Medium-size to large shrubs, sometimes treelike, usually spreading with angular or zigzag branches. Valued for bright fall foliage and nodding clusters of interesting yellow to red blooms that typically appear in winter. Flowers consist of many narrow, crumpled petals and are said to resemble shredded coconut, eyelashes, or spiders. Most witch hazels are fragrant and bloom over a long period. They appreciate rich, organic soil. Prune only to guide growth, remove suckers, or obtain flowering stems for scented bouquets. In some types, old leaves hang on into winter, obscuring flowers; it may be necessary to strip them by hand.
H. xintermedia. Group of winter-blooming hybrids between H. mollis and H. japonica. Big shrubs (1215 ft. high and wide). Often grafted; remove any growth originating from below graft. The following selections are among the best.
'Angelly'. Pale yellow flowers; yellow fall foliage.
'Aphrodite'. Orange-yellow flowers; leaves turn red in fall.
'Arnold Promise'. The best yellow-flowered selection, with bright yellow blossoms. Yellow, orange, and red fall foliage.
'Barmstedt Gold'. Golden yellow flowers; leaves turn yellow in autumn.
'Birgit'. Dark red flowers; yellow, orange, and red fall foliage.
'Carmine Red'. Light red flowers; red-orange fall foliage.
'Diane'. Dark red flowers aging to orange-red. Red-purple fall foliage.
'Hiltingbury'. Coppery red flowers; orange-yellow fall color.
'Jelena' ('Copper Beauty', 'Orange Beauty'). Coppery orange flowers. Fall foliage in orange, red, and scarlet.
'Magic Fire' ('Feuerzauber', 'Fire Charm'). Flowers in coppery orange blended with red. Fiery red fall foliage.
'Moonlight'. Pale yellow blooms marked red at base; yellow fall foliage.
'Pallida'. Luminous light yellow blossoms; yellow fall foliage.
'Primavera'. Broad-petaled, light yellow flowers. Yellow-orange autumn foliage.
'Ruby Glow'. Coppery red flowers; bright red fall foliage.
'Sunburst'. Heavy clusters of radiant yellow, unscented flowers. Yellow fall foliage.
H. japonica. JAPANESE WITCH HAZEL. From Japan. Much like H. xintermedia, though perhaps somewhat more erect and treelike (to 1220 ft. tall and broad). Broadly oval, medium to dark green leaves are 24 in. long. Fairly small, lightly scented yellow flowers in late winter or earliest spring. Chief draw is fall foliage in shades of red, purple, and yellow. H. j. flavopurpurascens has yellow-orange flowers, purple at the base, and reddish yellow fall foliage. For the plant sometimes offered as H. j. 'Superba', see H. mollis 'Rochester'.
H. mollis. CHINESE WITCH HAZEL. From China. Moderately slow-growing shrub to 810 ft. tall and wide (may reach twice that size after many years). Roundish, 312- to 6-in.-long leaves are dark green and rough above, gray and felted beneath, turning a good pure yellow in fall. Sweetly fragrant, 112-in.-wide, rich golden yellow flowers with red-brown sepals bloom on bare stems in winter. Flowering branches excellent for cutting. Selections include 'Coombe Wood', a very heavy bloomer with especially fine fragrance, 'Early Bright', earliest to bloom, and 'Wisley Supreme', with large, pale yellow blooms that are red at the base. 'Rochester' (sometimes listed as H. japonica 'Superba') is a probable hybrid with H. vernalis; it offers an early show of coppery orange flowers with a strong spicy scent.
H. vernalis. OZARK WITCH HAZEL. Native to central and southern U.S. Multistemmed shrub 610 ft. tall, spreading wider. Small, fragrant yellow to orange flowers from winter to spring. Medium to dark green, 2- to 5-in.-long leaves turn bright yellow in fall and hold for several weeks in favorable weather. 'Autumn Embers' has orange blossoms and brilliant red-purple fall foliage. 'Lombarts' Weeping' is a 5- to 6-ft. tree with drooping branches. 'Sandra' has unremarkable yellow spring flowers but bears reddish purple new growth and brilliant red fall foliage.
H. virginiana. COMMON WITCH HAZEL. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to eastern North America. Sometimes reaches 25 ft. tall but usually grows 1015 ft. high and wide. Open, spreading, rather straggling habit. Moderately slow growing. Bark is the source of the liniment witch hazel. Roundish leaves are similar to those of H. mollis, but they are not gray and felted beneath; turn yellow to orange in fall. Small, fragrant, golden yellow blossoms appear in fall but tend to be lost in colored foliage. 'Green Thumb' has new leaves heavily marked with greenish yellow. 'Harvest Moon' blooms after leaves have fallen; the large flowers are closely packed on bare stems. 'Little Suzie' is compact at just 4 ft. high and wide; excellent in a large container or mixed border.