​The Bell-shaped Blooms Seem To Fall from the Branches

Japanese snowbell blooms

Depending on the weather, the May- and June-flowering Japanese snowbell tree will add late spring interest to your landscape by extending the spring blooming season closer to the beginning of summer. Download image​.

From the UT Gardens 
May 2017 Plant of the Month: Japanese Snowbell

Submitted by Joellen Dimond, TSU Extension Agent, Tipton County

The temperatures in May sometimes suggest that summer is already here, while the calendar says it doesn’t start until June 21st! Depending on the weather, one May- and June-flowering tree will add late spring interest to your landscape by extending the spring blooming season closer to the beginning of summer. The tree? Styrax japonicus, also known as Japanese snowbell.

Japanese snowbell is a small, dainty tree suitable for the urban landscape. I have to admit, I had never heard of this small tree until I added it to the arboretum at the Unversity of Memphis. Dr. Michael Dirr in his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, states it as one “of the unknown trees that is worthy of extensive landscape use.”  I decided to place my specimen on a prominent site where it could be viewed by many people. My efforts have been well rewarded!

Even though the tree flowers in May and June after the leaves appear, the blooms hang down on delicate pendulous stalks. The leaves are attached to the upper part of the stem so the flowers are in full view.

Japanese snowbell likes well-drained soil and prefers afternoon shade. This small, 20- to 30-ft tall, low-branched tree will look great near a patio, in a mixed border of shrubs or in any situation that calls for a small tree with horizontal branching. 

The blooms of Japanese snowbells are usually white, bell-shaped and slightly fragrant, but pink-flowering varieties are available. The fall foliage color is not spectacular, but the leaves do turn yellow to red in color. Japanese snowbells drop their small leaves late in the fall, and their delicate branches, which zig-zag at the tips, are scruffy and rough making for an interesting winter silhouette.

Styrax japonicus does well when planted in the spring or fall on a partially shaded site. It prefers a slope or raised-bed area supplemented with organic matter, and the tree will benefit from a complete fertilizer like 14-14-14 the first year. I did very little to supplement my tree in subsequent years except to water consistently during the summer season and to enjoy its beauty!

‘Emerald Pagoda’ seems to be a more heat-tolerant variety with thicker and darker leaves, while ‘Snowfall’ has a dense and rounded habit with prolific white flowers. ‘Marley’s Pink’ is a small, weeping form that has pink flowers. 

If you are looking for a small tree to grace your landscape and extend the perennial blooms in your yard, consider Styrax japonicus, the Japanese snowbell.

The UT Gardens includes plant collections located in Knoxville, Jackson and Crossville. Designated as the official botanical garden for the State of Tennessee, the collections are part of the UT Institute of Agriculture. The Gardens’ mission is to foster appreciation, education and stewardship of plants through garden displays, educational programs and research trials. The Gardens are open during all seasons and free to the public. For more information, see the Gardens website.



Joellen Dimond, TSU Extension Agent, Tipton County, jdimond@utk.edu