This is my favorite time of the year and it coincides with the blooming of one of my favorite genera of wildflowers, the Trilliums.  Over the years I’ve gathered a diverse collection of these beauties and right now they’re all flowering beautifully.

T cuneatum

Trillium cuneatum, a.k.a Whippoor-Will Flower, Cuneate Trillium, Large Toadshade, Purple Toadshade, Bloody Butcher and Sweet Betsy is the largest of the eastern sessile species. Mine is being invaded by some Bloodroot that needs to be pushed back a bit.

T erectum

Trillium erectum, a.k.a. Red Trillium, Wake-Robin, Stinking Benjamin, Stinking Willie, Purple Trillium, Squawroot, Birthwort and American True Love can have very distinct local populations and a high degree of variability. For example…

Trillium erectum var. album is a white form of the species which when I purchased it the seller was calling it a “beige” variety.

This Trillium erectum var. album is more distinctly yellow. See the Buddha watching over the beehives in the background? I haven’t noticed if the honeybees visit Trilliums.

T flexipes

Trillium flexipes, a.k.a. Bent Trillium or White Trillium can look enough like T. erectum var. album that I need to key this one out to see if I really got what I was paying for.

T grandiflorum

Trillium grandiflorum, a.k.a. White Trillium, Great White Trillium, Large-flowered White Trillium and White Wake-Robin is probably the best known and loved species. Some of the forests around here have patches carpeted with their white blooms each spring. I have several plants throughout my garden and they show a range of size in the plants and flowers.

T luteum

Trillium luteum, a.k.a. Yellow Trillium, Yellow Toadshade and Wax Trillium is another large species with upright flowers. This species hybridizes with T. cuneatum in the wild so I’ve been thinking about trying to cross them on my own and see what I get.

T recurvatum

Trillium recurvatum, a.k.a. Prairie Trillium, Toadshade or Bloody Noses (!) was the only species in the garden when we moved here way back when. The flowers are nice but I think I’d grow it even if it didn’t bloom just for that fantastic mottled leaf.

T sessile

Trillium sessile, a.k.a. Sessile Trillium, Toad Trillium or Toadshade usually has darker flowers than this but the other characteristics are right so I think it might just be a paler variety.

When I started collecting Trillium I purchased Frederick and Roberta Case’s excellent monograph on the genus. That is where I got some of the information, especially the different common names above. If you’re growing Trilliums or thinking of getting some I highly recommend it as a reference. It helped me, for example, save myself the heartbreak of trying to grow the incomparable Painted Trillium, T. undulatum here where conditions are completely unsuitable.

Do you have Trilliums in your garden? I can’t say enough good things about them if you’ve got a shady, woodland setting.

5 responses to this post.

  1. What an amazing collection of trillium. I have one species which I think occurs naturally and grows amidst the other woodland flowers. Thank you for sharing.


  2. What a beautiful collection! I have seen Trilliums in magazines and admired them but they are not common plants even in the UK. I have a shady woody area but the underlying soil is limy and not acid so I don’t know if they would thrive. It gets hot and dries out in the summer too. Amelia


    • There are Trilliums that prefer alkaline soils and I believe grandiflorum is one of the more adaptable species. They do go dormant in summer but it may be after your heat sets in so I couldn’t say whether they’d avoid that. They also require a period of cold at least near freezing to break that dormancy. I’d say if there’s a chance they’ll grow it’s worth a try if you can find any.


      • I’m trying to make the bottom part into a more natural woodland with spring interest. It was badly overgrown and covered by an ivy desert but I am getting on top of the ivy. This autumn will be my biggest push and I would like to try the grandiflorums. Amelia

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