Trilliums, perennial woodland flowers, are a good choice for a home woodland garden. They are one of the first native and colorful spring flowers to bloom. The flowers can be a sparkling white, yellow or a deep maroon color with distinctively shaped leaves. In North America, there are about forty different species, so it is best to chose a variety which is native to your region. Some varieties are low to the ground growers while others can grow to about 18 inches tall.
While there are different species of trillium, they all have three petals, three leaves and three sepals. The very word “trillium” is related to the word for three in both Latin and Greek. In some regions, because of the relationship to the number three, trilliums are called the “trinity flower”.Trilliums are also known as wake-robins and or birthroot.
While trilliums, a member of the lily family of plants, can frequently be found in the shadows of deep woodlands, it is not a good idea to dig them for the home woodland garden. Many trilliums are protected in some states and some are even designated as endangered. Trilliums can be purchased at reputable garden centers and from online sources.
Trillium Planting Tips
Early to mid autumn is an excellent time to plant these woodland flowers; most species of the plant are hardy from Zone 3 to Zone 9. The plants spread by underground rhizomes; the plants can be divided. The can be planted from seeds, however, it can take upwards of five years for the plant to bloom. In the wild, mice and ants will carry the seeds helping to spread the plant.
Ants in particular have a unique relationship with the trillium. The seeds of the plant are coated with a substance, elaiosome; they ants enjoy and take the seeds back to their “hill. Once the ants have feasted on the elaiosome, the seeds are then deposited in the ant hills garbage pit where the seeds will eventually germinate.
Trilliums are a good choice for shady and moist areas of the yard and enjoy rich fertile soil similar to a woodland soil. They are attractive plants enhanced further when planted with native ferns, mayapples, trout lilies and other woodland species. They prefer an occasional application of compost or leaf mold and thrive in a neutral or slightly acidic soil.
Trilliums – Folklore and Medicine
For many Native American peoples of the eastern United States, the trillium was held as a sacred plant. The roots were often used to control bleeding during childbirth and for menstrual problems. In some Nations, warriors carried the dried root with them into battle believing it gave them extra strength and power.
The early settlers also used various parts of the plant as a herbal cure, principally to control bleeding and as a cure for gangrene.
Trilliums – Leave the Flowers to Enjoy Outside
Trilliums are generally not known to be bothered by insects or pests; although an occasional white tail deer could browse on the plants. Trilliums, as a word of caution, do not like to be picked; picking the flowers can seriously injure the plant and it could take years for the trillium to recover. The three leaves are the plants only source of nourishment.
Trilliums, however while challenging and not particularly common, offer many good opportunities for homeowners to enjoy a burst of native woodland color in the spring.