Tricyrtis (Toad Lily)

A late-season bloomer with a graceful habit and dainty but dazzling blooms for autumn shade

Tricyrtis is a genus that contains about 16 to 20 species of hardy herbaceous perennials, commonly called toad lilies, and often referred to as the “stars” of the autumn shade garden. Free-flowering, late-season bloomers, toad lilies set starry flowers from late summer into fall, sometimes until the first heavy frost. The blooms are borne singly or in clusters, either terminal clusters at the end of the stems or in axillary clusters along the entire stem. Charmingly unique, the flowers resemble orchids or lilies and offer stunning color contrasts with their burgundy, lavender, or purple spots and speckles set against a light background, which is typically white or yellow. Bees, hummingbirds, and other beneficial insects visit the nectar-rich blooms regularly, but the sprightly sprays can really spice up a fresh floral arrangement.

Japanese toad lily (T. hirta), formosan toad lily (T. formosana), and their hybrids are most often grown in home gardens. Toad lilies are stoloniferous and slowly spread by creeping rhizomes as well as by self-seeding (in optimal conditions), which makes them perfect for naturalized areas. But they are well-behaved, so they’re also great specimen and container plants. Some varieties have stately vertical stems that give the plants a somewhat airy attitude, while others have arching stems that give them a lovely cascading appearance. But either form is suitable for a wide range of garden uses. Just be sure to locate them close enough so their dainty but dazzling blooms can be fully appreciated.

Toad lilies are moisture-loving plants that grow best in dappled shade locations with humusy, slightly acidic, moist but well-draining soil. The plants tolerate full shade and even some sun in cool climates, given adequate moisture. The plants are generally pest and disease resistant.