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Trillium Trillium

Previously known as:

  • Trillium spp.
Phonetic Spelling
TRIL-ee-um
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Trilliums are native North American wildflowers in the lily family of which there are 50 flowering species. In North Carolina, they are found in the mountains with a few in the coastal and Piedmont areas. They are frequently found in the Appalachian Mountains and other parts of the southeastern United States, and some are also found in Asia

Trilliums emerge in March in the eastern United States and linger until the end of April. Blooms are seen about the first of April. The flowers all have 3 petals and 3 bracts of various colors, and the bracts are often mottled. Strictly speaking, trilliums have no above-ground stems or leaves. The stem is an extension of the underground rhizome, and the leaves are the bracts of the flower. The flowers can be held above the bracts or be found hiding under them.

There are two major groups of Trilliums- those with the flower held above the bracts on a stem and those without stems or sessile. Flowers can be large and showy or small in size. 

Trilliums are hardy from zones 5 to 8. They prefer moist, rich, loamy, or humus-rich soils with good drainage, a neutral pH, and partial to full shade.  It is best to plant trilliums in areas that do not have afternoon sun, and where they can be provided moisture during the growing season and drier soil when they are dormant. 

Trillium seedlings take 2 or 3 years to develop their characteristic three-leaf structure, so if you see long, thin leaves poking out of the soil around your trillium, don't pull them out! It may take 7 or more years for a trillium to grow from seed to a mature, blooming plant. Cheap trilliums are almost always poached from the wild; thereafter, it is best to purchase plants only from reputable dealers! Seeds are dispersed by ants and ground-nesting wasps, such as yellow jackets. Deer love to eat trilliums.

Use these plants in the shade garden for spring color, under trees, or in woodland sites. They are slow to spread but long-lived. Be sure to preserve trilliums that may be found in the wild!

Seasons of Interest:

Bloom:  Spring      Foliage:  Spring

Quick ID Hints:

  • the stem is an extension of the horizontal rhizome and produces tiny scale-like leaves
  • larger leaves are green or mottled and are the bracts of the flower
  • the leaves are simple, oval, and appear in whorls of three
  • blooms are solitary with 3 petals and 3 bracts
  • flower size varies depending on the species

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  No serious insect or disease problems.  Slugs and snails are occasional pests and leaf spots, rust and smut are occasional disease problems. It does not transplant well.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Part Sun-Part Shade Gardens
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • T. lancifolium 'Shotgun Wedding'
T. lancifolium 'Shotgun Wedding'
Tags:
#purple#showy flowers#poisonous#perennials#white flowers#pink flowers#native perennials#shade garden#herbaceous#NC native#well-drained soil#perennial flowers#rich soils#neutral ph#herbaceous perennials#native garden#spring interest#pollinator plant#native wildflower#wildflower garden#naturalized area#forb#NC Native Pollinator Plant#loamy soils tolerant#partial shade tolerant#HS302#shade flowers#Audubon#heavy shade tolerant#woodland garden#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • T. lancifolium 'Shotgun Wedding'
T. lancifolium 'Shotgun Wedding'
Tags:
#purple#showy flowers#poisonous#perennials#white flowers#pink flowers#native perennials#shade garden#herbaceous#NC native#well-drained soil#perennial flowers#rich soils#neutral ph#herbaceous perennials#native garden#spring interest#pollinator plant#native wildflower#wildflower garden#naturalized area#forb#NC Native Pollinator Plant#loamy soils tolerant#partial shade tolerant#HS302#shade flowers#Audubon#heavy shade tolerant#woodland garden#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Trillium
    Family:
    Melanthiaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Has been used medicinally through the ages as astringents, coagulants, expectorants, and uterine stimulants.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern North America and Asia
    Distribution:
    The Appalachian Mountains and the Southeastern United States
    Wildlife Value:
    Deer will browse trilliums
    Dimensions:
    Height: 1 ft. 0 in. - 1 ft. 6 in.
    Width: 0 ft. 7 in. - 1 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Native Plant
    Perennial
    Poisonous
    Wildflower
    Habit/Form:
    Creeping
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil pH:
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Capsule
    Fruit Description:
    Six sectioned reddish berry-like capsule up to 1.25 inches with small brown seeds each with a protein-rich fleshy elaiosome attached to attract ants to disperse the seed.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Solitary
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Saucer
    Flower Petals:
    2-3 rays/petals
    Flower Description:
    Flowers are solitary with 3 petals and 3 bracts. The petals can be yellow, pink, purple, or white and the bracts can be green or mottled. Flower size varies as to species.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Variegated
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Whorled
    Leaf Shape:
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Description:
    The stem is just an extension of the horizontal rhizome and produces tiny, scale-like leaves (cataphylls). The larger green and sometimes mottled "leaves" are actually bracts of the flower. They are oval and in whorls of three.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    The stem is an extension of the underground rhizome and is generally green.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Walkways
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Shade Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Specimen
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Heavy Shade
    Problems:
    Poisonous to Humans
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Unknown
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Unknownn
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Fruits
    Roots