How these pretty plants ended up with the name “Toad Lilies” is not absolutely known. Some say it is because the orchid-like blooms have spots, although there are many varieties whose flowers are clear, without spots. Others say it is because toads like to sit under the leaves, but I’ve never discovered one hiding there. Regardless, toad lilies (Tricyrtis) are members of the large lily family, with the strap-like leaves that characterize that group. They prefer a woodland setting, in good soil, so give them partial shade where they won’t totally dry out during the heat of summer by adding lots of humus to the soil. Sight them near a path or bench, where the intricacies of their flowers can be observed, or keep the smaller ones in pots to view up close. The flowers appear in late summer to early fall, at a time when it is most pleasant to sit in the shade and admire them!
There is a range of height in toad lilies, from short to over 3’. Most form tidy clumps, however a few will spread lightly to become groundcovers. Nearly all toad lilies are hardy perennials, thriving in Zones 4-9. However, do check because some species, especially those with yellow flowers, tend to be more tender and often require Zone 6 or higher. These do make good container plants for northern growers.
Here are some of the toad lily species and their general characteristics that you can find in the marketplace, the specific selections or varieties are listed under each:
(T. formosana) 2’, Mauve shades. From Formosa, Zone 5-9. Generally stoloniferous
‘Amethystina’ 24”, flowers can be white, blue or red tinged with red spots.
‘Empress’ 18”, large white flowers with deep purple spots
‘Gilt Edge’ 18-24”, lovely green leaves with gold edges. Pinkish flowers are
purple spotted or streaked, so they often appear more purplish.
‘Samurai’ 12-18”, golden edged leaves, purplish flowers with dark purple spots
(T. hirta) 3’, Lilac shades. From Japan, Zone 4-9. Larger flowers than T. formosana.
‘Blue Wonder’ 18-24”, blue flowers with deep blue spots. Said to be a cross
of T. hirta and T. formosana.
‘Miyazaki’ 36”, lightly hairy stems. White blooms spotted with purple.
‘Miyazaki Gold’ 24-30”, chartreuse leaves. White blooms spotted purple.
‘Moonlight’ 20”, chartreuse leaves, white with purple spotted flowers.
‘Tojen’ 20-24”, lilac-pink blooms with white centers.
‘Variegata’ 20”, variegated white and green leaves, white spotted blooms.
(T. latifolia) 18”, Yellowish. From Japan & China, Zone 5-9. Branching flower heads,
often petals are spotted with red.
‘Golden Leopard’ 16-24”, yellow flowers with purple-bronze spots
‘White Towers’ 20”. Pure white flowers often crowded on the stems.
(T. macrantha) 18”, Yellowish. From Japan. Slightly broader leaves than the others.
(T. macranthopsis) 3’, Yellow. From Japan, Zone 8-9. Flowers at the leaf axils.
(T. macropoda) 2’, Whitish or Yellowish. From Japan, China, Zone 5-9. Flowers are
heavily spotted with purple or mauve.
(T. obsumiensis) 12”, Yellow. From Japan. Zone 7-9. Large flowers, spotted brown.