University of Florida

Halesia diptera (Two-winged Silverbell)

Two-winged Silverbell

*Click on picture for more images of this species.

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 5A - 8B
  • Mature Height: 20 to 35 ft
  • Mature Spread: 20 to 35 ft
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Availability: Rarely available in anything but small sizes
  • Drought Tolerance: Moderate
  • Salt Tolerance: Unknown
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Native Origin: Native to Florida
  • Soil Drainage: Tolerates well-drained sites to occasionally wet sites.
  • Foliage: Deciduous tree with no showy fall color.
  • Flowers: White, very showy flowers in spring.
  • Pests: Free of serious pests and diseases.

Description: Two-Winged Silverbell is a wonderful, small, deciduous native tree, reaching 20 to 35 feet in height (smaller in most landscapes, I think), with a fairly dense, rounded silhouette when grown in full sun. In its native habitat, as an understory tree along stream banks, it appears more open. Without pruning, branches grow from the base of the tree forming a multi-trunked tree suited for specimen or patio planting. Although native to the deep south, it is, unfortunately, known little and not grown by many nurseries.

In springtime, the trees produce a multitude of beautiful, showy, bell-shaped white flowers which are followed by two-winged, 1.5 to 2-inch-long drupes. Two-Winged Silverbell is slowly gaining popularity for landscape use, and is ideal for naturalizing in locations with moist soil. It is not very drought-tolerant and should always be located in a protected spot sheltered from full day sun and wind. It grows best with mulch beneath the entire canopy. It makes a nice addition to the shaded shrub border with its spring flower display and creates an excellent understory tree beneath large natives. Use it as you would Flowering Dogwood. Also used as a patio tree for creating shade in a small, residential landscape. Not a tree for planting in the open and probably not for along a street although if there was enough soil space behind the curb for root exploration I would try it.

Two-Winged Silverbell should be located in partial shade on very well-drained acid soil where leaf litter and mulch are allowed to accumulate. It grows in full sun in the north, and adapts to almost total shade. It is not adapted to clay, reportedly.

Gainesville Observations: Trees appear fairly vigorous with ample branches to train trees into a small shade tree. Prune early and often as you would redbud to develop a straight trunk with good branch arrangement. Flowers are a nice surprise in March and foliage is unusually large and deciduous.

Fact Sheet (pdf)