Fothergilla x intermedia Blue Shadow banner

Plant of the Month - October 2022


I first met members of the Witch Hazel group when I came to Canada nearly 60 years ago. I admired the early spring flowers and the brilliant fall colour. 20 years later I saw Fothergilla in full flower. (Both these families are members of the Saxifragales!) Fothergilla made attractive low mounds covered with white, slightly scented bottle-brush flowers. With sun, fall colour was outstanding. However, they were dull during the summer months. Then I read about some hybrids with summer blue foliage. A sport of ‘Mount Airy’ had the bluest foliage. A patent for ‘Blue Shadow’ was issued in 2005. One was growing in my garden a few years later

.Fothergilla plant

Fothergilla x intermedia 'Blue Shadow'.

Common Name: Fothergilla Blue Shadow, Witch Alder, Bottlebrush.

Life Cycle: Multi-stemmed deciduous shrub.

Height and Spread: 1-2 m.

Bloom Time: April, May

Fothergilla inflorescence

Fothergilla x intermedia 'Blue Shadow' Inflorescence.

Flower Colour & Size: White, fragrant, 4-5 cm bottle-brush spikes of male and female flowers, both without petals. Male flowers have glowing white filaments and small yellow stamens. Flowering starts just as the leaves unfold.

Fothergilla x intermedia Blue Shadow summer

Fothergilla x intermedia 'Blue Shadow' - Summer foliage.

Leaves: Rounded, rough, toothed leaves with short petioles, about 6 cm long. Mid green at first, changing to powdery blue in the summer. Fall colour is a brilliant mixture of red, orange and yellow.

                                                                                                         Fothergilla x intermedia fall       Fothergilla fall 1

Fothergilla x intermedia 'Blue Shadow' - Changing Fall Colour. 


Range & Habitat:  Hybrid between F. major (2-3 m tall from montane US SE), and F. gardenia (up to 1 m tall from US SE coastal plains).


Full sun to part shade.

Soil: Well drained, preferably slightly acidic. I have 3 different Fothergilla. Two are in shade and in slightly acid soil. The third has 6-8 hours sun and is planted in alkaline soil. All grow well.

Water: Constantly moist soils.

USDA Hardiness: Zones 4-8.

Companion planting: Small rhododendrons, azalea, Japanese maples, ornamental grasses.

Propagation: Buy from a licensed propagator. Plant patented, so no cuttings or donating suckers from your home garden. Seeds rarely form and are slow to germinate and will differ from parent as the plant is a hybrid. Keep seeds warm and moist for 6 months followed by 3 months cold stratification.

Problems: Few. Dislikes waterlogged soil. Deer resistant.


Text and images supplied by Anna Leggatt