The genus Corylopsis consists of about 30 species in the witch hazel family, Hamamelidaceae, that also includes loropetalum and fothergill. They are native to eastern Asia, mainly China, but with some native to Korea, Japan and the Himalayas. All are deciduous shrubs or small trees, growing 4-20′ tall according to the species, and have a spreading habit . They have light tan bark and heavily veined, coarse textured leaves that are 2-8″ long, ovate to chordate with acute apex and serrated margins, and green in summer with light down on the underside. Some species have bronzy new growth in spring and/or an attractive gold autumn coloration. The most outstanding feature of winter hazel are the pendulous racemes of fragrant, yellow, bell-shaped, flowers that appear in early spring before the leaves emerge. The flowers are 1-2″ across and the racemes are 1.2-3.5″ long and carry 5-30 flowers depending on the species. The fruit is a dry 2-chambered capsule about 1″ across containing 2 glossy black seeds. Photo Credit Denis.prévôt, Wikimedia Commons

Corylopsis are hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-8 and prefer soil that is consistently moist, well-drained and acidic. Most bloom best in full sun but may need some shade in hot climates. They are generally healthy and have no serious pests or diseases but need protection from damage by late frosts, heavy snow cover, and wind. They need little pruning but can be trimmed immediately after flowering to maintain shape. Propagation is usually by cuttings in summer. Winter hazels are valued for their early, abundant bloom of fragrant yellow flowers and are a good choice for a mixed border as well as for use in woodland and fragrance gardens. The genus name, Corylopsis, is derived from the Greek words korylos which means hazel and opsis which means like or resemblance and refers to the fact that the leaves are similar to those of hazel plants.

Corylopsis vary most significantly in height, showiness of flower clusters and foliar characteristics.

Fragrant Winter Hazel (Corylopsis glabrescens)

This native of Japan and Korea grows 8-15′ tall and has 2-4″ long leaves with grayish undersides, and dark green topsides before turning clear yellow in the fall. The racemes are 1-3″ long and carry numerous flowers. The cultivar ‘Longwood Chimes’ has an especially strong fragrance and the flowers are 50% larger than the species. Photo Credit Wikipedia

Height: 8-15′

Leaf Color: Green turning clear yellow in fall

Raceme Length: 1-3″

Number of Flowers per Raceme: Numerous

Himalayan Winter Hazel (Corylopsis himalayana)

Native to the montane forests of Assam, East Himalaya, Myanmar, and Tibet, this winter hazel grows 10-15′ tall and has a dense canopy of oval, blue-green, finely toothed leaves that are up to 4′ long and have felted undersides. The 1-2″ long racemes have up to 30 flowers. Photo Credit Wikipedia

Height: 10-15′

Leaf Color: Blue-green

Raceme Length: 1-2″

Number of Flowers per Raceme: up to 30

Buttercup Winter Hazel (Corylopsis pauciflora)

Growing 4-6′ tall, this native to Japan and Taiwan, spreads to form a dense mound. The 1.5-3″ long leaves emerge bronze before turning green and then yellow-green to gold in the fall. The racemes are 1-2″ long and have 2-3 flowers each. Grows best in light shade. Photo Credit Wikipedia

Height: 4-6′

Leaf Color: Emerge bronze, turn green in summer, and gold in fall

Raceme Length: 1-2″

Number of Flowers per Raceme: 2-3

Chinese Winter Hazel (Corylopsis platypetala)

Native to South-Central and Southeast China, this winter hazel grows 8-10 feet in the wild but can reach 15′ or more in cultivation. The bark is dark brown to dark gray and the stems and slender branches are hairy when young before becoming smooth with maturity. The leaves are 2-4″ long and have blue-gray bottomsides and dark green topsides, but may develop a waxy bloom and appear grayish when grown in the sun. The racemes are 1-2″ long and carry 8-20 flowers that do well in the vase. Photo Credit: Krzysztof Ziarnek, Wikimedia Commons

Height: 15′ +

Leaf Color: Dark green but when grown in the sun sometimes appear grayish because of waxy bloom

Raceme Length: 1-2″

Number of Flowers per Raceme: 8-20

Spike Winter Hazel (Corylopsis spicata)

This native of Japan, grows 6-8′ tall and wide and has 3-6″ long serrated leaves that emerge purple and mature to deep blue-green. The racemes are 2″ long and carry 6-12 flowers. The branches are beautiful in winter bouquets and the plants make excellent bonsai subjects. Photo Credit Wikipedia

Height: 6-8′

Leaf Color: Emerges purple, matures to blue-green

Raceme Length: 2″

Number of Flowers per Raceme: 6-12

Veitch’s Winter Hazel (Corylopsis veitchiana)

Native to mountainous areas of central China this witch hazel grows 8-14′ tall and has a bushy habit. The emerging leaves are reddish purple before turning shiny, green on the upper side and blue-green on the lower side. They are 2-4″ long. The racemes are up to 3″ long and carry up to 15 flowers. Photo Credit Wikidata

Height: 8-14′

Leaf Color: Emerge reddish purple, turning shinny, green on upperside and blue-green on lowerside.

Raceme Length: 3″

Number of Flowers per Raceme: up to 15

By Karen