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Toad lilies bring an exotic flair to any fall garden. While almost all other shade plants have finished blooming and are about to head to bed for the winter, toad lilies are just beginning to show off. Their flowers are beautiful, and the plants themselves have graceful arching habits along with often variegated or spotted foliage to accompany the dainty blooms.
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Part Sun, Shade
1 to 3 feet
1 to 2 feet
Toad lily plants are a welcome sight, especially in late summer. Blooms of the toad lily are such unique-looking flowers that you simply have to stop and check them out. The flowers are composed of 6 tepals, which are flower parts that look too similar to decide whether they are sepals or petals. In some species, these 6 tepals are fused at the base, creating a tubular blossom. These beautifully intricate blooms often come in whites, yellows, purples, or soft pinks, but are typically spotted in varying degrees of these colors, creating unique effects on the petals. The blooms are born much later than many other shade plants, starting in late summer into the fall.
The foliage of these plants can also be very beautiful. Most commonly, the foliage is held on arching stalks and comes in a rich medium green, but this Asian native can also be found in many variegated forms too. Many of the variegated varieties feature gold foliage with speckles or edges of another color. Look for the gold varieties to brighten up shady garden corners, even when not in bloom.
Toad Lily Care Must-Knows
Toad lily plants require little garden maintenance, but the most important factor to consider is water. These plants are native to the edges of woodlands and around creeks, performing best in rich, moist, well-drained soils. If your soils are too dry and heavy, consider adding peat moss and compost to your garden beds before planting. This will add nutrients as well as increase the water-holding capacity, creating a better home for toad lilies. Some species of toad lily can handle short droughts, but the foliage and overall health of the plants may begin to decline if the drought persists for too long. It is best to add supplemental water during dry spells.
You might be able to guess how much sun they prefer based on their native environment. These plants love morning sun and afternoon shade, but dappled shade throughout the day works just as well. A few varieties may be able to take full sun, but only if well watered. Even then, foliage may scorch. In too-dense shade, variegated and gold varieties may fade to more of a green color, and blooms may be less numerous.
Toad lilies are still a fairly recent introduction to the U.S. garden world. These plants all come from East Asia, and they weren't used in ornamental gardens until the mid-'90s when they became available at specialty nurseries. Since then, a few hybrids and cultivars have been created with larger blooms, unique patterns, and interesting foliage colors. This is definitely a plant to watch, as it still has a long way to go in the ornamental world.
More Varieties of Toad Lily
'White Towers' toad lily
Tricyrtis 'White Towers' bears pure-white flowers in late summer and fall on 2-foot-tall stems. Zones 4-8