Tricyrtis (Toad Lily)

Add uncommonly beautiful blooms and a graceful habit to the autumn shade garden

The Tricyrtis genus contains hardy herbaceous perennials, known as toad lilies, considered “stars” of the autumn shade garden. Late-season bloomers, toad lilies set uncommonly beautiful flowers in late summer to early fall, sometimes until the first heavy frost. The small flowers are borne on stately stems in terminal and/or axillary clusters along the entire stem. Orchid to lilylike, the starry yellow or white blooms typically have mottled coloration, often with spots or speckles in various shades of lavender, purple, or burgundy, and sometimes with yellow throats. Nectar-rich, the flowers beckon to bees, hummingbirds, and other beneficial insects.

Tricyrtis is a genus of about 16 to 20 species. T. hirta (Japanese toad lily [syn. T. japonica]), T. formosana (formosan toad lily), and their hybrids are the most common home garden varieties. The plants have a well-behaved clumping habit of attractive green foliage on tall, vertical to arching stems, which gives some cultivars a graceful, cascading appearance. Varieties with variegated or chartreuse foliage and/or dwarf habits are also available. Most toad lilies are stoloniferous and slowly spread by creeping rhizomes to form dense colonies over time but are not invasive. They also self-seed in optimum growing conditions.

Toad lilies grow best in full to dappled shade locations with humus-rich, slightly acidic soil. The soil must be kept moist but should be well-draining, not boggy. The plants do not tolerate dry soil but will tolerate sun in cool climates with adequate moisture. The plants are largely untroubled by disease or pests and easy to multiply by division. They need neither staking nor deadheading.