Entrancing Tricyrtis

The closer I look at a plant, the deeper I fall in love.” – David L Culp, author, “The Layered Garden”

I’ve never seen a patch of Tricyrtis like this before and it was stunning! The clump of toad lilies, the unfortunate and who-knows-why common name of Tricyrtis, was growing near a small creek in the 25-acre Quarryhill Botanical Garden located in Glen Ellen, Calif. It is one of 20,000 wild-origin plants from Asia planted in the garden.

Quarryhill was a stop on the Western Region conference of the Amercian Conifer Society. According to the garden’s brochure, its mission is to “advance the conservation, study and cultivation of the flora of Asia…Many specimens in the garden face extinction as a result of habitat loss in their native regions. The wild origin of the plants at Quarryhill sets the garden apart, ensuring that it is not only a beautiful setting, but a modern-day ark, preserving species that are disappearing at an alarming rate.” In fact, the garden has some of the largest collections of species maples (third) and camellias (ninth) in the world. During the Quarryhill visit, I overheard one of my conifer comrades exclaim, “When I go home, I’ll look at my garden differently.”

Tricyrtis are perennials that grow in shade or part shade and need rich, moist soil. I attempted unsuccessfully to grow them in my garden, but I didn’t have them in a moist enough environment; they succumbed to thirst after their second year. I think I’ll try again, however. They offer orchid-like blooms that start in the fall (these photos were taken mid-October). One source indicated that the blooms attract butterflies and another source said they make good cut flowers. Frost hardy, Tricyrtis will thrive in Zones 4-9. Typically, Tricyrtis grow 2-3 feet tall. New cultivars are being developed ranging in color from pink, maroon, purple, yellow and white.

Wouldn’t they look lovely with hostas, ferns and other woodland plants?