May Plant of the Month: Halesia tetraptera (H. Carolina, H. monticola) – Carolina Silverbell

Want to add a beautiful flowering tree for mid-May? One that people will take notice of in spring, and other seasons too? Consider the Carolina Silverbell — Halesia tetraptera (H. Carolina, H. monticola).

Sure, so many trees are abloom at this time of year that many get overlooked but this tree is special: smallish (1/2 – 1” long) bell-shaped white or pinkish flowers appear in clusters, hanging in supple, shimmering arrangements that are showy and unusual.

Carolina SilverbellThe flowers are most noticeable when the tree is sited adjacent to an evergreen backdrop, not an uncommon locale for this understory tree that prefers a sheltered spot in the garden.

The yellow-green leaves persist well into the fall season, without any super fall show, but as they drop reveal an interesting ovoid, 4-sided winged fruit that persists throughout the winter months.

The tree reaches a height of 30’ or more, with a similar spread, and can be single or multi-stemmed. As the tree matures the bark develops a striking pattern of gray, brown and black stripes. Plant this tree as a specimen or in small groves. Site within well drained, moist, acid (forest-like) soils for best results.

A native tree to the Southeastern US, Halesia is hardy to zone 5