Fothergilla, commonly known as witch alder, belongs to the witch hazel family. Many fothergilla shrubs have wonderfully vibrant fall foliage that is scarlet, mahogany and orange. There are two North American native species: one is Fothergilla major that is multi-stemmed and can grow to 10 feet that is hardy to zone 4; the other is the dwarf Fothergilla gardenii, rarely growing more than 3 feet tall and is only hardy to zone 5.The dwarfs are not as drought tolerant as the taller ones, but one of the dwarfs has blue leaves, though they do not turn in the fall as the green-leaved varieties do.
The puffy white flowers of fothergillas that appear in the spring are composed of stamens without petals and are reminiscent of bottle brush flowers. Like all flowering shrubs, they must only be pruned right after blooming. The hybrid ‘ Blue Mist’ can be used as a foundation planting or as a hedge as long as there is partial shade, and it has flowers that smell like honey. ‘Mount Airey’ has especially colorful fall foliage as well as fragrant flowers. Another good clone is ‘Jane Platt’.