Hypericum Patulum: Growing and Care Tips

The Hypericum patulum is a clump-forming shrub belonging to the Hypericaceae family. The plant is glabrous, with vertically fluted branches in shades of brown or reddish-brown.

Its leaves are oppositely arranged and vary in shape from ovate to lanceolate; inflorescences are corymb-like or solitary. The sepals are broad, ovate to round, and remain erect during fruiting.

Petals are yellow or golden, ranging from broadly ovate to inversely egg-shaped, with pale yellow anthers. The ovary is ovoid, and the style is about the same length or slightly shorter than the ovary.

Hypericum patulum

The capsule fruit is ovoid; seeds are cylindrical and dark brown. It flowers from May to June, with the fruiting period from July to August.

This shrub thrives on mountain slopes, meadows, under forest canopies, in thickets, or open spaces at altitudes up to 2700 meters.

It is somewhat cold-hardy, prefers sunlight, tolerates partial shade, dislikes waterlogging, and prefers well-drained, moist, fertile sandy soil. Propagation is commonly done through seeding, cuttings, or by division.

Hypericum patulum

St. John’s Wort has a bitter and spicy taste with cooling properties. It is known for its ability to clear heat, promote diuresis, detoxify, and facilitate the flow of liver qi.

It is used to treat conditions such as urinary tract infections due to damp-heat, hepatitis, common cold, tonsillitis, muscular and skeletal pains, and injuries from falls or blows.

With its lush foliage and vibrant flowers, St. John’s Wort is suitable for flower beds, and can be planted in clusters or groups along lawns, edges of tree planters, or roadside areas. Its flowers symbolize sorrow.

I. Morphological Characteristics

Hypericum patulum

This semi-evergreen or evergreen shrub grows 0.3-1.5 meters tall, forming clumps with spreading branches, sometimes densely leafed.

The stems are pale red to orange, initially with four longitudinal ridges, soon becoming bi-ridged, and eventually cylindrical; internodes range from 0.8 to 4 centimeters in length, shorter or occasionally longer than the leaves; the bark is grayish-brown.

Leaves are petiolate, with petioles 0.5-2 millimeters long.

The leaf blades are lanceolate, oblong-lanceolate to ovate, or oblong-ovate, measuring 1.5-6 centimeters in length and 0.5-3 centimeters in width, with a blunt to rounded apex often ending in a small point, and a narrow to broadly cuneate base tapering to a short point.

The edges are flat, firm, and paper-like in texture. The upper surface is green, the underside paler, with three pairs of prominent lateral veins branching from the midrib.

The tertiary veining is sparse and barely visible. The glands on the leaf surface are either densely packed or dispersed, short, linear, and dot-like.

The inflorescence bears 1-15 flowers, sprouting from the first or second node at the stem’s apex, in corymb-like clusters, sometimes with short internodes at the top, occasionally with branches bearing 1-3 flowers in the middle of the stem.

The pedicels are 2-4 (-7) millimeters long; bracts are narrowly elliptical to oblong, and they fall off. Flowers are cup-shaped, 2.5-4 centimeters in diameter, with buds that are broadly ovate.

The sepals are free, standing erect during both the bud and fruit stages, varying in shape from broad ovate or elliptical to nearly round, elongated elliptical, or inversely spoon-shaped, mostly of similar size or slightly different, 5-10 millimeters long and 3.5-7 millimeters wide, with blunt to round tips, often with a small point, and edges that are finely serrated or fringed with small hairs.

The sepals are membranous, often pale red, with distinct midveins and less visible secondary veins, adorned with numerous glandular stripes.

Petals are golden yellow without reddish tinge, slightly curved inward, inversely ovate to broadly inverted egg-shaped, 1.2-1.8 centimeters long and 1-1.4 centimeters wide, approximately 1.5-2.5 times the length of the sepals, with entire margins or slightly serrated, bearing a row of glandular dots near the edge, and lateral small points that are rounded to indistinct.

The stamens are grouped in fives, with 50-70 stamens per bundle; the longest are 7-12 millimeters, about 2/5 to 1/2 the length of the petals, with bright yellow anthers.

The ovary is broadly ovoid, about 5-6 millimeters long and 3.5-4 millimeters wide; the style is 4-5.5 millimeters long, about 4/5 the length of the ovary to nearly equal in length, mostly upright, curving outward towards the top; the stigma is barely capitate.

The capsule fruit is broadly ovoid, 0.9-1.1 centimeters long and 0.8-1 centimeters wide.

Seeds are dark brown, somewhat cylindrical, 1-1.2 millimeters long, with shallow linear honeycomb-like patterns, lacking or almost lacking keel-like projections. The flowering period is from May to June, with fruiting from July to August.

II. Origin and Habitat

Witch hazel thrives on mountain slopes, grasslands, under forests, and in shrubbery or open spaces at altitudes up to 2,700 meters. It is somewhat cold-hardy, photophilic, tolerates partial shade, and dislikes waterlogging.

It prefers well-drained, moist, fertile sandy soil. Witch hazel has strong adaptability, requires moderate sunlight, is relatively cold-tolerant, prefers moist soil, and grows well in loamy soil.

III. Propagation Methods

Witch hazel can be propagated via division, cuttings, or seeds. For large-scale propagation, tissue culture is used.

Seeding

Seeds are collected from mature fruits in August or September. Choose healthy witch hazel plants for harvesting, and after the capsules dry, rub them to release the seeds. Air-dry the pure seeds for storage in a bag at low temperatures.

Before sowing, soaking the seeds in warm water for 1-2 days can significantly improve germination rates. Prepare the soil by deep plowing and thorough harrowing, and apply enough base fertilizer to form flat beds 1.0-1.5 meters wide.

Sowing can be done in spring or autumn, typically in late March or early April on a calm day. It’s best if there’s no heavy rain for 2-3 days after sowing.

Both broadcast and row sowing are effective, covering the seeds with about 1 cm of soil. Mulch the bed surface with straw and water it. Seedlings emerge after 10 days and are fully sprouted after about 20 days.

Cuttings

Cuttings are usually taken in spring or fall from healthy one- to two-year-old branches, cut into 10-15 cm lengths with a straight cut on top and a slanted cut on the bottom, and treated with rooting hormone.

Water the witch hazel seedbed thoroughly, then insert cuttings after the water has drained, spacing them 10 cm x 10 cm, and burying them two-thirds deep. Care involves watering, loosening the soil, and weeding.

Division

Division is typically done in spring or fall. It’s important to maintain a soil ball to ensure successful transplanting.

When digging up the plants for division, wrap the roots in nylon bags or plant them directly into pots, taking care not to damage the root system. Dig, pack, and transport promptly, and water regularly to aid survival.

Tissue Culture

Material Collection

Select young, tender branches from the current year’s growth, wash them under running water, and cut them into 3 cm lengths.

Blot excess water with filter paper, then sterilize the segments in 70% alcohol for 20 seconds followed by rinsing three times with sterile water.

Agitate the segments in 0.1% mercuric chloride solution for five minutes, rinse five times with sterile water, then place them on a sterile Petri dish with filter paper.

Cut the segments into 0.5-1.0 cm lengths with a bud and inoculate them onto a differentiation medium for culture.

Bud Induction

After 20 days on the differentiation medium, clusters of buds begin to form at the nodes, reaching 1-2.5 cm in length after 30 days.

Cut these clusters and subculture them into 1 cm segments onto a proliferation medium. After 40 days, the average plant height is 3-4 cm, with a multiplication factor of 6 to 8 times.

Rooting and Transplanting

Once the witch hazel shoots reach 2-3 cm in height, cut and transfer them to a rooting medium. After two weeks, each plant typically has 3-5 roots, with a 99% rooting success rate.

Acclimatize the rooted plantlets in the greenhouse without opening the culture tubes for five days, then open and acclimatize for another two days.

After washing, soak the plantlets in clean water for 2-3 hours, then transplant them into a mix of vermiculite, river sand, and forest soil (5:1:3).

Cover with plastic film and shade net to prevent direct sunlight and maintain about 90% humidity. After 10 days, remove the film; new roots and leaves begin to develop, with a survival rate of 93.6%.

After 20 days, transfer the surviving seedlings to a mix of forest soil and garden soil (1:1), spaced 10 cm x 15 cm apart. Monitor the water and light conditions, and after 15 days, the survival rate should reach 98%.

When the transplants grow to 15-20 cm, move them to the field with a soil ball, water well, and after a week of acclimatization, they should begin to grow vigorously.

IV. Cultivation Management

Digging and Transplanting

In the early February to mid-March period, after the soil thaws but before bud break, or from late October to mid-November after most leaves have fallen but before the soil freezes, it is ideal to dig up the plants.

Employ bare-root digging, taking care not to damage the root system. Make smooth cuts on any severed roots to prevent splitting.

After digging, it’s best to cover the roots with a plastic bag, soak them in a hydrating agent, or apply a mud slurry, which helps improve the transplant survival rate.

For long-distance transportation, it’s preferable to keep the root ball intact, ensure that the packaging is secure, and water thoroughly. Wrap the canopy with straw ropes to reduce friction damage and increase the survival rate.

Cultivation pits should be prepared in advance. As soon as the seedlings arrive, they should be planted immediately.

The diameter of the pit should be 20-30 cm larger than the diameter of the root system or root ball to facilitate the expansion of old roots and the growth of new ones.

The topsoil and subsoil extracted from the pit should be kept separate. Ensure the bottom of the pit is large and flat. If possible, apply organic fertilizer at the bottom and cover it with topsoil.

Before planting, prune the roots smoothly to aid healing. During planting, ensure the root system is spread out, add topsoil in layers, and tamp down to ensure close contact between the roots and the soil.

Create a soil embankment around the plant, water thoroughly immediately after planting, water deeply again after three days, and a third time after a week to ensure successful establishment.

Watering

Water judiciously 2-3 times from the start of bud break to the flowering period, with an additional 2-3 waterings during dry spells in the summer.

During the rainy season, ensure proper drainage to prevent waterlogging. Before winter, water the plants to protect them from frost.

Fertilizing

Apply well-ripened organic fertilizer before planting, and every autumn after leaf fall, trench around the root zone and apply compost.

Generally, there is no need to fertilize during the growing season to prevent excessive, droopy growth that can detract from the ornamental appearance.

Weeding

To promote a lush foliage and abundant flowering, regular weeding and soil cultivation are essential. During dry spells and the peak of summer, loosen the soil and weed every 2-3 weeks.

After watering, loosen the soil promptly to prevent compaction and improve aeration, which benefits root development. During the rainy season, weed every two weeks.

Pruning and Shaping

Annually, in summer or winter, perform shaping and pruning to remove overgrown, weak, and diseased branches, and trim long branches as needed.

Pruning helps maintain a desirable shape and vigorous growth, ensuring strong, healthy growth with abundant flowers, thereby enhancing the ornamental value.

V. Pest and Disease Control

Witch hazel is relatively resistant to pests and diseases, primarily facing aphid infestations.

Control methods include pruning affected branches or curled leaves during winter and summer pruning to eliminate overwintering eggs and sources of infestation; spraying 5% oil emulsion or diesel emulsion before bud break in winter or early spring to kill overwintering eggs; in the initial stages of infestation during April and May, apply a 1000-1500 times diluted solution of 40% Dimethoate EC, 2000 times diluted solution of 20% Fenvalerate EC, 1500 times diluted solution of 50% Methamidophos EC, or 3000 times diluted solution of 2.5% Deltamethrin EC; 2-3 applications should provide control; during the peak infestation period in May and June, apply absorbent insecticides like 40% Dimethoate or Phosphamidon at 10-20 times dilution on the trunk or as a soil drench for effective control.

VI. Main Values

Ornamental

Witch hazel’s lush foliage and vibrant flowers make it ideal for flower borders, as well as mass or group plantings along lawns, edges, or pathways.

Its large, attractive, golden-yellow flowers are eye-catching and bloom for an extended period of up to 10 months, making it a highly prized wild ornamental shrub.

Suitable for planting in courtyards, by rockeries, roadsides, and lawns, it can also be arranged in specialized gardens and flower paths, cultivated in pots for display, or used as cut flowers. It is an excellent material for urban greening in western regions.

Medicinal

Witch hazel, with its bitter and pungent taste and cold properties, is used for its heat-clearing, dampness-dispelling, detoxifying, and liver-soothing effects.

It can be used to treat symptoms such as damp-heat lin syndrome (urinary tract infection), hepatitis, colds, tonsillitis, muscle and bone pain, and injuries from falls and blows.

VII. Plant Culture

The flower language of witch hazel represents sorrow.

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