Tips for Growing the Dwarf Fothergilla in Your Home Garden

Shrubs. Dwarf Fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii)
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If you have a shady location in your landscape, try planting the dwarf fothergilla. It does not require much maintenance at all and usually is not susceptible to pests or diseases.

You'll enjoy a display of fluffy white flowers that look like bottle brushes every spring. This shrub is fantastic when it comes to fall colors. The leaves come in a rainbow of colors -- red, violet, pink, yellow, orange and green.

They may be more vibrant when the site has more sun, but the shady locations will still put on a beautiful display.

Latin Name

Fothergilla gardenii is a member of the Hamamelidaceae (Witch hazel) family. The name Fothergilla refers to John Fothergill, a doctor who also loved studying botany. Another doctor/botanist -- Dr. Alexander Garden -- inspired the species name of gardenii.

Other familiar members include witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)(though these days you'll often see it placed in the Altingiaceae family), Chinese fringe flower (Loropetalum chinense) and the Persian ironwood tree (Parrotia persica).

Common Names

Besides dwarf fothergilla, you may also see coastal witch alder, dwarf witch alder, and dwarf witch fothergilla.

Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones

Zones 5-8 should provide a good growing environment for the dwarf fothergilla. Some gardeners may find that this can work in their Zone 4 yard.

It comes from the southeastern United States.

Size and Shape

This plant forms into a rounded shrub that is 1 1/2-6' tall. It does have the possibility of spreading itself by suckers so choose a location where it has room to grow or plan on controlling suckers early.

Exposure

The dwarf fothergilla is perfect for almost any garden as far as exposure is concerned.

It can grow in a range from full sun to full shade.

Foliage/Flowers/Fruit

The obovate leaves are leathery and feature toothed margins. Colors can range from blue-green to dark green in the summer depending on the cultivar, changing dramatically in the fall. The undersides of the leaves are pale and hairy.

The monoecious flowers form in clusters that are 1-3" long. The white "petals" you see are actually the stamens. The true petals are small, appearing before the leaves and will add a pleasant fragrance to your garden.

After pollination, they form dry capsules with two seeds inside.

Design Tips for the Dwarf Fothergilla

This works well as a specimen shrub, especially for shady spots.

If you want leaves that are blue-green, choose the 'Blue Mist' cultivar. 'Mount Airy' also features blue-green foliage, though the exact classification of that cultivar is debated. Some name it as a cultivar of Fothergilla major (large fothergilla) and others consider it a hybrid. You might even see it simply as Fothergilla ‘Mount Airy’. 'Blue Shadow' is a sport of 'Mount Airy'.

This shrub should be included in native gardens in the southeastern United States when possible.

Growing Tips for the Dwarf Fothergilla

You need a site that is moist with good drainage.

The soil should be acidic for best growth. Add compost if the soil is poor.

Maintenance and Pruning

The dwarf fothergilla really is easy to maintain. You usually only need to prune wood that is dead, diseased or damaged. Remove any suckers early before they become problematic if you want to keep the shrub from cloning itself.

The best way to propagate this plant is by semi-hardwood cuttings.

Pests and Diseases of the Dwarf Fothergilla

This shrub is usually pretty carefree and there aren't problems with pests or diseases. You may see some aphids, especially if you also have ants in the area.