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It’s hard to go wrong with this gorgeous, compact shrub. It boasts multi-season beauty, ease of care, honey-tinged fragrance, and resistance to deer and disease. In April and May, fluffy wands of creamy-white flowers cover the branches just before the emergence of attractive, blue-gray foliage that contrasts beautifully with other summer greenery. The rounded leaves, which have a leathery and quilted texture, turn vibrant shades of red, pink, orange, and purple in the fall. They resemble the leaves of witch hazel (another common name is witch-alder), which is not surprising as both plants are in the family Hamamelidaceae. Dwarf fothergilla thrives in rich, moist, slightly acidic soils in partial or full sun. Flower production and fall color may be best with full sun, but the shrub may also benefit from a bit of shade in the afternoon. It tolerates wet soils and occasional flooding, and it’s also moderately tolerant of drought. The shrub will spread slowly by suckers, eventually colonizing areas unless some of the suckers are removed. It’s bothered by very few diseases or pests, although deer do munch on the flowers.


There are endless ways to incorporate dwarf fothergilla into the landscape. Bees and pollinators are attracted to the fragrant flowers, making the shrub an ideal addition to pollinator, native, or children’s gardens. Create a magnificent mixed-shrub grouping with shrubs such as red chokeberry (A. arbutifolia), summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica), and oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia). Feature it as a specimen plant, or use multiple shrubs to form a low hedge. Plant it in rain gardens, shrub or perennial borders, or in foundation plantings. For wildlife habitat, combine it with viburnums, Aronia, and hawthorns. Let it really shine as an accent in front of evergreens. It’s spectacular no matter where it lives.


The species name of this native of the southeastern US honors Alexander Garden, a Scottish physician and plant lover who lived in South Carolina and who introduced the plant to England. The genus name belongs to John Fothergill, a British physician and botanist.


Plant Characteristics:

Grows 2-3’ tall and wide.


Prefers full or part sun. Full sun improves growth and appearance.


Prefers moist, rich, acidic soils and adapts to average, well-drained soils. Tolerant of wet soils and occasional flooding; moderately tolerant of drought.


Densely hairy buds give way to 1-2” flowers in April and May. Each flower is a mass of stamens with white filaments and yellow anthers. Lower on the flower spike are pistils with wispy styles and ovaries. Male and female flower parts are on the same plant. The fruit is a two-seeded, beaked capsule that matures September-October and ejects black seeds.


Alternate, oblong-obovate leaves are 1-3” long with serrated margins.


Wildlife Value:

Attracts bees and butterflies and offers cover for a variety of wildlife.


Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:

The leaves and bark are reportedly used to treat sore throats and muscle aches.

Fothergilla, Dwarf, Fothergilla gardenii

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