Woody Plant Of The Week - Winter Hazel (Corylopsis spicata)

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There is just something about flowers in the spring. It is that sign of hope that many of us need after a long the winter season. Flowers can be even more striking against the blue sky as shown below.


Winter Hazel Flowers Against the Blue Sky
Photo Credit: Amy Stone, OSU Extension - Lucas County


Earlier this week, I was walking at the Toledo Botanical Garden, part of Metroparks Toledo. I was taking a path that I normally don't follow when I turned the corner and was greeted by a light buttery-yellow glow of flowers that immediately captured my attention. As I walked closer, there was a sweet, but subtle fragrance. Based on the plant's size, it has been there awhile, but it was my first interaction with it in the garden, and one that I will be sure to follow and become more familiar with this season. 


Corylopsis spicata, winter hazel, is a multistemmed shrub that typically grows 4 - 8 feet tall, and 6 - 10 feet wide.


Multistem Plant, Winter Hazel
Photo Credit: Amy Stone, OSU Extension - Lucas County


This shrub can be grown in full sun to part shade. While it can tolerate average garden soils, it does prefer a slightly acidic soil with some organic matter that is well drained. It will struggle in a heavy clay soil, especially soil with drainage issues. It also fairs better with some wind protection as you consider site selection in the landscape.


Because the flowers bloom early in the spring, they can be hit with the unwanted late frosts or freezes. Once established, if you need to prune, it does bloom on old wood and should be pruned in the spring after flowering. 


Racemes of Winter Hazel in Flower
Photo Credit: Amy Stone, OSU Extension - Lucas County


Once the flowers fade, the leaves will develop. They begin with shades of bronze to purple, changing to blue-green as the season progresses. Fall color is typically shades of yellows to yellow-green. The fruit is a two-beaked capsule that contains two small seeds. This plant is related to witch hazel and is in the same family (Hamamelidaceae). 


This shrub is native to Japan, and is often used as a hedge, mixed into shrub border, or a great addition to a woodland edge or woodland garden.