Witch Hazel – Virginian Hamamelis – Virginian Hamamelis – Garden plants – Witch Hazel – Virginian Hamamelis – Shrubs

Witch Hazel is a very interesting tree with many virtues. Unfortunately, in our country they are not very widespread and it is a pity: from close up, in fact, they are really of a rare beauty and have the undoubted merit of producing corollas when, especially in the northern regions, the other trees are almost bare. Moreover, they are not afraid of frost at all, as flowering is maintained even when the thermometer reaches -10 ° C.

In addition to their lively colour, they have the undoubted merit of emanating a sweet and very pleasant perfume in the cold air. In autumn the leaves light up with a beautiful copper and add a warm touch to the garden.

Shrub or small deciduous tree native to the United States and Canada; medium fast growing, it can reach the two to three metres of height, tending, however, to grow in width; this very decorative plant is often neglected in the gardens, but it is very much used in herbal medicine and in the cosmetic industry for its properties.

The hamamelis is a very decorative plant, especially because the flowers bloom in the middle of winter, between December and February, and flowering usually lasts until the beginning of spring; the flowers, delicately perfumed, are golden yellow, ochre or red, bloom together in small bunches, and are characterized by four petals and four ribbon-like sepals, hanging, which tend to roll in the cold. In spring, the plant is covered with delicate grey-green leaves, covered with a soft down.

From Asia come species with larger flowers, which also have a decorative autumn color of the leaves, which at first cold become apricot color: H. mollis, originating in China, and H. japonica, originating in Japan.


General Hamamelis Features

The hamamelis belong to the large Hamameliaceae family (including, for example, liquidambars). The genus includes a total of 8 species, but only four species are common in cultivation, two of which are of American origin and two of which are Asian. They are characterized by winter flowering: the corollas appear as crumpled ribbons on the bare branches. The leaves are particularly similar to those of the hazelnut (and in fact some species are nicknamed hazel-breed).

The most widespread and resistant species (also used as rootstock for others) is the Virginiana whose trunk can reach a height of 6 meters and has the shape of a tree. The other species, however, have mostly shrubby appearance. The bearing is wider and lighter, with horizontal ramifications. The diameter can reach up to 2 meters. Witch Hazel is one of the garden plants with the earliest flowering.

Family and gender

  Hamameliaceae, gen.

Hamamelis, 8 species

Type of plant

 Tree or shrub up to 8 m high, deciduous


 Sun, half shade


 Very rustic


 Rich, acid or sub-acid, slightly moist


 Flowers from yellow to red to brown


 Regular, avoiding stagnation


 From autumn to spring, depending on the species


 In spring

  • hamamelis Hamamelis are medium sized shrubs, which usually do not exceed 5-6 meters in height; most of the species are native to North America, with two species instead Asian, the most common being the…
  • amamelide Less than ten species of shrubs or small trees belong to the hamamelis genus, which is widespread in nature in America (hamamelis virginiana) and Asia (mainly Hamamelis vernalis, Hamamelis japoni…

Exposure and rusticity

amamelideThe witch hazel prefers sunny positions, but also adapts well in semi-shady places, does not fear the cold, more easily fears the heat of hot summers, in July and August is often appropriate to shade the plant, to prevent it from suffering too much from heat and drought.

When choosing the site where to place this shrub is good to remember that it tends to grow very wide, do not worry if at first it will not seem to grow, because the hamamelis can take even a few years to acclimate to the place where it was buried.

These are generally very rustic plants. They can bear even -20°C, with peaks of -35° (in particular the very resistant virginiana, which in fact is often used as a rootstock). They can therefore be cultivated safely throughout Italy, from the floor up to 1000 meters above sea level.

They can be sensitive to heat and above all to dryness. It is therefore good, if we live in the southern regions or on the coasts, to meditate well on their positioning.

If in the North, in fact, the best exposure is the full sun, it will be better, instead, in the South, to reserve for them more sheltered and shaded corners.

It is equally important that they are in an area sheltered from the wind. This, in fact, especially during winter flowering, could damage the buds or cause the petals to fall. Frost, on the other hand, is not a problem. The corollas can even withstand ice and snow.

Watering and fertilizing

Annaffiature e concimazioneThis beautiful garden plant needs abundant amounts of water, especially in the period from April to September, starting from the end of frost is good to keep a check on the humidity of the soil, providing to increase it in case it dries too much. In autumn, it is a good idea to bury a good quantity of organic fertilizer at the foot of the shrub.

The soil must always be kept fresh. We can help each other by creating a thick mulch with leaves or grass flakes. We water regularly, especially in the south, but avoid stagnation.

It is always a good idea to spread a good amount of mature floured manure at the foot of the plants before the arrival of winter. In spring, a slow release fertilizer for flowering plants can be added to this.


TerrenoHamamelis appreciate a well-drained but fresh soil, rich in humus and with a fairly acidic pH. If our soil was excessively clayey, we could eventually include peat, sand and mature manure.

The only variety that tolerates calcareous soil rather well is the mollis.

It prefers acidic soils, although often also suitable in clay soils, the important thing is that they are soft, rich in humus and very well drained.

If the soil of our garden has a pH value too alkaline is appropriate to fill the hole in which you intend to bury the hamamelis with a good soil for acidophilic plants, this will certainly improve the development of the plant, although it is advisable to repeat the operation after a few years, undermining the plant and providing additional acid soil.

Hamamelis multiplication

Moltiplicazione During the period of May-June, it is possible to take some cuttings, which are to be rooted in a mixture of peat and sand in equal parts; the new small plants are to be kept in pot in a sheltered location for at least two years before being planted.

The flowers are followed in spring by small brown fruits, inside which we can find small black seeds, we can keep them in a cold place and sow them the following spring, the germination is quite high, but it is advisable to wait at least 3-4 years before planting the plants.

Pests and diseases

radici con armillariaThis plant is quite rustic and is hardly attacked by pests and diseases. Like many acidophilic plants, it easily suffers from iron chlorosis.

They get hit by the armillary sometimes. This is introduced at the level of the roots and quickly destroys the plant. The only way to avoid it is through careful prevention. It is essential to avoid over-irrigation and stagnation. If necessary, we can lighten the soil by incorporating sand, manure or peat.

Hamamelis history

Hammamelis virginiana was discovered in the mid 1700s by the American botanist John Bartram. It arrived in Europe in a short time. The species japonica and mollis, however, had to wait until at least half of the XIX century to be introduced into the Inghilterra.

I the first hybrids saw the light in Denmark around 1920. It continued on that road, particularly in the Dutch and Belgian nurseries.

Flowers, leaves and fruits

Depending on the variety, flowers may appear in autumn, winter or early spring, generally waiting for temperatures to rise above freezing. Shrubs that produce flowers in the spring may flower again slightly towards October.

The flowers are formed by 4 petals, about 2 cm long, and by 4 stamina. The colour may vary from pale yellow to brown, red and, exceptionally, purple.

The perfume, very powerful, is a middle ground between that of hyacinth and narcissus.

The leaves are deciduous, alternate. The edge, depending on the species, is more or less wavy or toothed and often has asymmetries. They measure from 8 to 15 cm of length.

The fruits are capsules containing 2 black seeds. They reach maturity when the plant is about to flower again. The seeds, when ready, are thrown far away and can be found, without any other help, even up to 6 m away.

Hamamelis japonica

Hamamelis japonica Hamamelis japonica flowers from January to March and can reach 9 meters high. It is native to the forests of Japan. It has deciduous leaves, elongated-ovate, up to 10 cm long. The flowers are large and collected in dense racemes, with short peduncles, golden yellow in color. The sepals, on the contrary, are purple, especially in the inner part. Several cultivars are available. The arboreal has larger leaves and golden-yellow petals.

The most vigorous is the zuccariniana, with light yellow flowers. It blooms about a month later than the species.

There are also varieties with red or dark red flowers, including flavopurpurascens, adonis, carmine red and Ruby Glow.

Hamamelis mollis

Hamamelis mollis Hamamelis mollis is a tree up to 5 meters high that produces very fragrant flowers from February to April. It comes from China. The leaves are 8-16 cm long and up to 11 cm wide. The top page is very shiny and with metallic highlights, very decorative. The lower page is instead tomentose. The flowers, in the species, are dark yellow. Also in this case, some cultivars are available. In particular we can point out the shortpetala Feuerzauber characterized by red flowers.

Another very interesting one is the pale one with light yellow inflorescences. Also interesting is the Goldcrest, with bright yellow flowers and flowering later than the species.

Virginian Hamamelis

Hamamelis virginiana Tree native to Eastern North America, the Virginian Hamamelis is still widespread today from Canada to Georgia to Nebraska. It has ovate leaves, up to 15 cm long, asymmetrical, first tomentose, then glabrous. The flowers are yellow and appear in autumn, between September and October, before or at the same time as the fall of the leaves.

Hamamelis Vernalis

Hamamelis Vernalis Hamamelis Vernalis comes from North America. It is widespread in the states of Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana. It is very similar to the virginiana, but the floral chalice is more red internally. The flowers, produced between January and March, are light yellow and give off a sweet scent. It is very decorative due to the autumn colouring of the leaves, which turns to intense yellow.

It propagates easily by stolons; if you want to keep it compact it is therefore good to buy a grafted specimen. The Amethyst cultivar is interesting for its purple inflorescences and the greyish appearance of its foliage.

Hamamelis x intermedia and other cultivars

Hamamelis x intermedia The Hamamelis x intermedia are interspecific hybrids. They find different applications in the garden, exalting the virtues of their ancestors.

Some interesting cultivars are:

– Arnold promised with golden flowers and purple calyx, with a delicate scent, between February and March.

– Spring petals pale yellow

– Jelena petals with ochre with red spots at the base, between January and February. The leaves in autumn turn first to bronze and then to orange.

– Diane has large garnet inflorescences, very perfumed, and yellow and red leaves in autumn

– Westerstede flowers light yellow, between February and March.

Hamamelis pruning

It is always necessary to proceed after the flowering, even if the interventions are rarely necessary if not to eliminate dead branches, damaged or growing in directions not very elegant or appreciated.

Witch Hazel – Virginian Hamamelis: Medicinal properties

Hamamelis is well known in the pharmacopoeia. The Indians used the extract of the inner bark for applications and wraps in case of inflammation. The active ingredient has a sedative and vasoconstrictive effect and is still used today.

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