Disporum cantoniense 'Night Heron'
Common Name: fairy bells 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Colchicaceae
Zone: 5 to 10
Height: 3.00 to 5.00 feet
Spread: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to July
Bloom Description: Greenish-white
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful
Fruit: Showy
Tolerate: Heavy Shade


Best grown in organically rich, humusy, consistently moist but well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Best in part shade locations. Plants will slowly spread over time by rhizomes to form colonies, but are not considered to be invasive.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Disporum cantoniense, commonly known as Canton fairy bells, is a clump-forming, rhizomatous perennial that typically grows to 3-5' tall on bamboo-like stems clad with lanceolate leaves (2-6” long). It is native to forests and thickets from Nepal to central and southern China south into Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Small, bell-shaped, white to greenish-yellow flowers bloom singly or in few-flowered umbels at the stem ends in late spring to early summer. Flowers are followed by showy, purple-black berries that ripen in early autumn.

Some authorities are now calling this plant Disporum longistylum.

Genus name comes from the Greek words dis meaning two and spora meaning seed for the two ovules in each chamber of the ovary.

Specific epithet is in reference to Canton, China.

‘Night Heron’ features a showy spring growth of dark purple stems clad with dusky purple lance-shaped leaves (to 5” long) in a manner suggestive of the plumage colors of the black-crowned night heron which has a world-wide distribution including both China and North America. Tan bracts at the stem nodes provide interesting contrast to the darker stems. Plants are deciduous in USDA Zones 5-6, but semi-evergreen to evergreen in USDA Zones 7-10. Drooping pale yellow flowers bloom from the leaf axils in April-May in sharp contrast to the dark purple foliage. Some modest additional flowering occurs in summer. Leaves gradually mature to greenish purple by summer. Flowers are followed by showy, purple-black berries that ripen in late summer.

Regardless of the resemblance of the spring foliage colors of this plant to the plumage of night herons, some say the cultivar name actually or additionally honors Heronswood Nursery of Kingston, Washington where this cultivar was developed and introduced.


No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for fungal leaf spots and slugs.


Woodland or shade gardens. Also effective in part shade areas of borders. Containers.