Common Name: Chinese witch hazel
Type: Deciduous shrub
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 6.00 to 9.00 feet
Spread: 4.00 to 6.00 feet
Bloom Time: January to February
Bloom Description: Yellow pedals with red at base
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Deer, Erosion, Clay Soil
Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best flowering is in full sun. Prefers moist, acidic, organically rich soils. Consistent moisture is best (leaf scorch may occur during periods of summer drought). Shrubs have some tolerance for clay soils as long as soil drainage is good. Promptly remove root suckers to prevent colonial spread. H. mollis cultivars are sometimes grafted to rootstocks of native witch hazels (e.g., H. virginiana), which presents another reason for removing root suckers when they arise from below a graft union. Prune in spring after flowering to control shape and size. Plants are generally considered to be winter hardy to USDA Zone 5 (some experts conservatively say Zone 6). It is best to site these shrubs in protected locations in USDA Zone 5.
Hamamelis mollis, commonly called Chinese witch hazel, is an open, upright medium to large, deciduous shrub which typically matures to 10-15’ tall with a rounded shape. It is native to forests and thickets in southeastern and southwestern China. This species produces the most fragrant flowers of all the witch hazels. It was first introduced into cultivation in England in 1879 from seed collected in China by Charles Maries, British plant explorer. ‘Fred Chittenden’ is a Chinese witch hazel cultivar that features fragrant, golden yellow flowers (to 1/2" long) which bloom in clusters along bare stems in mid-winter (January-February) before spring foliage emerges. Each crinkly flower has narrow, strap-shaped, yellow petals which are tinged with red at the base. This shrub was selected at RHS Garden Wisely, and was named after Fred Chittenden who served as Director at Wisely from 1919-1931. It is an upright cultivar that typically matures to 6-9' tall and to 4-6' wide. Ovate-rounded leaves (to 4” long) with slightly crenate margins and uneven cordate bases emerge light green in spring, mature to a flat green and finally turn yellow in autumn.
No serious insect or disease problems. Caterpillars and Japanese beetles may chew on the leaves. Watch for gall aphids, scale, leafroller and leafminer. Potential diseases include powdery mildew, occasional leaf spots and rots.
Superior winter-flowering shrub for the landscape. Shrub borders, woodland gardens. Screen or tall hedge. Good specimen due to late winter flowers, attractive summer foliage and fall color. Branches in flower may be cut for arrangements. This cultivar may be difficult to locate in commerce.