STYRAX: Japanese Snowbell
Japanese Snowbell Styrax japonica
Native to China & Japan – Perfect white bell-shape flowers with light fragrance nod gracefully along the branches in May. Dark green leaves about 2” long turn yellow before dropping in autumn. Decorative green fruit follows flowers into summer. The overall shape is upright and pyramidal with horizontal side branches, making a nice canopy.
Grows 15-25’ tall & wide, sun-part shade, Z5. (Photo credit: Oregon State University)
The following are cultivated varieties of Japanese Snowbell.
Weeping form of Japanese Snowbell with white flowers and somewhat stiff branching creating a broad shrubby shape. Grows to 8-10’ tall & wide, sun-part shade, Z5
Everything about ‘Emerald Pagoda’ is bigger than the species. Bigger white flowers, thicker stems, fatter leaves, faster more upright growth. Sadly it loses some of its grace in all of that beefiness, but we still like it.
Grows to 25-30’ tall & wide, sun-part shade, Z5
Pale pink flowers in May and the same thick green leaves and graceful appearance of its species.
Grows to 15-25’ tall & wide, sun-part shade, Z5
Fragrant Snowbell Styrax obassia
Native to Japan – Intensely fragrant delicate white bell flowers in 4-8 inch chains (racemes) bloom in May-June. Dark green leaves are round and larger than those of S. japonica, somewhat covering flowers. It contributes no real fall color, but the scent in spring makes up for it completely.
Grows 20-30’ tall, 15-20’ wide in a pyramid shape when young, broadening with age. Sun-part shade, Z6.
Genus: Styrax STY-racks Styrax is the Greek name for the plant.
Origin: North & South America, Asia & Europe
Characteristics: About 100 species of shrubs or small trees with 5-lobe flowers of white or pink, hairy zigzagging new branches and alternate green leaves. Fruit is dry or fleshy drupe with one-two seeds.
Size: Small trees or large shrubs ranging from 15’ to 30’.
Culture: Sun to part shade, best in well-drained acid soil. Hardy in zone 5 (-20 to -30f).
Problems: Trees are sometimes slow to leaf-out after a hard winter and are also prone to borer and beetle damage on the east coast. Styrax tends to have few problems if any in the Pacific Northwest.