Looking for an elegant tree that’s easy to plant and maintain? A silverbell might be the perfect solution. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
Beautiful features of the Calolina silverbell
Popularly known as Carolina silverbell, this medium-sized tree makes a charming specimen, especially if you grow it where you can appreciate the rows of bell-shaped white or pale pink flowers that line its branches in late spring. While silverbell is valued primarily for its blossoms, this North American native has other ornamental features.
- On young trees, the dark gray bark is striped with what looks like white frost nestled between ridges.
- As the plant matures, the bark flakes slightly, revealing patches of gray and brown.
- Little egg-shaped, winged fruits appear in fall, turning from green to tan and often clinging to the branches into winter.
Other care-free silverbells you should consider
There are two other species of silverbell available for the home garden. The major differences between the three species, from a landscaping perspective, is size. These are hardy to Zones 5 and 6, respectively.
- A taller tree growing to 21 metres (69 feet) or more, mountain silverbell (Halesia monticola) is a tree native to the higher elevations of the American Southeast.
- The variety ‘Rosea’ has pale rose blossoms, while H. monticola var. vestita has larger flowers than the species, up to 2.5 centimetres (one inch) across and they are sometimes flushed with pink.
- The two-winged silverbell (H. diptera) is a smaller, spreading tree, with only two wings on the fruits instead of the usual four.
- H. diptera var. magniflora is a variety with prolific flowers that reach more than 2.5 centimetres (one inch) in width.
Choosing the perfect site for your silverbell
The secret of placing a silverbell in the garden is to find a spot where you can view the flowers either at eye level or from above.
- When grown in a home landscape, silverbell will reach nine metres (30 feet) tall and six metres (20 feet) wide. This is large enough for the tree to be a specimen in the lawn, but compact enough to not take over a yard.
- Silverbells can mark the end of a path, line a driveway or create a backdrop for a shrub border, joining beautifully with rhododendron, mountain laurel and azalea.
- Because the tree prefers partial shade, especially in the afternoon, it is a good choice for the edge of a wooded backdrop, where its dainty flowers will stand out against the larger forest trees and evergreens.
- Silverbell will not grow well in a hot, dry location or along a busy street, where it can be poisoned by airborne pollutants.
- Also avoid siting these trees where they will be exposed to strong winds, which can damage branches.
Grow a thriving silverbell in no time
- Silverbell transplants easily in either spring or fall. Select a site in sun or partial shade with slightly acidic, moist, well-drained soil. Alkaline soil will cause the leaves to yellow.
- Sprinkle garden sulphur in the planting hole, if needed, to adjust the soil pH, following package directions.
- Disturb the roots as little as possible during planting and set the tree at the same depth at which it grew in the nursery pot.
- Water well to eliminate any air pockets around the roots and spread an eight-centimetre-thick (three-inch-thick) layer of organic mulch to reduce evaporation from the soil. Water as needed the first year after planting to keep the soil from drying out.
- Silverbell grows moderately, and it may take three years or more for the tree to reach its mature spread.
Once established, silverbell needs no special care, has virtually no problems with pests or diseases and needs pruning only to remove dead or damaged limbs. Keep these tips in mind and try planting one today!