Landscape Plants of the Upper Midwest

Vernal Witchhazel

{Picture of Vernal Witchhazel}

Plant Information

  • Plant Type: Shrub: Large
  • Scientific Name: Hamamelis vernalis Play audio of plant name
  • Family: Witchhazel
  • Zone: 5
  • Plant Size: 8-10'
  • Bloom Time: Spring
  • Bloom Color: Yellow
  • Habit: Rounded
  • Culture:

    Adaptable. Full sun to partial shade.

  • Notes:

    Small yellow flowers with a red calyx in early spring and good yellow fall color. Although all Hamamelis are beautiful, this species is probably an inferior landscape plant to common witchhazel (H. virginiana) in the upper Midwest for two reasons: it is slightly less hardy than common witchhazel, and because of the compressed Midwestern springs it must compete with a plethora of showier spring bloomers.

  • Pruning:Pruning animation

    Structural pruning of small trees is somewhat different than with larger trees, as small trees generally do not develop strong central leaders. Thus structural pruning of these trees should focus on addressing branch defects that are prone to damage from snow or other storm-related stresses. In particular, branches with included bark and branches larger than half the diameter of the trunk should be suppressed, or if small, removed. The fundamentals of structural pruning can be found at the following websites:

    Urban Tree Foundation – Structural Pruning

    University of Florida – Structural Pruning

    If a branch needs to be removed for clearance, is damaged, or possesses a critical defect, a 3-point cut is used (see animation). First an undercut is made to prevent bark from tearing down the trunk if it remains attached to the falling limb. The branch is then "stub cut" which removes most of the branch to facilitate a clean final cut. The final cut is made just outside the branch collar, which is the swollen area between the branch and the trunk. Cuts made here will heal most readily and prevent rot from invading the main trunk of the tree, a common occurrence when branches are cut flush with the trunk.

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Landscape Plants of the Upper Midwest

Bill Hoch, Associate Professor
Montana State University

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