Fairybells is perhaps the most delightful heavy shade native perennial available in the United States. The lovely nodding yellow flowers with bright green foliage will lighten any deep shady area. The plant likes rich organic material in moist soil but once established it needs little care or attention. The plants spread out to form dense clumps of interesting slightly twisted green leaves and curly petaled bell-like flowers. Ideal for homes located in woodland areas, woodland gardens or any shaded place that has good airflow. We suspect that deer will eat them, (ours are protected just in case), and would recommend anyone with deer or rabbit problems to also protect their plants. Very hardy to zone 3.
Description of Fairybells (Uvularia grandiflora).
A hardy woodland perennial it is hardy to zone 3. In early spring it puts up smooth stems that can reach 1-2 feet (30-60 cm) in height and has a protective sheath at the base. Plants can produce many stems from the basal root. In immature plants the stems are non branching and do not flower. When fairybells mature the stems branch into two with one branch being sterile and producing only leaves and the other producing flowers. The leaves are light green in color up to 6" (15 cm) long and 2" (5 cm) wide lance shaped with a pointed tip and are arranged alternately on the stem. The base of the leaves are round and completely surround the stem (known as perfoliate) and have several distinct veins running parallel to the central vein of the leaf. The leaf edges are often rolled under with fine white hairs visible on the underside; leaves are often slightly twisted. The flowers are yellow up to 2" (5 cm) long bell shaped and drooping with six narrow tepals (not real petals but they look just like them) that are slightly twisted. This gives them a much more elegant look. Anywhere from 1-4 flowers are produce per stem, and the blooms are fairly long lasting, appearing anywhere from early spring to early summer depending on the location. Flowers are followed by 3 sectioned seed capsules that look like inverted pyramids with rounded corners that stay on the plant for long periods increasing their attractiveness.
No matter how much rainfall or moisture the leaves and flowers of Uvularia grandiflora typically have a wilted look. This is the normal appearance of the plant.
Location and care of Fairybells (Uvularia grandiflora).
The plant needs rich organic soil in a cool shady spot. This is not a plant for hotter climates unless a cool area in dense shade can be located. Fairybells need a rich well draining soil with plenty of organic material. It will grow in poorer soil but it will be stunted; for tall luxurious growth rich soil is essential. Does not like to dry out, moist soils in woodlands, woodland gardens or rock gardens is ideal. Likes shade, from partial to full shade, making it an ideal plant for woodland gardens, and gardens located in woodlands where not many bright flowers will grow. Also good in rock gardens provided there is shade. It is extremely hardy and will tolerate temperatures down to about -4°F (-20°C) .
Ensure that plants are watered very well during their first season to allow them to establish. Once this is done the plants need very little maintenance or care unless there is a drought. Once established it will spread slowly via rhizomes and create large clumps.
In many areas, especially dense shade or warmer areas the leaves will wilt down about a month after the fruits are set. This is common with many woodland perennials that grow fast before the leaves are set on the trees. The plants will return for the following spring.
Growing Fairybells (Uvularia grandiflora) from seed.
Seed needs to be fresh or stored under refrigeration very soon after collection for later sowing. (all our seed is refrigerated and from the previous year's seed crop). Best sown in late winter in a cool location, cold frame or cold greenhouse. We recommend using individual cell flats or individual pots to ensure ease of handling with seedlings. See general growing instructions for more details on seeding. Keep seeds in cool shaded area as they grow, keep moist. When large enough to plant out transplant to permanent position. In many cases plants may need to remain potted until the second spring when they should be planted out in early to mid spring after all frosts have passed.
Problems with Fairybells.
Slugs and snails may be a problem, especially in early spring.
Medicinal Uses of Fairybells (Uvularia grandiflora).
The root is used mostly as a poultice or salve for treating boils, wounds, swelling, ulcers and even toothaches. Has been reported as the best poultice for boils. Infusions of the root mixed with oil is used as a rub for sore muscles and backache as well as rheumatic pain.
Bellwort, large merrybells