Here in Richmond, VA one of the first native perennials to emerge is the underused gem of a plant known as Trillium. We choose it for this months plant because it’s a great sign that spring is right around the corner!
Commonly known as Toad Shade, Trillium is a member of the lily family and is prized for its unique form. It contains 3 leaves and a single flower that presents itself in the middle. With some varieties the flower sits directly on the leaves while with others it is elevated above on a stem. The leaves will either be variegated (as shown to the left) or solid green. Flowers tend to be either red (Trillium erectum), white (Trillium grandiflorum), or yellow.
When planting Trillium it is best to choose a site that will get sun in the early spring but will be shaded in summer. Typically this means planting it underneath deciduous trees. Since they are slow growing and stay low to the ground it is best not to plant them intermixed with other aggressive plants. It takes many years for Trillium to spread, but if allowed to do so it can become a beautiful ground cover. Because Trillium often dies back in the heat of the summer it is best to plant it around other non invasive shade perennials and shrubs. This will insure that interest remains in mid to late summer. Keep in mind, it is important to leave trillium standing even when it does die back. If it is cut back in summer it will often not re-emerge.
So if you have a shady woodland garden we highly recommend giving trillium a try. While not providing much in the way of nectar it is just a really cool native plant! The moment you see it in your landscape you will know that warm weather is just around the corner!