Neat, well-behaved flowering trees of modest size for patios or lawns; make a nice contrast in front of larger, darker-leafed trees. The species described below put on a spring or early summer show of white, bell-shaped flowers in hanging clusters. Leaves of most are oval and pointed. Easy to garden under, since roots are deep and nonaggressive. Provide good, well-drained, acid soil, except as noted.
S. americanus. AMERICAN SNOWBELL. Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-9. Native from Florida to Virginia, west to Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Round-topped shrub, 69 ft. tall and not quite as wide, with zigzagging stems carrying bright green leaves to 312 in. long. Fragrant, 34-in. flowers, solitary or in clusters of four. Some tolerance of poor drainage. Performs better in light shade.
S. grandifolius. BIGLEAF SNOWBELL. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Native from Virginia to Florida. To 12 ft. tall and 6 ft. wide, but often smaller. Dark green leaves up to 7 in. long. Fragrant, 12- to 1-in. flowers in 8-in.-long, drooping clusters. Best in light shade and cool, moist soil.
S. japonicus. JAPANESE SNOWBELL, JAPANESE SNOWDROP TREE. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. To 30 ft. tall and 25 ft. wide, with slender, graceful trunk; branches often strongly horizontal, giving tree a broad, flat top. Scallop-edged leaves to 3 in. long turn from dark green to red or yellow in fall. Faintly fragrant, white, 34-in. flowers hang in small clusters on short side branches. Leaves angle upward from branches while flowers hang down, giving the effect of parallel green and white tiers. Prune to control shape; tends to be shrubby unless lower side branches are suppressed. Splendid tree to look up into; plant it in raised beds near outdoor entertainment areas, or on a high bank above a path.
'Carillon' is a shrubby selection with weeping branches; 'Pink Chimes', also shrubby, has a more upright form and bears pink flowers. 'Marley's Pink Parasol' grows only 68 ft. tall and 4 ft. wide in a weeping form with distinctive foliage that is big, dark, and glossy compared to the species. Look for a heavy bloom of pink flowers followed by pale yellow fall color.
S. obassia. FRAGRANT SNOWBELL. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Grows to 2030 ft. tall, about two-thirds as wide. Oval to round, deep green leaves to 38 in. long. Where frosts come very late, leaves may color yellow in autumn. Foliage may partly obscure highly fragrant, 1-in. flowers carried in drooping, 6- to 8-in. clusters at branch ends. Blooms earlier in spring than S. japonicus. Newly planted trees often take a few years to start blooming. Good against background of evergreens, or for height and contrast above border of rhododendrons and azaleas.