Hairy Toad Lily – Gem of the Garden

Toad Lilies, watercolor by Laura Jones

An under-used and under-appreciated perennial in the U.S, Tricyrtus or Toad Lily, is gaining in popularity. Uncommon beauty, late-season blooms and wonderful adaptability to shade, give the toad lilies a place in just about any garden. Called toad lilies because of the spotting like a toad, these beautiful flowers thrive in moist deep shade to partial shade and come back year after year. In addition, the flowers have warty, sack-like bumps at the base of the flowers that appear “toadish” to some. The bumps are actually nectaries where the nectar is stored.

The bumps at the base of the flower are the nectaries

Toad Lilies, Tricyrtus hirta, are in their fall glory right now in mid-October. Growing all year-long, with layer upon layer of foliage sprays, in October the flowers surprise me and emerge from the axels of the leaves with diminutive spotted flowers. Deer tend to leave them alone for the most part, but there are exceptions where I have seen them nibbled.

Hairy spotted flowers look like tiny orchids
Arching stems display the flowers

Most people’s first thought for shade plantings, are hostas and ferns, but put this perennial on your to-buy list. Long-lived for me in my garden, I have had some for over 20 years.

Growing on upright arching stems the entire plant is attractive. An easy to grow perennial, more people should consider growing these gems in the shady areas of their garden, along with hostas, astilbe, and wood aster. Overlooked in the spring and summer, Toad Lilies, are extremely late bloomers that pollinators welcome.

Toad lilies grow happily with wood asters


Lasting for weeks, the flowers look like jewels on the stems

Filling an important blooming gap in the garden, these plants bloom in October into November when few other plants are flowering. In the lily family, Tricyrtus is a Japanese species of hardy perennials found growing on shaded rocky cliffs in Japan.

Bees love the flowers

Because there isn’t much blooming in the garden in October, bees flock to them and they are an important nectar and pollen source for my honeybees when there isn’t much for them to forage from. And since we have had a record amount of rainfall this summer, the toad lilies are lush and beautiful.

Toad Lilies drape over a wall

For a complete evaluation of this interesting species, check out the notes published by the Chicago Botanical Garden .


6 Replies to “Hairy Toad Lily – Gem of the Garden”

  1. A friend gave me some plants and they are blooming profusely although the leaves are mottled with brown streaks. What is the cause?
    I read and enjoy every post you send!

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