Shortia galacifolia

Flower 3-28-2022
Common Name: oconee bells 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Diapensiaceae
Native Range: Southeastern United States
Zone: 5 to 7
Height: 0.50 to 0.75 feet
Spread: 0.50 to 0.75 feet
Bloom Time: March to April
Bloom Description: White to pale pink
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Heavy Shade


Best grown in evenly moist, well-draining, rich, humusy, acidic loams in part shade to full shade. Plants are slow to establish. Seed propagation is possible, but challenging. Propagation by division is recommended. Hardy in Zones 5-7.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Shortia galacifolia, commonly called oconee bells, is a low-growing, evergreen, herbaceous perennial native to moist, forested gorges, slopes, rocky outcrops, ravines, and stream banks of the southern Appalachian Mountains of the United States. This species is often found growing in areas of disturbance where small landslides or trees felled by logging or wind open up the canopy. Mature plants will reach around 6-8" tall with a roughly equal width. Plants can also spread by stolons to form small colonies. The round, glossy, leaves can reach around 1-2" wide and have small, coarse teeth along their somewhat wavy margins. In winter the foliage takes on a dark, bronzy-red coloration. Solitary, 1" wide, slightly nodding, bell-shaped flowers bloom on 4-7" long, upright scapes in early to mid-spring. The petals are white or pale pink and have fringed edges.

The genus name Shortia honors Dr. Charles Wilkins Short (1794-1863) an American botanist and doctor most noted for his work cataloging the flora of his home state of Kentucky.

The specific epithet galacifolia means "leaves similar to Galax" (in this case, specifically referring to G. urceolata).

The common name oconee bells refers to Oconee County, South Carolina, part of the native range of this species.


No known pest or disease issues of note. This plant is rare in its native habitat and should only be purchased from reputable nurseries that do not collect plants from the wild.


A unique, small ground cover or specimen plant for woodland gardens or shady mixed borders.