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Halesia carolina

White, bell-shaped flowers on a branch of the Silverbell tree

Silverbell's bark is attractive, the fall color pleasing, and the summer foliage sensational, but the lovely, bell-shaped flowers trump all the other ornamental features on this under-used native tree. Flowers persist on the Silverbell, or Halesia carolina, for ten days or more, and even after the blossoms fall, they form a beautiful carpet on the ground below.

Native to the Piedmont and southern Appalachian Mountains of the southeastern United States, Silverbell makes a fine understory plant with its tolerance for semi-shade, but Silverbell can flourish in full sun as well if adequate soil conditions and moisture levels are present. It prefers well-drained, acidic soils. Remarkably trouble-free, Silverbell will give you few instances of disease problems although chlorosis is a possibility if the soil pH does become too high. It is a small tree, maturing at 25’-30' with a similarly sized spread. The profile is usually rounded and low-branched and sometimes features several trunks.

Silverbell is one of my favorite small trees. If you place it against a lawn background, you will be able to enjoy both the spring flowers (which are most effective in front of a green background) and the informal growth habit and winter fruits, which are highlighted by a snow-covered landscape. Silverbell performs very well as a naturalizing plant at the edge of a woodland where the woods provides the dark background for spring floral contrast.

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