I have been fortunate to have worked at some very good nurseries which have had great plants which they sold. Trees and shrubs and perennials which cover a vast swath of species, varieties and hybrids. Most of them have traveled from other continents to grow here. One area that has been especially good to us is Asia and these plants usually grow very well. Many Asian plants we know for being splashy and showy, but I am often drawn to the more delicate and intricate in design. One species of plants are Tricyrtis (Toad Lilies)which are a quite most of the year; and then Whizzz-bang…. they go off like fireworks!
There are said to be 18 species of Tricyrtis which have crossed to create a group of hybrid plants which are usually mislabeled in the trade. I know that in Japan these plants have been crossed for centuries and then were ‘found’ and brought into the garden world in the 19th century by plant explorers who were sending plants back from Asia. Each species has lent something to the mix. Some Toad Lilies species have arching stems and have their blossoms along the axils of its leaves and others are more traditional in that the flowers are on the tops of leafy stems.
Tricyrtis grow from tropical Philippine Island through into Nepal and then east across China and Korea into Japan. Here we generally only see the hardier varieties such as formosana, hirta, affinis and latifolia and their many hybrids. This means that the Toad Lilies are highly variable in their spotting and where on the plant the flowers are located.
Tricrytis have been so successful at hybridizing because they set easily handled fertile seed. Germinating it is relatively easy: sow the seeds warm under a thin coating of moisture retentive soil and keep it there 5 to 6 weeks. Alternate the seed mixture into cold for up to 8 weeks, and then back to warm conditions until there is germination. This germination cycle is very common and basically follows nature, so it is possible to do the whole process outside as long as it does not freeze which will kill seeds. Once the plants are big enough to handle set them in seperate containers or where you want them to grow.
Now we know Toad Lilies are easy to germinate, it is good to know they are extremely easy to grow in the garden. Being woodland plants means Tricyrtis like a shady position with dappled light. they require leafy nutrient rich soil which is moisture retentive which drains well. They like their site be be well watered throughout the growing season. These plants are stoloniferous and can easily be divided and moved around at any time as long as they are well watered after the transplanting is done.
Tricyris species can be used in several ways, as a specimen, in shady borders, naturalized and mass planted. Be sure to place them somewhere where the flowers are easily observed as they are small and delicately spotted and colored. In colder areas it is advisable to plant them where they will get more sun and bloom earlier. They take -15c(-0 f) or zone 5 through 9.
More about Tricyrtis plants:
Tricyrtis formosana: http://www.mobot.org/gardinghelp/plantfinder/Plant.asp?code=A780
National Collection of Tricyrtis: http://www.nccpg.com/gloucestershire/tricyrtis.html
Until we meet again later…..