Sunday, September 14th, 2008...12:02 am



                                                Photo by ER Post

Is there anyone who doesn’t love Trilliums?

When I planted one in my son’s garden and it bloomed the next spring, my granddaughter phoned me to ask what the fairy flower was that was blooming. A friend with a wonderful woodland garden told me that it was her love of Trilliums that started her gardening.

Towards finding out more about Trilliums, TheGardenLady recently attended a lecture given by John Gyer entitled “The Secret Life of Trilliums.” It turns out that if you want to plant Trillium seeds and get flowers from those seeds, you have to wait 8 years.  It takes 2 years just to make a first leaf.

So Mr. Gyer studied what was going on during those 8 years in the life of the plant both underground and when it sent up the stems and leaves that finally led to the plant putting forth flowers. If any gardening group would like to hear this fascinating talk, you can contact John Gyer at

John Gyer sells his Trillium plants but not until they bloom so that he knows what type of Trillium they are. He sells them at various Arboretums or through plant societies. When I asked him where to buy Trilliums that are healthy specimens, he wrote the following.

First – the trillium that are sometimes seen in garden stores or in pulp nursery catalogues – Spring Hill (if it still exists) and its like – are wild dug and generally abused.  Usually they are without feeder roots and badly dried.  Survival is low at best.  Potted trillium in most large nurseries are wild dug rhizomes that have been potted in over-wet and (during display) over -heated potting medium.  Survival may be higher than bagged rhizomes, but several years are needed for recovery of the feeder roots.

A few nurseries that ship bare root rhizomes do take care that they are in good condition when shipped.  Two that you can check are Russ Graham (a source for Western species) in Salem OR.  I do not have his address handy but I believe his business is Russell Graham, Purveyor of Plants.  I know him through the TRILLIUM – L internet discussion list.  and Plant Delights – Tony Avent’s garden  He is not cheap, but he does grow trillium from seed. 

So far as I know Garden in the Woods – New England Wild Flower Society at Framingham MA sells trillium at their annual sale, but does not ship.

More local sources for – at least limited numbers include Henry Foundation for Botanical Research, 801 Stony Lane Gladwyne PA; phone: 610 525 2037; Delaware Nature Society at their Native Plant Sale that is held the first part of May.  They have several locations, but the sale is at Cloverdale Farm and is run from the Ashland Nature Center.  Then there is the Valley Forge Chapter of the American Rhodendron Society sale held at Jenkins Arboretum. These organizations offer potted, flowering plants – though as I mentioned, the quantity is limited.”

For many years TheGardenLady had the Trillium Grandiflorum growing in her yard near the stream. She loved the fact that it was white and turned pink as it aged. But one year it disappeared, never to return again. TheGardenLady would be thrilled if it dropped seeds and 8 years from now it would start having flowers again. But trilliums need to be kept moist and my trilliums may have died from the years of drought. Global warming has been destroying wild trilliums. So, please DON’T gather trilliums from the wild – they are becoming an endangered plant. The other problem TheGardenLady’s  trilliums might have had is that deer love to eat trilliums and TheGardenLady’s property has many deer traipsing through. I plan on getting more Trillium Grandiflorum which Mr. Gyer says is still the finest Trillium to plant in your garden.  See here.

If you are lucky enough to have trilliums and want to transplant them, be sure to keep them wet.  Transplant right after they flower. They can be transplanted any time in early summer; but do the transplanting carefully.

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1 Comment

  • HI.
    I just read your article about Trilliums and I am glad that you are spreading good information. I just wanted to let you know that our nursery now carries seed propagated trilliums. The 5 species available now have taken 8-10 to reach flowering and we only sell those that have flowered.With the exception of T. grandiflorum, they are sold potted and only when dormant, if via mail order.

    Please check out our web site:
    We have been propagation and selling mail order for almost 25 years and we adhere to very high ethical standards for our nursery. Thanks, Andrea

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