This should be the shortest page on the website, for the Witch Hazels - Hamamelis - rarely if ever, need any pruning.
But of course, all of us gardeners need to do things that don't really need doing, or have to rectify something we did or planted many years previous, as we find out that the said shrub or plants, does indeed grow to the height stated on the label. This is as it is with Hamamelis.
Witch Hazels are so slow growing, that it is often planted in a situation where we feel that it will never outgrow. Time moves on, and plants grow, as does the ponderous Hamamelis. Sure as the sun will sometimes shine, the Hamamelis will indeed reach it's stated height and spread of 12 feet - or 4 metres, and the spread will be similar. That is why I write a page about pruning Hamamelis.
If you are reading this page in preparation for buying and planting a Witch Hazel, be aware - not warned - that it will eventually grow as stated. A magnificent show for winter, and also autumn. Plant it in the right place, and you never have to refer to this page again.
If on the other hand, you are having to access this page because of a 'planting error' many years ago, then read carefully.
Firstly, you will not kill or damage your Hamamelis by pruning at any time of the year. Though they do tend to weep from cuts made in the growing season, but soon themselves, re-seal the pruning wound without you needing to do anything. The mystique around pruning Hamamelis, is simply because it does not actually need to be pruned either to enhance its flowering or shape. In fact there are those - me amongst them - that would say, one of the main beauties of the Hamamelis is its spreading canopy. It is not a troublesome canopy, but it does deviate from the vertical somewhat.
Hamamelis flower on either old wood (branches) or on twigs that have been generated at the start of the previous growing season. that is to say early spring, soon after flowering. Shoot grow that grows in the mid or late summer will not have flower bud in time for the winter. In reality, this is normally less than 4in at the tip.
Any pruning cuts should be made immediately after flowering, and in the dormant season, in order to allow growth to start in time to produce flower buds for the following late winter.
You may have to prune your Witch Hazel simply because you did not take into account, the ultimate height and spread, or maybe a garden shed has to be erected nearby, or - very unlikely - there are a few dead branches to be removed.
Crossing branches, rubbing against each other are a rarity, for the Hamamelis has an open habit of growth.
The smaller the portion you remove, the better the shape you will end up with for your Hamamelis. Do bear that in mind. Any cuts that you make should be minimal, and at the narrowest point of the stem or branch that you can. Do not go snipping bits off the end as does a hairdresser. Take out only what is necessary, stand back and view what you have done in stages, and do not try to basically change the shape or growth habit.
There is no need to 'paint' the wound unless you are in an area that is prone to coral spot disease. Then a fungicidal paint may help to prevent the spores from entering - though the risk of this is minimal.
If cutting back to one of the main branches, do not cut off flush with the parent branch. Cut straight through an inch or so away from the parent limb. The Hamamelis is slow growing, and as a result is also slow healing. it will not quickly callus over the wound. For that reason the cut should be absolutely minimal. So minimal in fact, that you should prefer not to do it!!!