by Karen Weiland, Advacned Master Gardener
Tricyrtis is a genus in the lily family more commonly known as toad lilies. They are native to Asia, and of the sixteen to twenty species, only two (and their hybrids) are commonly grown as garden plants. They are an herbaceous perennial that will lend a good bit of charm to your garden with their unique flowers and ability to bloom in the shade. The small, orchid-like, white to pale lilac flowers sport heavy purple spotting and the unbranched stems grow in an arching fashion to two to three feet tall. Depending on the cultivar and the weather, most bloom in September to October for about three to four weeks. The seed capsules that follow the flowers will eventually dry out and split open to release the small, papery seeds.
They are easily grown in average, medium to wet, well-drained soil in part to full shade. They like consistent moisture but not saturated like a bog. With insufficient moisture, the plant may go dormant prematurely and not bloom. There is no need to stake or dead-head these plants. There are no serious pest or disease issues related to this plant but occasionally slugs can be a problem and rabbits like to snack on them. A clump can be divided in the spring and be ready to bloom by the fall.
This plant does well in shady borders, woodland and naturalized areas, looking particularly nice grown in masses. A grouping of toad lilies planted around the base of a hard scape, such as a bird bath, forms a very nice arching display. Plant toad lilies where they can be easily seen up close as the beauty and detail of the tiny flowers become lost at a distance.
As always, Happy Gardening!
More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.
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