January to early February. Fall color is yellow. Ruth Dix, of the U.S. National Arboretum, considers this vigorous shrub with narrowly ascending branches to be one of the best yellows.
'Diane'. This is one of the best red-flowering forms, better than 'Ruby Glow' but still more copper-red than red. Each very narrow petal is 5/8 to 3/4 inch long, shiny, burnished red turning bronze with age, and faintly fragrant calyx is purple-red. February is bloom time. I have seen this one in flower on several occasions and was not as impressed as I'd hoped to be: flowers aren't red, and old leaves persist and must be removed to maximize the flower effect. This medium to large shrub with wide-spreading branches produces rich yellow-orange-red fall color.
'Jelena' (indistinguishable from 'Copper Beauty'). Excellent in flower, and from a distance it glows like copper each 1-inch-long sweet-scented petal is claret red toward base, orange in middle, and yellow at the tip. Petal form is narrow, kinked, and twisted. Leaves turn rich orange-red in fall.
'Pallida'. Soft sulfur yellow flowers have petals about 3/4 inch long with reddish purple base flowers are profuse and sweetly fragrant. In my garden, this broad-spreading shrub blooms about mid-February. It's one of the best and one of my favorites. (While I do not, many consider this a variety of H. mollis.)
'Ruby Glow' ('Adonis' and 'Rubra Superba'). Coppery red flowers in late January and early February mature to reddish brown very narrow petals are about 5/8 inch long, kinked and twisted, with a dark purple calyx. Fragrance is weak. Fall leaf color is a combination of orange and red. The original plant is now more than 20 feet high and wide form is erect and vase-shaped, particularly in youth.
Japanese witch hazel ( H. japonica ) zones 5 through 8 10 to 15 feet. This is a sparsely branched, spreading, at times almost flat-topped shrub or small tree. Most of the plants I have seen in cultivation were wide-spreading shrubs. The 2- to 4-inch-long leaves often have a sheen and in fall turn rich combinations of yellow, red, and purple. The four-petaled yellow flowers, 2/3 inch long, are very narrow, strap-shaped, and wrinkled and crinkled almost like crepe paper. Two or three flowers occur together on the leafless branches in February or March. They are less showy than those on H. intermedia and H. mollis . Flowers are scented, but not as strongly as those of H. mollis.
H. j. arborea . Tall-growing form (to 15 to 18 feet) has horizontally angled branches. Small yellow flowers with a brown base and a faint sweet scent are produced in abundance. Fall leaf color is yellow. A beautiful plant, but not quite up to the H. intermedia types.
Chinese witch hazel ( H. mollis ) zones 5 through 8 10 to 15 feet tall and wide. This native of central China is one of the best witch hazels for the landscape, and probably the most fragrant. Flowers make a beautiful show in February or March. Unfortunately, it is also the least cold-hardy temperatures of -10° to -15° F will injure flower buds.
Leaves are 3 to 6 inches long and almost as wide. They're an unremarkable medium green in summer, then turn a spectacular yellow to yellow-orange in fall. In my garden, foliage changes in late October or early November. Four-petaled yellow flowers have a rich red-brown base each strap-shaped petal is 5/8 inch long.
Left to its own devices, this oval to rounded shrub could grow to 20 feet, but overall the growth rate is slow.
'Early Bright'. Compared to the species, flowers are brighter yellow and open three to four weeks earlier: mid-January in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. The original 37-year-old plant of this variety is 15 feet tall and wide.
'Goldcrest'. Large flowers, a rich golden yellow suffused with claret at base, have a strong, and sweet scent and often appear later than on other H. mollis varieties. Petals are fatter than those of the species. It flowers in early February in my garden and has been consistently spectacular in Athens and Atlanta, Georgia. Habit is upright and vase-shaped.
Vernal witch hazel ( H. vernalis ) zones 4 through 8 6 to 10 feet. Durable plant for the East, Midwest, and upper South. Effective in groupings near large buildings and also makes a good screen or unpruned hedge. This plant's most unusual feature is its early flower date: late December or early January in zone 7, early March in zone 5. Plant is multistemmed, dense, and rounded. Overall, the look is neat, but form is variable. It can also send up shoots from the roots, forming large colonies.
Pungently fragrant yellow-orange to red flowers come in clusters of three or four. Each flower is 1/2 to 3/4 inch across, and petals are about 1/2 inch long. On the downside, the plant may still be holding onto dead leaves when the flowers come, which will diminish the display.
Leaves are 2 to 5 inches long and medium to dark green. Fall color develops late, lasts for two to three weeks, and is often outstanding. It is consistently brilliant yellow in zones 4 through 8, reason enough to grow the plant.
'Autumn Embers'. At its best, produces excellent red-purple fall color, but it's inconsistent in my garden. Orangish flowers. Best in zones 4 and 5.
'Sandra'. Yellow-orange flowers and fiery orange-red fall color, particularly in zones 4 through 6.
Common witch hazel ( H. virginiana ) zones 3 through 9 20 to 30 feet with a 15- to 20-foot spread. Witch hazel extract is distilled from the roots and bark of young stems. This North American native grows throughout the woods in most of the eastern U.S. and is a good shrub border candidate, though it may be too large for the average residential garden. Compared to the Asian witch hazels, it is hardier, more vigorous, and more tolerant of pruning. It makes a wonderful display, especially in fall when leaves turn yellow and the flowers' fragrance permeates the cool autumn air.
Leaves are 3 to 6 inches long, 2- to 3-1/2-inches wide, and medium to dark green. Fragrant yellow flowers, composed of four straplike but crumpled petals, emerge as early as October and as late as early December, the same time leaves change. Flowers last two to four weeks, depending mostly on weather.
Michael A. Dirr, professor of horticulture at the Universtiy of Georgia, Athens, is the author of the Manual of Woody Landscape Plants (Stipes Publishing, 1998 $50).