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Carolina silverbell (aka bell tree and snowdrop tree) is a large, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub or small tree commonly found in the dappled light of the understories of slopes and streams in the southeastern forests of the US. It blooms about a week before dogwoods with a profusion of showy, white flowers dangling like bells from every branch. Pendulous clusters of four-sided fruits follow, ripening from green to brown in fall and hanging on the plant throughout winter. Carolina silverbell prefers moist, somewhat acidic soils but will grow 30 to 40 feet tall and up to 35 feet wide in average, well-drained soils. Although it thrives in light shade and is sensitive to extreme heat and drought, it can also be grown in full sun. It sometimes forms a narrow, oval crown and at other times divides into several leaders to form a broad, open canopy. When trained into a tree, the single trunk can take on a dramatic leaning or twisting form. The eye-catching bark of mature specimens strips off the plant to reveal reddish-brown bark underneath. This shrub is especially attractive when set against an evergreen background, and it pairs well with rhododendrons and azaleas, which also favor acidic soils. It’s sensitive to alkaline and soil compaction; the foliage may become chlorotic (yellow) if heavy clay soil is not amended with leaf compost or other organic matter. For optimal growth, site the plant in morning sun and afternoon part shade, and use an acidic fertilizer in the spring. The wood is somewhat weak and soft and should be protected from high winds. Carolina silverbell blooms when it’s only a few years old and can live up to 100 years. It’s free of serious pests and diseases and can be planted near black walnut trees. The nectar and the shape of the flowers attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. Beekeepers favor carolina silverbell as a honey plant.


Native habitats include moist slopes, coves, creek banks, and bottomlands. It’s an excellent springtime specimen plant for the lawn or patio and performs well in shrub borders, woodland and shade gardens, winter gardens, and native plantings.


Plant Characteristics:

Grows 30-40’ tall and 20-35’ wide.


Grows in full sun, dappled light, and part shade (does best with 6+ hours of sun).


Prefers moist and loamy soils with a bit of acidity and good drainage but will grow in average, well-drained soils.


Pinkish-white flowers ½ -¾” long hang in drooping clusters of 2-5 blooms from April to May. Each flower has a 4-celled ovary; usually, only one cell produces a viable seed. Dry, oblong, 4-winged drupes with pointy tails are 1-3” long.


Alternate, ovate-oblong leaves are finely serrated and 3-6” long, medium green above and paler underneath. The leaves turn mottled yellow and then drop in early fall.


Branching begins low on the trunk, and twigs are brown and smooth. Young bark is gray with “striped” fissures.


Wildlife Value:

Carolina silverbell hosts 7 species of Lepidoptera larvae, including Promethea moth, eastern tiger swallowtail, viceroy, and eastern comma (pictured here in that order, preceded by their caterpillars). The buds and flowers are eaten by birds. Squirrels eat the seeds.


Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:

Ripe fruits are chewed for their tart flavor, and unripe fruits are sometimes pickled.


The soft, close-grained wood is a favorite for veneer, cabinet making, and crafts.

Carolina Silverbell, Halesia Carolina

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  • Once we're certain we have good germination, we'll make these plants available for prepurchase.

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