Dog’s-tooth violet is known by a host of common names that include yellow trout lily, yellow fawn lily, and yellow adder’s tongue. No matter the name, this native woodland wildflower (which, surprisingly, is not a member of the violet family) is a harbinger of spring in the shade garden. It spreads slowly to form colonies of mottled strappy foliage—similar in appearance to the skin of a spotted trout—below stems of nodding lilylike flowers in sunny yellow.
Tuck this tiny spring bloomer into shade gardens, woodland plantings, and shaded areas of rock gardens where it will gracefully greet spring. Thriving in moist or wet soil, it also grows well along stream banks and beside ponds. Plant it on stream banks to help prevent erosion.
Pair dog's-tooth violet with other spring-blooming woodland wildflowers for a springtime flower show. Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginiana), trillium, and jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) are all great garden companions. Spring-blooming woodland wildflowers often retreat underground in the heat of summer. Plant them alongside perennials that will mask the empty garden spots the spring ephemerals leave behind. Ferns, astilbe, coral bells (Heuchera sanguinea), and hosta are all good mid- and late-season perennial companions for dog's-tooth violet.
Dog's-Tooth Violet Care Must-Knows
Dog's-tooth violet grows best in part shade or shade and moist soil rich in organic matter. Plant these tiny corms 2 to 3 inches deep and 4 to 5 inches apart in fall. This is a deeper planting depth than you might expect for such a small bulb, but it is necessary for this plant to overwinter well.
Dog's-tooth violet blooms in early to mid-spring. Expect the perennial's mottled, deep-green foliage to die back in midsummer and reappear the following spring. Plants will maintain their foliage longer in moist soil.
More Varieties of Dog's-Tooth Violet
'Pagoda' dog's tooth violet
This cultivar is a cross between two native North American species that produces up to five golden-yellow flowers on each stem. The petals on Erythronium 'Pagoda' reflex to reveal a reddish ring at the base and bloom in mid- to late spring. The leaves are thick and veined in whitish green. It grows 1 foot tall. Zones 3-8
'Purple King' dog's tooth violet
Erythronium dens-canis 'Purple King' bears reflexed flowers that resemble large cyclamen, with their fuchsia coloring and reddish-brown-throated base. It grows 5 inches tall. Zones 3-8
Erythronium americanum is a North American native wildflower that produces clusters of golden flowers reversed in purplish brown on leafless stems sprouting from mottled foliage. It grows 10 inches tall. Zones 3-8