Tricyrtis Care: Learn Tips On Growing The Toad Lily

Tricyrtis [try-SER-tis] is a shadow-loving plant from the Liliaceae family. 

The Greek name, Tricyrtis, means three-humped, referring to the 3 swollen nectaries under the tepals. 

These exotic-looking herbaceous perennials are celebrated for their stunning orchid-like flowers and showy tepals. The flowers remind me of the Arachnis orchids I grew 45 years ago.

exotic orchid like Tricytis lily (toad lily)

The flowering plant is commonly known as Toad Lilies because of its intricately spotted flowers and leaves and the bumpy nectaries, resembling a toad’s skin. 

Check out the many other types of lilies available to grow!

The bell-shaped flowers of the toad lily plant accentuate the ornamental beauty of shaded gardens in fall when most plants aren’t blooming anymore.

The native habitat of these plants is spread across the shadowy landscapes of the Himalayas and the edges of the forests of East Asia. 

These plants originate from China, Korea, and Japan in the north to Nepal, Taiwan, and the Philippines in the south.

Two common ornamental tricyrtis species are:

Tricyrtis hirta (T.Japonica), found on the Japanese islands of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, known by the following common names:

  • Japanese Toad Lily
  • Hototogiso (Japanese word meaning “little cuckoo”)
  • Hairy Toad Lily
  • Miyazaki
  • Tojen

Tricyrtis formosana, known by the following common names:

  • Dark Beauty
  • Gilt Edge
  • Samurai
  • Autumn Glow

Tricyrtis Plants Care

Size & Growth

Toad lilies grow in clusters with unbranched, arching stems. 

Depending on the plant variety, these plants grow 2’ – 3’ feet in height and 1’ – 2’ feet in width. 

The oval or oblong clasped leaves with parallel veins grow 3” – 6” inches long in a ladder-like arrangement on the erect stems, whereas each funnel-shaped, white and purple flower is 1” – 1.5″ inches wide.

The bloom time for toad lily blossoms is August to September when they produce breathtaking flowers, unlike most of the flowering plants. 

Some varieties of toad lilies planted in sunny regions of colder climates blossom in late summer.

Flowering and Fragrance

Based on the cultivar, the foliage and the color of the star or bell-shaped toad lily flowers vary. 

The fall-stunner produces unique, inch-long blossoms perched on top of upper leaf axils. 

The upward-facing white flowers grow either singularly or in small clusters called cymes. 

Each flower has 6 eye-catching tepals in diverse shades of white, mauve, lilac, and yellow with purple spots. 

The flowers of hairy toad lilies are covered with hair.

Light & Temperature

Toad lilies should be planted in areas with part shade to full shade, especially in warmer climates. 

They can withstand sunlight in colder climates when grown in moist soil. 

Hairy toad lilies are hardy up to -4° degrees Fahrenheit (-20° C). Toad lilies are hardy to USDA hardiness zones 4 -9.

Watering and Feeding

Even though toad lilies are somewhat drought-tolerant, it is advised to keep the plant moist. 

But, do not overwater as the plant dislikes wet feet and suffers rotting in standing water. 

Feeding the plant with regular liquid food or weak organic fertilizer would enhance its growing ability.

Soil & Transplanting

Tricyrtis plant loves to grow in moist, nutrition-rich, slightly acidic, and humusy soil. 

These plants flourish in a variety of soils ranging from well-drained, wet to average. 

The seeds must be planted 2” – 3” inches deep in the organic soil and about 1” – 2” inches of mulch should be added. 

Compost or peat humus helps loosen the soil, if needed.

Grooming and Maintenance

Special care is needed to keep the well-drained, rich soil from drying out; however, do not make the soil soggy as soggy roots limit the growth of the plant.

Toad lily flowers, if grown during winter with minimum snow cover, should be saved from early frosts by maintaining moisture through the mulch and citing them in a sheltered location. 

Also, protect young toad lily plants from wind.

Check the plants regularly for reduced flowering and discolored leaves. 

As the plant reaches the end of its bloom time, remove the used flower stems as each stem gives off flowers only once and will remain flower-less in the next season. 

Discard the broken stems and trim rotted or damaged foliage to keep the plant well-groomed.

How To Propagate Toad Lily

Tricyrtis are propagated through stem-cutting as well as tissue culture, if grown commercially. 

If growing toad lily plant in your residential garden, propagate using seeds, cuttings, or divisions.

Propagate via seeds in pots. 

The cylindrical seed capsules split open to reveal a tiny round, flat papery seeds. 

Collect the seeds during November (late fall) and sow them fresh in a cold frame without covering them with potting soil. 

Seed germination takes time for cold stratification, depending on the variety being grown. 

Tricyrtis self-seed in ideal growing conditions.

If propagating via divisions in early spring. 

Wait for an underground growth bud to the surface during the summer season, as extracting a piece of clump won’t be useful. 

A stem produces this bud once every season.

Propagate using stem cuttings in the summer season. 

Before the blossoms start budding, extract and cut 3” – 4” inch sections of the stem. 

Leave a leaf on top of the bare stem and bury it till the level of the leaf base. 

Maintain ample moisture until the plant takes roots and starts to grow.

Toad Lily Pest or Disease Problems

Tricyrtis do not have many pest problems. 

The vibrant, sweet-smelling flowers attract bees and insects but slugs and snails are the real culprits damaging the cultivar. 

Active predators, like toads, reduce these pests in rich organic soils. 

The plant is not attractive for deer, but rabbits love to dine on the fresh leaves.

Toad lilies sometimes suffer from a fungal disease, anthracnose leaf spot

Increase the air circulation to treat the condition. 

Overhead irrigation and rotten leaves help spread the fungal spores in leaf litter. 

You may notice spotted leaves or discolored flowers if the plant is suffering from an aphid-borne mosaic virus.

Although these plants colonize over time, they are not invasive in nature. 

The leaves of the plants are not poisonous, are edible and taste best when steamed.

Tricyrtis Plant Uses

Tricyrtis plant is famous for its ornamental use in shade gardens, woodland paths, and naturalized landscapes. 

The lily-like flowers strike an attractive pose, especially when grown in masses. 

Toad lilies also look ravishing in containers and the stems are often used to construct floral arrangements.

They add color to your home gardens during the fall season. 

Toad lily plant grows well with other moisture-loving perennials like trout lilies, anemone, ferns, hellebores, hostas, astilbe, and lungwort to lay down gorgeous flower beds and fragrant shady borders.

Leaves and young shoots of these perennial edibles are also used for cooking.