Fothergillas are handsome native shrubs with excellent multi-season appeal. Dwarf fothergilla (F. gardenii) reaches only 2 to 3 feet tall while large fothergilla (F. major) can reach 6 to 10 feet. Hybrids between the two (F. × intermedia) typically grow 4 to 5 feet tall. All fothergillas bear short, upright, bottlebrush-like flower heads in spring.
Small individual flowers are creamy white and smell deliciously of honey. Fothergillas have oval to rounded leaves (smallest on dwarf fothergilla) that are light green to blue-green in summer and develop stunning shades of red, orange and yellow in late autumn. These tidy, mounded shrubs are ideal for formal or informal gardens, borders or foundation plantings.
Common name: Fothergilla or witch alder
Botanical name: Fothergilla spp.
Plant type: Deciduous shrub
Zones: 4 to 9
Height: 2 to 10 feet
• Sun: Full sun to part shade
• Soil: Loamy, acidic, with ample organic matter
• Moisture: Evenly moist but well-drained
• Mulch: 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch such as wood chips, pine needles or shredded leaves
• Pruning: Light pruning as needed to improve form or remove damaged stems
• Fertilizer: Apply compost or soluble fertilizer as needed.
Pests and diseases
• No major problems
• Dwarf fothergilla: ‘Blue Mist’ has glaucous blue foliage; ‘Harold Epstein’ is only about 18 inches tall.
• Intermediate fothergilla: ‘Mount Airy’ is a popular variety with excellent red and orange fall color; ‘Blue Shadow’ has distinctive powder blue foliage; Beaver Creek (‘KLMtwo’) has a compact, rounded form and good fall color.
• Large fothergilla: ‘Arkansas Beauty’ is somewhat drought-tolerant and has yellow-orange fall color.
• All of the fothergillas make excellent components in mixed shrub beds or combined with herbaceous perennials and flowering bulbs.
• Plant fothergillas near a door, window, walkway or patio where you’ll be able to smell the sweetly fragrant flowers in spring.
• Fothergillas like a humusy soil, so work in plenty of organic matter before planting.
All in the family
• Fothergillas are members of the witch hazel family (Hamamelidaceae), which contains about 100 shrub and tree species.
• In addition to the fothergillas, other choice ornamental shrubs in the family include witch hazels (Hamamelis), winter hazels (Corylopsis) and disanthus (Disanthus cercidifolius).
• The native sweetgum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) was previously considered a member of this family but has recently been reassigned.
Where to buy
• Broken Arrow Nursery, brokenarrownursery.com
• Niche Gardens, nichegardens.com
• Rare Find Nursery, rarefindnursery.com