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TREES & plants

Common witch-hazel

Flowers of common witch-hazel.

The yellow, strap-like flowers of this native shrub are among the last blooms to appear in fall, but are often hidden by the leaves. Common witch-hazel is a large shrub with a picturesque irregular branching habit that naturally grows along woodland edges. The large, rounded, dark green leaves often hang onto the winter branches. The fruit capsules mature a year after flowering, splitting open to expel seeds that are attractive to birds. Tolerant of road salt and clay soil, this is a great specimen plant, or for naturalized landscape.

"This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research."   

Botanical name: 
Hamamelis virginiana
All Common Names: 
Common witch hazel, Fall witch hazel, Fall-blooming witch hazel
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
  • Tree
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Landscape Uses: 
  • Utility
  • Specimen
  • Massing
  • Mixed border
Size Range: 
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet)
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Season of Interest: 
  • Early fall
  • Mid fall
  • Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Fragrant
  • Yellow
Shape or Form: 
  • Irregular
  • Round
  • Upright
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
More Information: 

Size and Form

15 to 25 feet high and 15 to 20 feet wide; irregular form at maturity.
 In part shade it will have a more open habit than in full sun. 

Tree & Plant Care

Performs best in moist, well-drained soil high in organic matter, but can tolerate clay soil. Mulch to keep soil moist. Avoid dry conditions.
One of the most salt-tolerant shrubs.

Disease, pests and problems

No serious problems.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 8
Native to the eastern United States.
Commonly found in wooded areas.

Attracts birds & butterflies

Seeds are eaten by a number of species of birds.
Serves as a host plant for the larvae of the spring azure butterfly.

Bark color and texture 

Tan-colored lenticels are prominent in older grayish stems.

Leaves and fruit of common witch-hazelCommon witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)photo: John Hagstrom

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, alternate leaves are oval and  irregular with wavy or toothed margins; 6 inches long.
Leaves are green in summer, changing to a clear yelow in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

 1 inch, yellow, strap-like petals flower in late October when leaves are still present.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruit is a capsule which ripens in the fall.