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How to Grow Trillium Plants

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Wake-robin, and Birthroot

Trillium are hardy perennials. They reach from 15 to 45 cm (6 to 18 inches) in height.

They have large flat leaves, and bloom from early spring to early summer.

When in bloom, Trillium plants carry flowers of white, red, or pink. These may be single and large, or in whorls depending upon species.

A commonly grown member of Trillium in the garden is the Wake-Robin.

Trillium grandiflorum
Trillium grandiflorum - White trillium by Charles de Martigny.

Trillium Growing and Care Guide

  • Common Names: Wake-robin, Tri-flower, Birthwort, Birthroot.
  • Life Cycle: Hardy perennial.
  • Height: 6 to 18 inches (15—45 cm).
  • Native: North America.
  • Growing Region: Zones 4 to 9.
  • Flowers: Early spring through to early summer.
  • Flower Details: White, red, pink. Single flower can be carried on either an inflorescence or bract dependent on species. Three petals, three sepals.
  • Foliage: No true above ground leaves, but carries photosynthetic leaf-like bracts on horizontal whorls. Large, flat.

  • Sow Outside: : Easiest to grow from divided roots. Plant these at 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12 cm). Seeds take a long time to germinate and it can take over five years for seed-grown plants to flower.
    Seeds: Surface. Late summer or autumn using fresh seed. They should first be sown into flats. Next sink the flat into the ground in an area that offers shade, preferably close to a wall that faces north. Provide a glass/plastic covering. Keep an eye on the flats to ensure that the soil remains moist. Keep in situ over two winters. Then transfer seeds/seedlings to peat pots and keep indoors to 65°F (16°C). Transplant to their final location in spring or the beginning of autumn.
  • Sow Inside: Germination time: 1.5 to 3 years. Temperature: ~65°F (18°C). Space at 5 to 12 inches (12—30 cm). Sow onto a flat containing moist soil, wrap in a large plastic bag, then stratify by refrigeration for three weeks. Take the flat out of the fridge and keep at ~65°F (18°C) for 90 days. Return to the fridge for a further three weeks.
  • Requirements and care: Full sunlight or partial shade. Slightly acidic soil pH 5 to 6.5. Good drainage. Rich, moist soil. Keep soil cool by applying a permanent mulch with leaf mold. Regular watering. Once established do not disturb roots. Propagate: by dividing in the spring in cooler areas or the autumn in warmer areas, be very careful to cause as little damage as possible.
  • Family: Melanthiaceae.
  • Closely Related Species: Bunchflowers.
  • Miscellaneous: Traditionally used as a uterine stimulant during birth (leading to the alternative name for Wake-robin of Birth root. It is also claimed to control bleeding and diarrhea.

How to Grow Trillium

It is probably easiest to grow Trillium from plants bought at a garden centre, or from carefully divided plants. Plant these roots at about 12 to 15 cm deep (5 to 6 inches).

Be aware that the seeds may take up to three years to germinate. If growing species from seed it is perhaps easiest to start off indoors.

Sow the seeds into a flat on the surface. Thos flat should contain a rich, slightly acidic soil (pH 5 to 6.5). Once sown, cover the flat in a plastic bag. then place in the refrigerator for three months.

The flat should then be removed from the bag, and kept indoors at a temperature of 15 to 22 degrees celsius (59 to 72°F).

After three months, the flat should again be put in a plastic bag, and refrigerated for a further three months. After this period place at 15 to 21 degrees (59 to 70°F). Hopefully the Trillium seeds will germinate.

Once you have Trillium seedlings, they can be transplanted outdoors in either autumn or spring.

They should be grown in a shady or mainly shady part of the garden. Use a spacing of 12 cm / 5 inches (small) to 30 cm / 1 foot (larger Trillium species) apart.

It should take about five years until the plant will bear any flowers.

Caring for Trillium

Trillium are not the easiest plants to grow, but are more than nice enough to make the effort.

They prefer a cool and moist soil, so supply a deep permanent leaf mold mulch for them and keep well watered.

If you require more plants they can be propagated by division in the spring; however do this very carefully as it is very easy to destroy your plants!

Common Questions

How many members does the Trillium genus have?

The Trillium genus is comprised of around 40-50 species known for their distinctive three-petal flowers.

Do members of Trillium make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Yes, Trillium are excellent woodland garden plants, appreciated for their early spring flowers and low maintenance needs.

Which Trillium species are most frequently grown by gardeners?

Species like Trillium grandiflorum (White Trillium) and Trillium erectum (Red Trillium) are commonly cultivated.

Are members of the Trillium plant genus fragrant?

Some Trillium species have fragrant flowers, such as Trillium grandiflorum.

What is the perfect location to grow Trillium?

Trillium prefers shady to part-shade locations with well-draining, humus-rich soil.

Is Trillium invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

Presently, Trillium is not considered invasive in the USA. In fact, several species are protected due to declining populations.

How do I remove Trillium plants from my garden?

Trillium can be removed by careful digging, ensuring to extract the entire rhizome to prevent regrowth.

Summary

The Trillium genus includes perennial plants native to temperate regions of North America and Asia. They are valued for their unique, three-petaled flowers and whorls of three leaves, and some species are protected due to over-collection in the wild.

Grow Trillium from seeds or rhizomes, preferably in autumn. They thrive in shaded to partially shaded locations and prefer well-drained, humus-rich soil. Regular watering is necessary, particularly during dry periods, but overwatering should be avoided to prevent root rot.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Trillium plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Stenanthium and Xerophyllum plants.