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HAMAMELIS virginiana

Image of Hamamelis virginiana

Eva Monheim

Family

Hamamelidaceae

Botanical Name

HAMAMELIS virginiana

Plant Common Name

Common Witchhazel

General Description

The spreading branches of the common witchhazel become covered with fine, ribbony blossoms of bright yellow in autumn as its yellow fall foliage is dropping. This large, multi-stemmed deciduous shrub exists in the moist understory of forests across the eastern United States and southern Canada. It is tough, hardy and adds delicate beauty to the fall garden.

The broad, oval leaves of common witchhazel are medium to dark green with irregular, wavy toothed edges. In autumn, the foliage turns warm golden yellow. At the same time, fine ribbon-like flowers appear along the branches. These have a spicy sweet fragrance that permeates the air around the plant. The tiny flowers are pollinated by bees and flies, and the fruits that follow are small, brown, two-parted capsules that persist on the branches and explode to release the seeds.

Plant common witchhazel in full to partial sun and organic-rich soil with even moisture and good drainage. It naturally exists in woods with both acid and alkaline soils, so it will tolerate both. Pruning is rarely necessary and should be done sparingly and selectively if at all. This is an exceptionally robust shrub, but it lacks the ornamental punch of some if its heavily hybridized, Asian counterparts. Nonetheless, it is wonderful for naturalistic areas and woodland gardens. Plant it where its fragrance and beauty can best be enjoyed.

Another facet of this shrub is its medicinal qualities. Hamamelis virginiana was widely used by native Americans to relieve a host of ailments ranging from sore muscles to skin disorders. It is still available today in the form of skin tinctures and wipes used to reduce skin inflammation.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    8 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 8

  • Sunset Zone

    A2, A3, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21

  • Plant Type

    Shrub

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Bloom Time

    Late Fall, Early Winter, Winter

  • Native To

    North America, United States, Northeastern United States, Mid-Atlantic United States, Southeastern United States, North-Central United States, Central United States, South-Central United States, Canada

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Spreading

  • Seasonal Interest

    Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Yellow, Light Yellow

  • Fruit Color

    Tan, Sandy Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Yellow, Gold

  • Bark Color

    Sandy Brown, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Foundation, Mixed Border

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes