Fothergilla major - Fothergilla

Origin and Distribution

Fothergilla is a genus of the witch-hazel family. They are native to the South-East of North America.  The genus Fothergilla only consists of two species: The large witch alder (Fothergilla major) and the significantly smaller, in other respects very similar dwarf witch alder (Fothergilla gardenii).


Fothergilla is a decidous, slowly growing bush. It has densely packed, upright shoots, which can grow up to 2.5 m high. The bark of older branches is coloured in light grey and has a smooth surface. The leaves are arranged alternately and egg-shaped. The upper side of the leaf is large-toothed. In autumn the coloring changes into a variation of bright and glowing carmine red and orange-yellow. At the end of April the unusually looking flowers appear together with the leaves. The bottle brush-like flowers are up to 5 cm long, pleasant-smelling and well attended by bumblebees. Brown capsule seeds are developing after the flowering period.

Interesting Facts

The botanical name honours the English doctor and garden enthusiast John Fothergill (1712-1780).

Garden Design

Witch alders like semi-shaded up to sunny and slightly acidic places to grow. They avoid heat and drought. If it is too shady, flowering and autumn colours fail to appear. Due to their beautiful flowers and their gorgeous autumn foliage both species are used as ornamental plants. Fothergilla major is an attractive specimen shrub and is used for heather gardens or Rhododendron planting, paired with astilbe, fern and creeping dogwood.

Dwarf Fothergilla is a perfect supplement for low-growing, red blooming Rhododendron repens ‘Baden-Baden’. It loosens up the appearance of the entire planting.

Futhermore, the combination of the white blooming witch alder bushes with Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’, which has bright red leaf shoots is very harmonious.