How to Care for a Japanese Snowbell Tree

by Jessica Westover

The Japanese snowbell tree (Styrax japonicus) appears as graceful as its name. This rounded deciduous tree produces shiny, oval leaves as a backdrop to drooping, bell-shaped, white flowers that appear in late spring to early summer. Although the Japanese snowbell tends to remain pest and disease free, its fragrant flowers attract large numbers of bees and its ripening fruit drops freely, creating messes. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9, it requires full to partial shade and fast-draining, fertile, acidic soils.

1 Pull weeds and remove debris from the ground located underneath and at least 12 inches beyond the Japanese snowbell's canopy. Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the ground with a rake.

2 Water the tree when less than 1 inch of rain falls during a period of 10 to 14 days. Apply 1 to 2 inches of water to the ground located underneath the tree's canopy. Never water so frequently that the soil becomes soggy.

3 Fertilize the Japanese snowbell with a 10-10-10 nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium slow-release granular fertilizer in the spring, just prior to the swelling of leaf buds. Apply the fertilizer at a rate of 1 tablespoon per square foot of soil located underneath the tree's canopy. Broadcast the granules in a 12-inch-wide band underneath the canopy's outer perimeter, at least 12 inches away from the trunk. Rake the fertilizer into the top 3 inches of mulch and soil. Water the area thoroughly.

4 Prune the tree in the late winter or very early spring while it remains dormant, just prior to applying fertilizer. Cut out any dead branches, making each cut 1/4 inch above the swollen ring surrounding the limb's base, also known as the branch bark collar. Use pruning shears to cut through diameters of 1/4 inch or less and loppers on diameters of 1 1/2 inches or less. Remove broken limbs, cutting them 1/4 inch above an outward facing lateral branch or leaf bud located at least 1 inch below the damaged section. Cut out crossing or rubbing branches, vertical watersprouts and suckers from the trunk and ground.

Items you will need

  • Mulch
  • Rake
  • Garden hose
  • 10-10-10 (N-P-K) slow-release granular fertilizer
  • Pruning shears
  • Loppers

Tip

  • Prevent the spread of disease by disinfecting your pruning shears before and after pruning the Japanese snowbell tree. Soak the blades in a 50-percent bleach solution for five minutes.

Warnings

  • Wear gloves when spreading mulch or pruning to protect your hands from soil-borne diseases and injury.
  • Do not plant this tree in your landscape if you or a family member suffers from a bee allergy, as these stinging insects will converge upon its blossoms.