Jenny Lee, Chicago Botanic Garden
April 12, 2001
Here's a favorite flower of Beth Botts, garden writer for the Chicago Tribune's Home&Garden section.
Why she loves it: In September, when blooms are fading and days grow short, toad lilies have delicate, small, spotted, orchidlike purple flowers for several weeks. I planted them by a path where they cheer me every morning on my way to work. They thrive in my shady garden, and their 3-foot-tall stalks with lance-shaped leaves add interesting foliage texture all through the season.
About Tricyrtis: Native to Asia, this useful genus of shade perennials is not yet common in the U.S. but is becoming more available in catalogs and garden centers. There are several species and cultivars; Tricyrtis formosana and Tricyrtis hirta "Miyazaki" do well in the Chicago area.
What it likes: Shade and moist, well-drained sun with plenty of organic matter. Hardy to Zone 5 in protected spots, but an early frost will damage leaves and flowers.
Insider information: A Chicago Botanic Garden evaluation of toad lily species and cultivars for the Chicago region is available at www.chicagobotanic.org/downloads/planteval_notes/no16_tricyrtis.pdf. Or call 847-835-5440.
Best buds: Plant it with ferns; astilbe; hostas; spring-blooming woodland wildflowers, such as bloodroot and trillium; or shade-tolerant ground covers such as lamium.