Common Names: Oconee bell, Fringe-bell, Acony bell, Fringed galax.
Life Cycle: Hardy perennial.
Height: 6 inches (15 cm). Matt forming.
Native: Mountainous regions of Asia and the Appalachian Mountains in Northern America.
Growing Region: Zones 4 to 8.
Flower Details: Fringed pink. Solitary, or on short racemes. Tubular.
Foliage: Evergreen. Alternate. Rounded.
Sow Outside: Tiny seeds that often germinate in their capsules. Very difficult to grow from seed. Sow on the Surface. Fresh seed. Late summer.
Sow Inside: Germination time: one to two months. Put seeds on the top of a moist growing medium, place in a freezer bag, then stratify by refrigeration for three weeks. Maintain at ~63°F (17°C). Transplant outdoors following the last frost. Space at 10 inches (25 cm).
Requirements and care: Partial to full shade. Acidic soil. Moist organic soil, enhance with leaf mold. Provide mulch to keep soil cool. Regular watering during dry periods. Propagate: from cuttings at the start of summer or by dividing at the start of spring (though it is best not to disturb the plants once established).
Closely Related Species:
Miscellaneous: The northern American species Shortia galacifolia (Oconee bell) was thought to have become extinct from glacier activities but was rediscovered growing at low elevations in the mountains of North Carolina in the 19th century, and is now a commonly available. Asian species used to be classified as a spate genus, Schizocodon, as they have more winged seeds.
How to grow Shortia
When growing fringe bells and other members of the Shortia genus from seeds it is easiest to sow them outdoors from spring towards the end of summer.
Sow the seeds on the soil surface about 30 cm apart in a shaded or partially shady part of the garden. Shade is important as fringe Bells require a cool soil, additionally the soil should be acidic, and moist.
If starting Shortia plants indoors then they should be imbibed by placing the seeds (within soil) in a black bag, then placing in the fridge for three weeks. Seeds should then be sown out at a temperature of 15 to 18 Celsius; they normally take about one or two months to germinate.
Seedlings should be transplanted following the last frost of spring.
Caring for Shortia
These plants are not the easiest to look after. Shortia requires a cool soil so supply a leaf mold mulch. Water the plants in the growing season to keep the soil moist. Although they can be propagated by division it is best not to disturb Shortia plants, so if you require more plants take cuttings in the summer.