Seeing a flash of banana yellow on a bright green stem in the early spring just makes you want to shout. It’s a lovely sight for winter-sore eyes. Large-flowered bellwort, also called merrybells (Uvularia grandiflora), is a native woodland perennial that brings the best of spring to the shadiest corners of your yard. Showy yellow flowers appear in April; the blossoms hang like dangling bells from arching stems. Light green leaves have an interesting twisted appearance during bloom time. Later they uncurl. If many merrybells are planted together, the foliage creates a pretty, light-colored ground cover for those hard-to-fill shady spots.
Common name: Large-flowered bellwort, merrybells
Botanical name: Uvularia grandiflora
Plant type: Perennial
Zones: 3 to 9
Height: 1 to 2 feet
• Sun: Part shade to full shade
• Soil: Well-drained, neutral to alkaline
• Moisture: Average
• Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil.
• Pruning: None needed.
• Fertilizer: None needed.
• By seed or by division.
Pests and diseases
• Susceptible to rust and leaf spot.
• Vulnerable to snails and slugs.
• Merrybells makes an excellent ground cover under large deciduous trees or against a north wall.
• Use Uvularia grandiflora in woodland gardens or in any shade garden. Under the right conditions, it will slowly naturalize.
• No cultivars available.
All in the family
• There are just a handful of Uvularia species, all of them from North America. Sessile-leaf bellwort (U. sessilifolia, also called wild oats) is smaller and more delicate than large-flowered bellwort, with a lighter flower.
(Text by Elizabeth Noll, photo of Uvularia grandiflora courtesy of the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden.)