In late winter or very early spring, before the leaves unfurl, Vernal witch-hazel has yellow and orange-to-red flowers with a spicy fragrance that appear in late February and last three to four weeks. The new foliage is an attractive bronzy-red color that matures to dark green and then turns a rich butter yellow to golden yellow in fall. The dried leaves often persist into winter. The fruit capsules mature in September or October, when they split to expel black seeds that are attractive to robins, juncos, titmice, cardinals and other birds. The plants can sucker to form colonies. This is a great specimen plant, or can be used for screening, in masses, as an informal hedge or as part of a naturalized landscape.
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- North America
- Zone 4
- Zone 5
- Zone 6
- Zone 7
- Zone 8
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
- Partial sun (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Wet sites
- Clay soil
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
- Mixed border
- Late winter
- Early spring
- Mid fall
Size and Form
6 to 10 feet high and 10 to 15 feet wide; rounded to upright form.
Tree & Plant Care
Avoid dry conditions. In part shade it will have a more open habit than in full sun.
Disease, pests, and problems
No serious problems.
Disease, pest, and problem resistance
Will tolerate poorly drained clay soil. More tolerant of high pH (alkaline) soil than the Chicago native common witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana).
Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to Missouri, Oklahoma, Louisiana.
Attracts birds & butterflies
Seeds released in fall are eaten by a number of species of bird.
Bark color and texture
Bark is gray to gray-brown and relatively smooth.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Simple, alternate leaves; oval with broadly toothed margins; 2 to 5 inches long.
New leaves emerge with a bronze or red cast, then turn to a medium green.
Fall color is a good yellow.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Yellow, orange or red flowers with 4 strap-like petals in late winter to very early spring; very fragrant.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Dry capsule, not ornamentally important.
Red-flowered vernal witch-hazel (Hamamelis vernalis f. carnea): red-flowered form.