Fothergilla major 'Red Licorice'
Common Name: large fothergilla 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Hamamelidaceae
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Spread: 5.00 to 9.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Good Fall


Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist, acidic, organically rich soils which have good drainage. Good shade tolerance. May spread by root suckers to form colonies if suckers are not promptly removed. May not be reliably winter hardy in the northern parts of USDA Zone 5.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Fothergilla major, commonly called large fothergilla, tall fothergilla or mountain witch alder, is a member of the same family as witch hazel (Hamamelis). It is native to the southeastern U.S., primarily in mountain woods, ravines and along stream banks in the southern Appalachians in North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. It is a slow-growing, deciduous shrub that grows 6-10’ tall with an upright spreading habit. It is noted for its aromatic spring flowers, quality summer foliage, excellent fall color and excellent disease resistance. Terminal, bottlebrush-like spikes (1-3” long) of tiny, fragrant, apetalous, white flowers bloom in spring (April-early May) after the foliage emerges. Flower color comes from the dense clusters of showy stamens (white filaments and yellowish anthers). Ovate to obovate dark green leaves (2-4” long) are leathery above and blue-gray beneath. Leaves are typically toothed in the upper 2/3 of the leaf. Foliage turns excellent shades of yellow, orange and red-purple in fall. Fruit is a non-ornamental, beaked, egg-shaped two-seeded capsule (to 1/2” long) which matures in fall, eventually bursting and explosively broadcasting the seed. Fothergilla major is very similar to Fothergilla gardenia (native to coastal plains in the southeastern U.S.), except, inter alia, Fothergilla major is (1) taller, (2) produces flowers as the leaves emerge, (3) leaves have more marginal teeth and (4) leaves are less pubescent on the undersides.

Genus name honors Dr. John Fothergill (1712-1780), English physician and botanist who grew plants from around the world in his London garden.

Specific epithet means bigger or larger.

'Red Licorice' is best noted for its superb licorice-red fall color. Bottlebrush-like white flowers in spring, attractive foliage and brilliant red fall color give this shrub excellent spring to fall interest.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Group or mass in shrub borders, foundation plantings or native plantings. Hedges. Mixes easily with rhododendrons, which generally share the same soil requirements.