The Carolina silverbell is a deciduous tree that bears pretty white bell-shaped flowers.
This member of the Styracaceae family has been classified as Halesia carolina. You may also see Halesia tetraptera used. The name Halesia was given in honor of Stephen Hales, a clergyman from England who contributed to the world of botany and other sciences. Carolina refers to North and South Carolina, where it can be found in the wild. Tetraptera was given because of the four-winged fruit.
This tree may be called Carolina silverbell, little silverbells, silver bell, opossum-wood, common silverbell, mountain silverbell or snowdrop-tree.
Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones
Gardeners in Zones 4 through 8 may consider this species for their landscapes. It comes from the southeastern United States.
Size and Shape
It is usually 15' to 40' tall and 15' to 35' wide, but can be up to 60' tall in its native location. It can have a round, oval or irregular shape.
Place in a location where there will be full sun to partial shade.
The ovate leaves are 2" to 5" long. They are green during the summer, changing to shades of yellow before they fall off early in autumn.
As the name suggests, the white flowers that appear in April and May are shaped like bells. They form in small clusters that hang down on the tree.
The fruits are a drupe (stone fruit) that has four wings. They start out green and change to brown as they mature and dry out, becoming papery.
Choose a location where you will be able to stand under the tree or otherwise look upward to it, as this is the best way to see the flowers.
Bees favor this tree so you can plant it to help attract them to your yard. This can be especially helpful for your fruit trees.
If you want a variety with larger flowers, look for ‘wedding bells’ or the magniflora variety. For pink flowers, plant ‘rosy ridge’, 'rosa' or ‘Arnold pink’. If you like variegated leaves, ask for ‘silver splash’ and ‘variegata’.
This tree prefers soil that is acidic. You can take steps to make your soil more acidic if needed. Moist soil is best as long as there is good drainage.
You can propagate new trees by taking cuttings, performing air layering or planting the seeds, though the latter can sometimes be sterile. If you are trying to germinate the seeds, the USDA Forest Service suggests that "They require 2 to 3 months of warm, moist storage at 21 to 27 C/70 to 80 F followed by a similar period of cold stratification at 1 to 5 C/34 to 41 F", though they may still have difficulties even after this treatment.
Maintenance and Pruning
This tree may form multiple trunks, so choosing one as a central leader when it is in its early years and pruning lower branches can help give this a tree form.
Pests and Diseases
This tree usually does not have any pest or disease problems. It may become chlorotic on alkaline soils.