Skip to content

Help us continue to build this resource.

Hamamelis virginiana

Witch hazel

Plant Details

Common Name: Witch hazel
Family: Hamamelidaceae (witch-hazel family)
Mature Height: 10 - 20'
Sun Requirement: Sun to part shade, Part shade to shade, Shade
Moisture Requirement: Medium - moist, Moist
Flower Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Fall (September - October)
Seed Collection Date: Fall (September - October)

Hamamelis virginiana Witch Hazel
Hamamelis virginiana Witch Hazel
Hamamelis virginiana Witch Hazel
Hamamelis virginiana Witch Hazel
Hamamelis virginiana Witch Hazel
Hamamelis virginiana Witch Hazel
Hamamelis virginiana Witch Hazel

Click on images to view larger versions


Hamamelis is Latin from the Greek meaning ‘kind of medlar or service tree’; virginiana is Latin meaning ‘of the new world’ or ‘of Virginia.’

Native Habitat

Found in forested habitats beneath deciduous trees growing in moist soil.

Garden Uses

Witch hazel is an excellent specimen tree under a high canopy. It is also useful to transition from an open area to a forested one. Blooming in late October or November in our area, it is a welcome sight and late source of nectar. Achieves an open form of arching stems in the shade and more full appearance in the more sun. Leaves turn a pure yellow color before falling just as flowers begin to bloom.


This tree may be found east of the Mississippi from Nova Scotia to Florida and from the Great Lakes to eastern Texas. Witch hazel may be grown as a small understory tree or shrub. Full height ranges 15’-30’ with a similar spread. Beautiful color and interest year round with bright green leaves in the spring and yellow to yellow-orange colors in the fall. It is most striking October-December when yellow, somewhat irregular flowers, resembling crumpled petals, appear when nothing else is in bloom. This moist woodland understory tree or shrub is tolerant of other soil conditions. It prefers some partial shade. Hardiness Zones 3-9.

Leaves and Stems

Leaves are alternate, simple, broadly ovate, 2.5' to 6" long, unequal offset leaf base, with large wavy teeth on the margins and with the upper surface dark green and the lower surface a paler green. It is a woody plant with branches 6" to 8" in diameter, smooth, even bark, and a characteristic growth pattern of extensive basal branches that spread laterally into an arching, dome-like form.


Witch hazel generally flowers anytime from October-December in Maine. The flowers are bright yellow, with 4 very slender creamy to bright yellow petals ½" to ¾" inch long, appearing in mid to late fall. The flowers are fragrant and may be self-pollinating. Pollination is made by a wide variety of insects. Pollination occurs in the autumn, fertilization of the ova does not occur until the following May.


The small, tannish to gray, seed capsules go dormant through the winter then develop over the next growing season. In fall the capsules expel two shiny black seeds - they travel 10' to 20' (rarely to 40'). The seeds then take an additional year to germinate and are potentially self-pollinating.

Animal Associates

Witch hazel is pollinated by a number of insects but primarily by moths. The low, lateral branches are favored by a number of bird species (including wood thrushes and flycatchers) as nesting sites. A weevil (Psuedoanthonomous hamamelids) has evolved a host-specific parasitic symbiosis with witch hazel. The weevil spends the adult portion of its life cycle on witch hazels, feeding on both leaves and flowers. Fertilized female weevils drill holes into the forming fruit of the plant and lay their eggs inside. The developing larvae then consume the fruit and the seeds. These holes in the fruit are visible to the naked eye. This seed parasitism significantly impacts the ability of the trees to reproduce and spread. 


Witch hazel can be grown from seeds that have been cold stratified (a period of cold for at least 3 months). Seeds should be planted in pots and generally grown in them for up to two to three years until they are mature enough to transplant. Flowering does not start until the plants are at least six years old.

Ethnobotanical Uses

Native American tribes have utilized witch hazel for its medicinal properties. Forked limbs were used to find underground sources of water.

Garden Location

Entry Garden, Library Garden (see garden map)


Arbor Day Foundation

US Forest Service

Penn State New Kensington

Plant Profile by Ivonne Vazquez