Styrax japonicus [STY-raks, juh-PON-ih-kuhs] is a deciduous flowering tree species of the Styracaceae family.
Native to Japan, Korea, and China, the plant features upward-facing ovate leaves and dark green-brown, olive-like fruits appearing after the flowering season and persist till late autumn.
The color of the foliage does not usually change in fall, but when it does, it gets a beautiful yellow to red fall color.
Since the green foliage faces upward, the flowers are easily visible even from a distance.
The Styrax japonicas trees are hermaphrodite and can live as long as 20 to 50 years.
You may also hear it called by its common name including:
- Japanese Snowbell
Styrax Japonicus Care
Size & Growth
The Japanese Snowbell is slow to establish, growing only 12″ – 24″ inches a year. This small tree can take a very long time to get mature.
The snowbell tree typically grows up to 20’ – 30’ feet in height and at times, has the same width.
Sometimes, the tree can grow up to the height of 50’ feet.
The Styrax tree has horizontal branching and forms a broad, round, and flat-topped canopy when it gets mature.
Flowering and Fragrance
As the name suggests, the plant produces white flower color, bell-shaped pendulous racemes hanging from the branches with showy yellow stamens.
The flowers are wonderfully fragrant and produced in abundant quantities in summers.
May-June is the peak bloom time with drooping clusters of white, waxy flowers look beautiful.
Flowers give way to greenish-brown, olive-shaped drupes often persisting into late autumn.
Light & Temperature
Styrax japonicus is a hardy plant. Although it prefers full sun or dappled part shade (partial shade), it can tolerate temperature as low as 5° degrees Fahrenheit (-15° C).
However, the young growth rate can get damaged by frosts.
The planting location USDA Zone – hardiness zone 5 – 8, needs to be protected from cold and dry winds.
Watering and Feeding
Japanese snowbell plants need moderately moist soil when planted.
However, their water requirements reduce once they are established.
Mature Styrax japonica trees needs occasional watering only in summers.
Soil & Transplanting
This deciduous tree plant type can grow in clay, sandy, and loamy soils.
However, it thrives in soils organically rich, well-drained, and moderately moist.
While it prefers acidic pH, the plant can grow in soils of neutral pH.
Grooming and Maintenance
In winters, prune styrax trees, as needed, to give the desired shape.
On average, it doesn’t require a lot of maintenance.
Pruning the plant a couple of times is usually enough to keep it in shape.
How to Propagate Japanese Snowbell
Styrax japonicus are propagated by seeds and softwood cuttings.
The ripe seeds are available in abundant quantities in October.
However, the seeds need double dormancy to ensure the best germination rate.
This means, late spring is the best time to sow the seeds, so they can get the required warmth during the summer followed by the cold in the winter season.
Some people also sow the fresh seeds after they are picked in autumn.
With this method, the seeds are likely to germinate only partially, in the spring.
You are likely to wait for a year for full germination.
Styrax japonicas plants are also rooted through softwood cuttings.
The best time to take cuttings is in early summer.
For best results, treat the cuttings immediately with a hormone rooting compound.
However, while rooting the softwood cuttings is a fairly quick and easy process, it is difficult to make them survive through winter and shoot in the next spring.
To avoid damage to the root system during winter, the cuttings need to be kept frost-free and dry.
Even when all the guidelines are followed, many people find it difficult to propagate styrax japonicas through softwood cuttings.
While propagation through seeds takes long, it is easier and more likely to succeed than propagation through softwood cuttings.
Japanese Styrax Pest or Diseases
No serious disease or pest problems are identified. However, stressed plants may get affected by the ambrosia beetle.
Aphids are attracted to new young shoots. If you catch them early a spray blast of water from the garden hose can work.
Severe attacks need treating with special insecticides.
More on Getting Rid of Aphids
Japanese Snowbell Uses
Due to its beautiful flowers, Styrax japonicus plants are popularly used in landscaping enhancing the aesthetic appeal of an area.
They are widely grown in park garden designs, woodland gardens, and cemeteries.
In Japan, the fragrant snowbell trees are commonly seen on roads and streets.
The seeds are sometimes used to extract oil.
Historically, the wood of the tree was widely used to make umbrella handles, implements, toys, and Japanese chess pieces.