Ten Things to Know about Trilliums

Trillium gradiflorum - Large Flowered Trillium

Large Flowered Trillium  (Trillium gradiflorum)

1. There are 39 native trilliums in the U.S. All trillium species belong to the Liliaceae (lily) family. Native to temperate regions of North America and East Asia, the genus ‘Trillium’ has 49 species, 39 of them are native to various areas across the United States.

2. The plants are extremely long-lived. Trilliums are relatively easy to grow from their rhizomatous root but slow to develop and spread. To make up for it, the plants can live for up to 25 years.

3. Early season sunlight is needed. Even though it is a woodland species, the dormant plant needs to be warmed by the early spring sun. It’s best to avoid planting them in a location that never gets sun (such as the north side of a building).

4. Trilliums are either sessile (the flower sits directly on top of its whorled leaves) or pedicellate (the flower is raised on a short stalk). Sessile trilliums usually have mottled foliage, while pedicellate trilliums have showier flowers.

Yellow Wakerobin (Trillium luteum)

5. Traditional names for trilliums: Toadshade (for its resemblance to a toad-sized umbrella), Wakerobin (for its appearance with the first robins), and Birthroot (for its medicinal uses during childbirth).

6. Red Trillium (Trillium erectum) has no nectar and is pollinated by flies (Diptera) and beetles (Coleoptera). The petals of the flowers exude an odor that attract carion flies and beetles which pollinate the flower.

7. Trillium grandiflorum is pollinated by Hymenoptera insects, including honey bees, bumblebees, and wasps.

Red Trillium (Trillium erectum)

8. Trilliums are not very competitive. It’s best to avoid planting them with very aggressive species.

9. Seed germination is ‘a process’. The trillium flower produces a fruit, the seeds of which are spread about by ants and mice. Through the summer the seeds is kept warm and moist for 90 or more days. This conditioning is followed by germination when a root will emerge from the seed. In general, trillium seedlings do not produce a green leaf during their first season. The sprouted seeds are then kept damp and cool for 90 to 120 days. The seedling develops in the dark, underground, for almost a year before sending a green leaf up to find the light.

10. Trillium may die-back in the heat of summer, but don’t cut them back. Picking a trillium flower does not kill the plant but damage can result if the green leaves are taken as well. If the leaves are taken you won’t see renewed growth until the following year – which may not happen at all depending on the size of the rhizome. This fact makes the colonies susceptible when they are heavily browsed by deer. Plants will die out after several years of repeated browsing.

Bonus #11!  For best results, mulch with leaf litter. This woodland native loves a leaf covering that replicates its forest home and keeps the ground tempreature and moisture ‘just right’ (one more reason to keep those leaves in your yard).

 

A variety of Trillium species are available at PrairieNursery.com

 

7 Comments

  1. Eva Norrman Sandberg.

    Thank’s for good information.

  2. Matthew

    Trilliums will always be one of my favorite native woodland wildflowers. I have several species established, if the rabbits would just leave them alone. I love the trillium luteums for their wonderful scent. Their wonderful fragrance reminds me of lemons. For some reason I also have more luck establishing sessile trilliums versus pedicellate ones here in the Piedmont of the Southeast.

  3. Geoffrey Kloster

    Will they grow under a pine tree? Large tree with lowest branch about 8′ above ground. Always shaded but open to light. Lots of pine needles.

    Geoff

    1. mary (Post author)

      Geoff, I don’t know for sure about your situation. I have seen them growing near/around pines, but in a mixed hardwood and pine environment. Also, have seen photos of trillium online, with pine needles on the ground. So I think it’s possible. But maybe something you’d just have to try and see if it works.

  4. mary (Post author)

    Clarification: The sale is for five days, but they are available to order online throughout the season. Click on the images and that will take you to the page on our website.

  5. Ginny Post

    When we moved to this property more than 20 years ago it was heavily wooded except for a huge area of blackberry canes. These required removal with heavy machinery. Prior to the event, I dug 15 buckets of trillium grandiflorum and replanted them in the newly established shade garden. What a grand way to start each spring.

    1. mary (Post author)

      Ginny, they are a sight to behold! Glad to hear that you had a successful transplanting.

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