A Shady Character – Toad Lily (Tricyrtis)

Outstanding Features:
Toad Lily is a shade-loving perennial in the lily family adorned with small, beautiful, orchid-like flowers in the fall. Never heard of Toad Lily? It’s not a common plant, but one that’s definitely worth seeking in the garden center or online. Choose a plant according to flower color, shape, or time of bloom. Tricyrtis hirta blooms in October and won a blue ribbon for me at the North Carolina State Fair. There are toad lilies only 5 inches tall as well as hybrids over 4 feet tall. Elegant foliage on arching or upright stems, either variegated or yellow, make Toad Lily a star in any shade garden.

Toad Lily-by

Uses in the Garden:
Toad Lily is best observed close-up, so plant it at the front of the border where its intricate flowers can be best appreciated. Varieties with arching stems are gorgeous weeping over a wall. Toad Lily blends well with any fern, epimedium, hosta, astilbe, helleborus, solomon’s seal, carex, liriope, and heuchera. The gold and variegated-leaf selections blend beautifully with blue medium-height hosta.

How to Grow:
Be sure to give Toad Lily some space as it usually grows to at least 2 feet tall and wide. It’s adaptable and easy to grow, requiring moist shade, acidic soil and mulch. Once established, it will tolerate drought conditions. Heat and humidity do not seem to bother most varieties. Toad Lily appreciates organic foods like fish emulsion at half strength. It can be propagated by root cuttings, stem cuttings, or division. Happily, some varieties will politely self-seed into your garden. The plant is favored by slugs and deer, so make sure to provide protection in your garden.

An avid shade plant enthusiast, Rita Mercer gardens under majestic oaks in Apex, N.C. Contact her for shade-gardening advice or take a virtual tour of her garden at

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