This perennial makes an elegant addition to shady gardens, especially when they begin blooming later in the growing season.
Toad lilies bring an elegant flair to any fall garden. While almost all other shade plants have finished blooming and are about to wind down for the winter, toad lilies are just beginning to show off. Their speckled flowers are beautiful, and the plants themselves have graceful arching habits along with often variegated or spotted foliage to accompany the dainty blooms.
Toad lily plants are a welcome sight, especially in late summer. The blooms are such unique-looking flowers that you simply have to stop and check them out. The flowers 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 appear much later than many other shade plants, starting in late summer and going into the fall.
The foliage of these plants can also be pretty. Most commonly, the leaves are a rich green hue, but this Asian native can also be found in 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 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 soil is too dry and heavy, consider adding 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 the longer the drought lasts. It's 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, new hybrids and cultivars have been created that feature larger blooms, unique patterns, and interesting foliage colors.
More Varieties of Toad Lily
Tricyrtis hirta is soft and fuzzy with hairs. Its arching stems bear clusters of upright flowers. The orchid-like blooms are white with dark purple spots. It grows to 3 feet tall. Zones 4-9
Tricyrtis 'Tojen' bears unspotted lavender flowers in early fall on tall, 3-foot stems. It's more vigorous than many other toad lilies. Zones 4-8
Toad Lily Companion Plants
Used often as a groundcover or an edging plant, liriope is popular for good reason. It stays green year-round in many climates, produces pretty blue or white flowers, and is about as tough a plant as you'll hope to meet. Its dense tufts of almost evergreen, broadly grassy leaves are often striped. Stiff stems bear tight spikes of tiny blue or white bells, similar to those of grape hyacinth. It is best protected from drying winds in rich, well-drained soil that retains moisture.
Anemones are lovely, delicate flowers that dance atop slender stems, giving them their poetic common name—windflower. Depending on the type, anemones bloom in spring, summer, or through fall with pretty, slightly cupped flowers in rose, pink, or white rising over distinctive, deeply lobed foliage. Plants grow best in partial shade but tolerate full sun in Northern regions. In some cases, you may need to divide plants frequently to prevent them from overtaking neighboring perennials.
Alliums may be in the onion family, but these top-notch garden plants are anything but utilitarian vegetable-garden residents. Among the most carefree bulbs you can grow, alliums bloom in a wide range of colors (including shades of yellow, white, pink, and purple), seasons, and sizes (from inch-wide heads to volleyball-size bloom clusters). Alliums offer whimsical structures and great textural contrasts unique to the late-spring bulb garden. Clustered florets in a globe-shape flower head are held aloft on a thick stem. In the species, loose bouquets of flowers sprout from clustered, hollow stems. The larger allium flower heads are fun focal points for dried arrangements. Plant alliums in any well-drained garden soil in full sun. The smaller types are especially well suited for growing in rock gardens. Plant a few larger hybrids in a pot for a flowering surprise in early summer.
Asters get their name from the Latin word for "star," and their flowers are indeed the superstars of the fall garden. Some types of this native plant can reach up to 6 feet with flowers in whites and pinks but also, perhaps most strikingly, in rich purples and showy lavenders. Not all asters are fall bloomers. Extend the season by growing some of the summer bloomers as well. Some are naturally compact; tall types that grow more than 2 feet benefit from staking or an early season pinching or cutting back by about one-third in July to keep the plant more compact.