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Fairy Bells ~ Disporum Plant Care Guide


Disporum is a genus of about 20 species of perennial flowering plants, found in Asia from northern India to Japan. In the APG III classification system, it is placed in the family Colchicaceae.[1] The genus previously included five species in North America, but these have been separated as the genus Prosartes D.Don and moved to the family Liliaceae in accordance to differences in karyology and chemistry as well as results from molecular systematic investigations.[2]


Disporum viridescens in cultivation in England

Excluded species in North America

  • Disporum hookeri (Torr.) G.Nicholson – now Prosartes hookeri Torr. – Hooker’s fairy bells
  • Disporum lanuginosum (Michx.) G.Nicholson – now Prosartes lanuginosa (Michx.) D.Don – yellow mandarin
  • Disporum maculatum (Buckley) Britton – now Prosartes maculata (Buckley) A.Gray – spotted or nodding mandarin
  • Disporum smithii (Hook.) Piper – now Prosartes smithii (Hook.) Utech, Shinwari & Kawano – Smith’s fairy bells
  • Disporum trachycarpum (S.Watson) Benth. & Hook.f. – now Prosartes trachycarpa S.Watson – rough-fruited fairy bells


Fairy Bells

BY: Mary Pestel

Fairy bells (Disporum flavens), which comes from the gardens of Korea, is a shade-loving companion for hostas and ferns. In early spring, the plant produces a spectacular display of primrose-yellow, pendent blooms on tall, 30-inch stems.

The delicate, bell-shaped flowers are followed by black berries that rise above lance-shaped leaves. Fairy bells resembles its relative Solomon’s seal in plant habit, except that its flowers emerge at stem ends rather than the lower sides of the stem.

Plant Facts
Common name: Fairy bells
Botanical name: Disporum flavens
Plant type: Clump-forming, rhizomatous perennial
Height: 30 inches
Zones: 4 to 9
Family: Liliaceae

Growing conditions

  • Sun: Part to full shade
  • Soil: Well-drained soil, rich in organic matter
  • Moisture: Prefers moist soil


  • Mulch: Add a 1- to 2-inch layer of organic mulch such as compost or shredded leaves to help maintain even soil moisture.
  • Fertilizer: Apply a balanced fertilizer once per season if needed.
  • Pruning: Trim back foliage in late fall or early spring.

Pests and diseases

  • Fungal spots occasionally occur.
  • Slugs may attack foliage.


  • Sow seeds in fall.
  • Divide rhizomes in spring.

Other species

  • D. cantoniense bears dark red or white flowers in spring to early summer and deep red berries in fall. It grows 36 inches tall and is hardy in Zones 4 to 9.
  • D. hookeri bears cream flowers in spring and red-orange berries in fall. It grows 36 inches tall and is hardy in Zones 4 to 9.
  • D. sessile bears white flowers in late spring and black berries in early fall. It grows 24 inches tall and is hardy in Zones 4 to 9.

Garden notes

  • Plant fairy bells in a woodland setting or shady border with hostas, ferns, lungwort, toad lilies, and other shade-tolerant plants.
  • If summer temperatures are cool, foliage will turn an attractive yellow in fall.
  • Disporum flavens spreads slowly and is easy to maintain.

All in the family

  • The Lily family includes Oriental and Asiatic lilies, the flowering allium, trout lily, fritillaria, tulip, and trillium, plus the edible onion and garlic.

Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of Plant Delights Nursery


See Also …

Disporum sessile ‘Variegatum'(Variegated fairy bells)

Disporum sessile – (Thunb.)D.Don.



3 responses

  1. Cameo

    What are the threats to the Rough fruited Fairy-bell? Working on a school project please respond soon!(:

    March 6, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    • Cameo

      Rough Fruited Fairy-Bells survival*

      March 6, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    • give me till Sunday please, have to research question and will be gone out of town till then🙂

      March 6, 2014 at 6:22 pm

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