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What is Corylopsis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 13 June 2018
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Corylopsis is a genus of flowering shrubs native to Asia. It is in the Hamamelidaceae family, which includes the related witch hazel. There are approximately 30 plants in the genus Corylopsis, found widely distributed across temperate to cool regions of Asia. These plants are also cultivated as ornamentals outside of Asia, although they can sometimes be difficult to obtain because they are not wildly popular plants. Some nurseries can order plants by request and people can also order these plants through the mail.

Known as winter hazels, plants in this genus are famous for producing flowers in the fall and winter. The flowers grow on long trailing stems resembling racemes and are a pale yellow color. One popular cultivar is known as buttercup witch hazel for the distinctive soft yellow coloration. These plants are deciduous, leafing out with green toothed leaves in the spring and losing their leaves in the late summer and early fall.

Depending on the species, winter hazel can vary in height. Some Corylopsis species stop growing at around six feet (two meters) in height, while others can grow much larger. The plants develop a heavily latticed appearance with overlapping, trailing stems. These stems can be quite fragile. People should avoid bumping them and in regions where it snows and frosts, it can be advisable to protect the plant to avoid broken stems.

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Corylopsis can be planted as a standalone garden feature or as part of a hedge or background border. Growth habits vary, depending on the species, but generally, these plants need rich, well drained soil and prefer full sun to partial shade. They can be pruned to shape their growth or allowed to grow naturally, and have an appealing scent known to attract birds and butterflies. Bulbs make excellent companion plantings, as they will have room to flourish under and around the shrubs before the leaves appear in the spring.

Gardeners who want to try growing Corylopsis can check with a local nursery to see if the plant is carried or can be ordered. Another option is to review a mail order catalog for plants. Ordering plants by mail can provide access to more varied cultivars. Other gardeners may also be willing to trade or provide cuttings for gardeners who want to establish a new plant. The timing for taking cuttings can be important and a gardener with an existing plant can have tips on the best time to take a cutting and the best way to get it growing healthily.

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