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Hamamelis mollis: Chinese Witch-Hazel1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson 2


Chinese Witch-hazel is a small, slow-growing, deciduous tree capable of reaching 20 feet high and wide but is more often seen at 10 to 15 feet. The three to six-inch-long, dull, gray/green leaves will usually put on a showy display in fall, as the dying leaves change to shades of yellow and orange before dropping. The long-lasting, showy, yellow flowers appear in early spring and are quite fragrant. However, they may occasionally be injured by cold temperatures (-10 degrees F.). These blooms are followed by the production of inconspicuous, green (turning black) fruits which persist on the tree.

Figure 1. Young Hamamelis mollis: Chinese Witch-Hazel
Figure 1.  Young Hamamelis mollis: Chinese Witch-Hazel
Credit: Ed Gilman

General Information

Scientific name: Hamamelis mollis
Pronunciation: ham-uh-MEE-liss MAW-liss
Common name(s): Chinese Witch-Hazel
Family: Hamamelidaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 6A through 8A (Fig. 2)
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Uses: specimen; highway median; container or planter
Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the tree

Figure 2. Range
Figure 2.  Range


Height: 10 to 20 feet
Spread: 12 to 18 feet
Crown uniformity: irregular
Crown shape: upright/erect, spreading
Crown density: open
Growth rate: slow
Texture: medium


Leaf arrangement: alternate (Fig. 3)
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: sinuate/undulate, undulate
Leaf shape: obovate, orbiculate
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: deciduous
Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches, 4 to 8 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: yellow
Fall characteristic: showy

Figure 3. Foliage
Figure 3.  Foliage


Flower color: yellow
Flower characteristics: showy


Fruit shape: irregular, round
Fruit length: .5 to 1 inch
Fruit covering: dry or hard
Fruit color: black
Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically multi-trunked; thorns
Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: gray
Current year twig thickness: thin
Wood specific gravity: unknown


Light requirement: full sun, partial sun or partial shade, shade tolerant
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; acidic; well-drained
Drought tolerance: moderate
Aerosol salt tolerance: unknown


Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: yes
Outstanding tree: yes
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown
Pest resistance: free of serious pests and diseases

Use and Management

Plant Chinese Witch-Hazel near a deck or patio or in the lawn or low ground cover as a specimen. Space branches apart on a single trunk so they can properly develop their horizontal, layered habit. The lowest branch can be located one or two feet from the ground to form a thick canopy all the way to the ground, or if planted close to a walk or patio, five to seven feet up to allow for pedestrian clearance beneath the crown. Trees can also be purchased and trained with multiple trunks for planting in open areas as specimens. This is an attractive, versatile small tree which could be used more in the urban landscape due to the small size and ornamental habit.

Chinese Witch-Hazel should be grown in full sun or partial shade on well-drained, moist, acid soils. Trees grown in the partial shade are very nice, developing an open crown, but do not become leggy and unkempt like some other trees in partial shade. Nice specimens can be found in clay soils, even those which dry out for a period of time in the summer.

Propagation is by seed or cuttings.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases appear to be serious, although the plant has not been widely planted or tested.


1. This document is ENH452, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at
2. Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Publication #ENH452

Date: 9/30/2014

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