(tril' lee-um)

Common name: Trillium, Wake-Robin

Family: trillium (Trilliaceae, syn. Melanthiaceae, formerly listed under Liliaceae)

Height x width: 6-12" depending on species

Growth rate: slow

Foliage: 3 whorled on top of a single stem, elliptic to ovate, some mottled silver-white or purple, margins slightly wavy

Flowers: solitary, hanging from leaf axil, 3 leafy outer sepals and 3 petals, some stalked, various colors from white to purple or reddish, spring followed by a berry in early summer

Hardiness: zones 3-7 to 9 depending on species

Soil: moist, organic prefered although tolerates many; acidic pH 4.5-6.5

Light: sun in spring and part to full shade after (as in deciduous woodlands)

Pests and Problems: none serious

Landscape habit, uses: woodlands, natural gardens, shade borders, effective massed but with other perennials to cover as foliage dies back in early summer

Other interest: native to North America or Asia depending on species, some species have many common names; Native Americans used cooked roots of the purple trillium as an aphrodisiac, emetic and anti-spasmodic; purple trillium is also called Stinking Bejamin as the flowers smell of rancid meat (as do some other species), attracting its pollinator the big green fleshfly

Other culture: resists moving (usually dies) unless dormant or all root system is gathered in large amount of undisturbed soil

Propagation: rhizome division in midsummer (difficult) or seed (takes 2 years to germinate)


Those marked * are most commonly seen in natural settings and found in commerce.
Species, cultivars zones flowers foliage height  
catesbaei, Rose Trillium 7-9 pink, pedicel, reflexed green 10-12"  
cernuum, Nodding Trillium 4-7 white, pedicel, reflexed green 12-18"  
cuneatum, Little Sweet Betsy 6-9 maroon, large, bad scent mottled silver 12-18"  
*erectum, Stinking Benjamin 3-8 maroon, erect, bad scent green 6-18"  
flexipes 3-8 white, long pedicels green 12-15"  
*grandiflorum, Great White T. 4-7 white fading pink, large green 18-24"  
grandiflorum 'Flore Pleno' 4-7 white, double green 18-24"  
grandiflorum 'Roseum' 4-7 pink green 18-24"  
luteum, Yellow Trillium 4-7 yellow, lemon scent mottled 12-15"  
nivale, Dwarf Trillium 5-9 white, pedicel dark green 3-6"  
ovatum, Western Trillium 5-9 white, pedicel, bad scent veins, red stem 12-18"  
recurvatum, Prairie Trillium 4-7 maroon, erect, clawed mottled 12-15"  
sessile, Sessile/Toad Trillium 4-7 maroon, sessile mottled 6-12"  
undulatum, Painted Trillium 4-7 white, pink V, erect bluish green 8-12"  
vaseyi, Vasey's Wake Robin 6-9 maroon, nice scent green 18-24"  
viride, Green Wake Robin 4-7 greenish,erect, bad scent white spots 12-15"  

©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS123 course.

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