What makes the toad lily (Tricyrtis formosana) a choice perennial? It has delicate, orchid-like flowers on the tips of graceful, arching stems, and it flowers in part to full shade in the fall.
It needs very little care as long as it's planted in moist, humus-rich soil. Plant where you can see the flowers close up-it's easy to miss its beauty from a distance. Depending on the cultivar, its flowers are white, pink, purple, or yellow.
Common name: Toad lily
Botanical name: Tricyrtis formosana (syn. T. stolonifera)
Plant type: Rhizomatous perennial
Height: 32 inches
Zones: 5 to 9
- Sun: Part to full shade
- Soil: Humus-rich, well-drained soil
- Moisture: Average to wet soil
- Mulch: Toad lily benefits from both summer and winter mulch, but winter mulch is especially important in cooler climates.
- Fertilizer: None required as long as soil contains enough humus
- Pruning: In spring, remove winter-damaged foliage.
- ‘Amethystina' (pictured above) has lavender-blue flowers with white centers and dark red spots. Grows 24 to 36 inches tall. Zones 6 to 9.
- ‘Samurai' has gold-edged leaves all season. In late summer and early fall it produces purple flowers with dark purple spots and yellow centers. Grows 18 inches tall. Zones 6 to 8. (It might grow in Zone 5 with adequate winter protection.)
- Combine toad lily with ferns, hosta, Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis), Solomon's seal (Polygonatum spp.), and other woodland, shade-loving perennials.
- It's tolerant of some sun in cooler climates.
- Taller cultivars might need staking.
- Toad lily declines in dry soils.
Pests and diseases
- Slugs and snails occasionally attack the plant in spring.
- Sow ripe seeds in a container. Grow seedlings in a cold greenhouse for the first year in colder regions.
- Divide larger plants in spring.
All in the family
- Tricyertis hirta (syn. T. japonica) is the same size (32 inches tall) as T. formosana but is hardy to Zone 4. White flowers with purple spots appear in late summer to early fall.
- Tricyertis latifolia (syn. T. bakeri) is also similar in size, but blooms earlier than T. formosana or T. hirta. Yellow to green-yellow flowers emerge early to midsummer. Zones 5 to 9.
- The Liliaceae family includes garden lilies, tulips, and trout lilies, as well as toad lilies.
Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder