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Large fothergilla

Large fothergilla in full flower in spring.

Large fothergilla is a large, rounded shrub with excellent four-season interest. Early flowering, honey-scented bottle brush-like flowers appear before the leaves, summer foliage is a clean, blue-green changing to outstanding shades of orange, red, and yellow fall color.



Botanical name:

Fothergilla major

All common names:

Large fothergilla, witch-alder

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Foundation,
  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Patio/sidewalk,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet),
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet),
  • Small shrub (3-5 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Occasional drought,
  • Alkaline soil

Seasons of Interest:

  • early spring,
  • mid spring,
  • early summer,
  • midsummer,
  • early fall,
  • mid fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Fragrant,
  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Mounded,
  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Slow

More Information:

Size & form

A large, rounded multi-stemmed shrub reaching 6 to 10 feet high and 6 to 8 feet wide.

Tree & Plant Care

Best in part shade to full sun with adequate soil moisture. Best flowers occur in full sun.
Prefers slightly acidic soil pH with plenty of added organic matter.
Shallow roots benefit with a layer of organic mulch to moderate soil temperature and conserve moisture.
Water in dry periods.
Prune after flowering, if needed.

Disease, pests, and problems

No serious pests.
Can become clhlorotic in high pH soils.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

Found in Allegheny Mountains from NC, TN, to AL.

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

Butterflies and hummingbirds

Bark color and texture 

Gray to light brown. Young stems are zig-zag.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, simple 1 to 2 1/2 inch ovate to oblong leaves. Dark green, sometimes leathery leaves.
Fall color is an excellent mix of red, yellow and orange.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Fragrant, 1 to 2-inch long white, bottle brush-like flower spikes emerge before the leaves in early spring.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Small, dried caspule, no ornamentally important.



Location of Fothergilla major (Large fothergilla) at the Arboretum