Trillium, also called wood lily or wake-robin, is admired for its 3½-inch-diameter three-petal flowers. Its leaves and sepals also come in groups of three. The large white flowers develop a pink tint as they age, then give way to capsules that look like berries. In the wild, this springtime bloomer thrives in moist, humus-rich soil and can be found in the thickets of Quebec and Ontario, the woodlands of Alabama and Georgia, and in between.
Trillium in the Landscape
Trillium is particular about how it's grown, but when planted successfully and left undisturbed it will spread gradually. Plant this graceful perennial in a shady spot where you can enjoy its spring blossoms. This plant will spread very slowly to form a colony or clump, so make sure it has room to expand. Virginia bluebells, ferns, and yellow violets make excellent woodland planting companions.
Trillium is threatened in its native habitat due to the overly enthusiastic harvesting of wild plants. So buy only from reputable dealers (local or online) that specify their plants are propagated from cultivated stock.
Trillium Care Must-Knows
Trillium grows best in part shade or full shade. It likes moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil, a condition that when met encourages the plant to gradually multiply and spread. (It does not like to be transplanted.) In spring, plant specimens about 4 inches deep, then water regularly during the first year after planting. Each fall, spread a mulch of rotted leaves over the plant's root zone.
This woodland gem sometimes requires 5 or more years in the same growing site before blooming, a worthwhile wait. It often dies down to the ground by late summer, even earlier in areas with dry soil. Pair trillium with ferns, hostas, astilbes, and other perennials that will cover the bare space left in your garden when the plant goes dormant.
More Varieties of Trillium
Trillium grandiflorum 'Flore Pleno' has 3-inch-wide double white flowers that fade to pink. It grows 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide. Zones 4-7
Trillium grandiflorum has 2- to 3-inch-wide flowers that fade to pink. Each is composed of three wavy-edged petals above dark green foliage. Great white trillium may reach almost 2 feet tall and is hardy in Zones 4-7.
Trillium undulatum shows off white flowers that are often decorated with a red eye. It grows 15 inches tall and wide. Zones 4-7
Trillium stamineum is a unique species that bears burgundy-red flowers with narrow petals over silver-mottled foliage. It grows 15 inches tall and wide. Zones 4-7
Trillium discolor bears small creamy-yellow flowers with narrow petals over silver-splashed foliage. It grows 12 inches tall and wide. Zones 4-7
Trillium underwoodii is a spectacular selection with silvery leaves speckled in green and rich, dark red flowers in early spring. It grows 8 inches tall and wide. Zones 5-9
Trillium flexipes is a graceful species that has white, 2 1/2-inch-wide flowers in early spring and large dark green leaves. It grows 2 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-7
Trillium luteum offers yellow flowers and silver-mottled foliage in early spring. It grows 15 inches tall and wide. Zones 4-8
Plant Trillium With:
Phlox are one of those bounteous summer flowers any large sunny flowerbed or border shouldn't be without. There are several different kinds of phlox. Garden and meadow phlox produce large panicles of fragrant flowers in a wide assortment of colors. They also add height, heft, and charm to a border. Low-growing wild Sweet William, moss pinks, and creeping phlox are effective as ground covers, at the front of the border, and as rock and wild garden plants, especially in light shade. These native gems have been hybridized extensively especially to toughen the foliage against mildew problems; many recent selections are mildew-resistant. Phlox need amply moist soil for best overall health.
Barrenwort is a rare plant -- one that thrives in the dry shade beneath shallow-rooted trees! It spreads at a moderate rate, forming a graceful, dense groundcover. Almost as a bonus, it also produces dainty flowers shaped like a bishop's miter -- prompting another common name, bishop's cap. Its colorful foliage dangles on slender stalks, providing yet another moniker: fairy wings.
Foamflower is a plant for all seasons. In spring, the charming flowers light up even places under pines in dry shade. Its evergreen lobed leaves, in a wide assortment of shapes, patterns, and markings, form healthy clumps that look good all growing season long. Use them at the front of borders as edgings or accents, or plant them close as groundcovers in lightly shaded woodland gardens. High-humus soils are excellent, but foamflower is easy to please.