Hamamelis mollis 'Princeton Gold'
Common Name: Chinese witch hazel 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Hamamelidaceae
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 4.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 4.00 to 6.00 feet
Bloom Time: January to March
Bloom Description: Yellow petals with red at the base
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
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.

Noteworthy Characteristics

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.

Genus name comes from the Greek words hama meaning at same time and melon meaning apple or fruit in reference to the occurrence of both fruit and flowers at the same time on this shrub (particularly in the case of fall flowering members of the genus).

Specific epithet means soft with soft hairs.

‘Princeton Gold’ is a Chinese witch hazel cultivar that features large, fragrant, golden yellow flowers which bloom in clusters along bare stems from early to mid-winter (January-March) before spring foliage emerges. Each crinkly flower has narrow, strap-shaped, yellow petals (each to 1" long) which are tinged with red at the base. This shrub typically matures to 4-6' tall and as wide. It was discovered at Princeton Nurseries in New Jersey in 1988 growing in a row of seedlings of H. mollis 'Fragrant Yellow'. 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. Leaves are noted for rapid abscission in fall, leaving no unsightly dead leaves hanging from the branches over winter. U. S. Plant Patent PP12,549 was issued on April 16, 2002.


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. Insect and disease issues are typically not serious and rarely warrant chemical control. Susceptible to winter flower bud damage in USDA Zone 5 (particularly in windy locations when the temperatures dip below -5°F).


Shrub border or woodland garden. Good specimen value due to fragrant, late winter flowers and good fall color. Flowering stems can make an attractive winter bouquet.