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Tricyrtis - Growing Guide

Growing Tricyrtis

Snake lily, toad lily

These are rhizomatous herbaceous perennials with peculiarly intricate and attractive orchid like flowers which can surprise and stun those who have not seen this genus performing before. They caught my interest a long time ago and have become increasingly more popular nursery plants as awareness has grown. However has they originate from Taiwan (T. formosana) and Japan (T. hirta) and are such an odd genus it is necessary to provide them with the best conditions to achieve the best results.

In the wild Tricyrtis grow in moist woodland, mountains and cliffs. As such they are therefore best suited to a shady border, a peat bank or perhaps naturalising in a woodland garden. As you would expect, knowing this, they are fully hardy although, at first sight, their orchid like flowers mistakenly suggest tenderness.

T. formosana has erect zig-zagging soft hairy stems and veined dark green leaves spotted purplish green. The flowers appear in early autumn as upward facing star shaped pinkish-purple or pinkish-white flowers of about 1in across. They are heavily spotted with reddish purple and white spotted stigmas.

T. hirta also has densely hairy stems and hairy pale green leaves. Funnel shaped purple spotted white flowers with purple stigmas appear in late summer or autumn either singly or in clusters.

Slugs and snails can be a threat to these plants but providing you can give them a warm, sheltered position without full sun they are easy enough to grow. Propagation can be by division of the clump in early spring when dormant or from seed sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame.

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