Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Vernal Witchhazel
Hamamelis vernalis

Family: Hamamelidaceae
Genus: Hamamelis (ham-uh-MEE-lis) (Info)
Species: vernalis (ver-NAH-liss) (Info)

2 vendors have this plant for sale.

4 members have or want this plant for trade.

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12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
Gold (Yellow-Orange)

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring


Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Flowers are fragrant
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From semi-hardwood cuttings
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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4 positives
2 neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive pie_rabbit On May 28, 2014, pie_rabbit from West Lebanon, NH wrote:

Zone 4b-5, center NH/VT 1/2 mile from Connecticut river. Dubious soil about 1 foot deep above a thick pan of clay about 6 inches deep above a less-compact layer of clay down to China. 3 bushes planted by landscapers in 2013 spring. They survived the nasty brutish winter of 2014 that included at least 3 spells of -20 F temps, each followed by rises of temp higher than freezing. In March-April, when 3 feet of snow covered the ground I was amazed to see funny tiny yellowish flowers. A negative: last year's luxurious bright-green foliage was the main meal + dessert for Japanese beetles; I plucked them off daily, then discovered a neem-oil spray that helped. A positive: No observed deer damage -- we live on a very-active game trail (this year, across road just above our house, e.g. we witnessed the freeze-dried carcass of a deer), so I leave with this caveat: starting in late winter (and whenever else I saw their dainty footprints in the snow) I moved the game-trail away from the witch-hazel by spraying a nasty garlic+blood+rotten-egg repellent.

Positive coriaceous On Feb 11, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This is the first of the witch hazels to bloom, consistently starting in mid-January in Boston's Arnold Arboretum Z6a.

The flowers are smaller than with other witch hazels, and the habit is definitely more shrubby than treelike. The sweet fragrance is variable, much more noticeable in warmer spells.

Positive Rickwebb On Jan 8, 2014, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

It is a handsome, high quality shrub with a clean, neat habit. Handsome foliage, good yellow or orange autumn color, nice smooth gray bark, nice small gold and red-bronze flowers in February to early April. Most large nurseries sell this species, along with native plant nurseries and it is used by landscape architects more than any homeowner. It usually grows about 8 to 10 ft high in landscapes, but can get to about 20 ft or more in natural sites. A little smaller in leaf and size than the Common Witchhazel. Also smaller in size and leaf than the new popular Chinese-Japanese Witchhazels with the bigger flowers.

Negative rkwright85 On Mar 21, 2012, rkwright85 from Horton, MI (Zone 5b) wrote:

I've had this plant for several years and it has never performed well while Fothergilla and Hamamelis x intermedia have never had problems. It grows fine but the foliage is less attractive than other witch hazels, fall color is a dull yellow and it rarely produces many flowers.

Positive ViburnumValley On Mar 16, 2008, ViburnumValley from Scott County, KY (Zone 5b) wrote:

Vernal witch hazel is a very tough plant; it is no accident that it hails from the contiguous areas of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri, and thus the derivation of its other common name - Ozark witch hazel.

The notes above mention requirement of wet conditions, and this is an indication of where Vernal witch hazel is found in nature along streams. This is not a necessity in the landscape, where this plant will grow in just about anything you might provide.

The flowers are small, and often hidden by persistent old foliage through the winter, but this pales in comparison to the enveloping fragrance this plant provides in late winter when it blooms. You will turn your head when in its presence, and wonder what it is that smells so divine.

Every neighborhood ought to have a couple of these. The persistent leaves serve well as some winter screening; the toughness (including tolerance of wetness) allows use in marginal areas; and the flowers/fragrance at a time when not much else is going on in most landscapes is reason enough to have a Vernal witch hazel in the garden.

Neutral lupinelover On Jan 3, 2003, lupinelover from Grove City, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

This species provides a welcome source of nectar to butterflies and bees that over-winter where it is hardy. Unfortunately it is also very attractive to hungry rabbits and rodents; branches and shoots and roots must be protected during the dormant season.

Neutral smiln32 On Jul 31, 2002, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Excellent fall color foliage.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Morrilton, Arkansas
Decatur, Georgia
Glen Ellyn, Illinois
Wichita, Kansas
Clermont, Kentucky
Frankfort, Kentucky
Georgetown, Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Nicholasville, Kentucky
Paris, Kentucky
Versailles, Kentucky
Roslindale, Massachusetts
Horton, Michigan
Traverse City, Michigan
Kansas City, Missouri
Hanover, New Hampshire
Cape May, New Jersey
Bowling Green, Ohio
West Chester, Pennsylvania
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Viola, Tennessee
Vienna, Virginia

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