The Toad Lilies

Tricyrtis (tri–kur_– tis)1 is a wonderful group of hardy herbaceous perennials belonging to the Convallariaceae family, whose star member is Convallaria majalis -- Lily-of the-Valley. Tricyrtis means `three humps’. If you look at the base of the outer petals, you will notice they are swollen or humped. The vernacular, Toad Lily, is a little more controversial. Supposedly the Tasaday Tribes would rub the juice of the flowers and leaves on their hands before setting out to collect `frogs’. This made their hands less slippery and more attractive to `frogs’. Here froggie, froggie, froggie.

Tricyrtis are native to China, Nepal, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, The Philippine Islands and Japan which has the greatest diversity. About 20 species generally are recognized with some new ones being discovered quite recently. Tricyrtis in Japanese is Hototogisu, which may translate to "cuckoo" for the spotted leaves and flowers.

Tricyrtis are rhizomatous and enjoy slowly spreading forming wonderful clumps in the shady garden. They thrive in moist humusy loam soils. I have grown a number of different taxa with mixed results. My soils are a little dry for Tricyrtis so I need to water them to keep them healthy. Flowering in some species is a bit unusual as the first flowers to bloom are at the very tip, blooming in sequence down the stem. Liatris is another plant that blooms from the tip towards the base. Most types make excellent cut flowers stem. I believe you should not cut off more than 50% of the stem as it seems to reduce their vigor if cut to the ground. Pests are few but those rascally rabbits can cause significant destruction. Some species and numerous cultivars of Tricyrtis include:
Tricyrtis latifolia is wonderful with its yellow flowers in early June-July. The glossy green leaves and terminal flowers liven up the shady early summer garden.

Tricyrtis macranthopsis
is a moist cliff dweller with gorgeous yellow flowers in the autumn. Although it can be grown on the flat ground, I think it is best cascading over boulders and low walls.

Tricyrtis maculata has attractive spotted leaves with nice near white, purple spotted flowers

Tricyrtis hirta blooms in September and October. Since they bloom so late, they can freeze before flowering. I usually get out and cover mine so I can enjoy them after that first early frosting.

`Alba’ has very nice white flowers

`Albomarginata’ has evenly white margined medium green leaves with handsome white with purple spotted

`Miyazaki is a wonderful vigorous late September –October cultivar with large white flowers with numerous
purple irregular spots. The flowers dance along the top of the arching stems.

`White Towers sports attractive vertical stems and white flowers with a hint of yellow at the base. A good grower.
Tricyrtis cultivars and hybrids include:

`Togen’ has never failed to bloom with white flowers dipped in amethyst at the tips, atop 24-30” stems in mid-
August through September.The glossy green perfoliate leaves are heat tolerant, remaining attractive
throughout the growing season. Vigorous.

`Sininome’ is a smaller Tricyrtis with dark green leaves and darker spots. The beautiful ruby violet and white,
lightly spotted flowers appear in Late August and well through September.

`Shimona’ is one of the tallest with white flowers handsomely speckled in deep ruby-wine.
`Golden Gleam’ has narrow hairy golden leaves with pale lavender darkly purple spotted narrow petaled
flowers. Nice color contract in the shady green garden.

`Kohaku’ is unique with its flared bell shaped white and yellow with burgundy spotted flowers that are more
pendant than most. A wonderful cultivar.

`White Flame’ has creamy centered green foliage on a 18-24” bushy plant. Light lavender flowers with purple

1 Dictionary of Plant Names `The pronunciation, derivation, and meaning of botanical names, and their common-name equivalents?f by Allen J. Coombes

If you have never lost a plant, you are not a gardener.

originally published 2001 V15 #2

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