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Trilliums: Two Tips!

Trilliums are thrilling (in a plant sort of way).

yellow spring woodland flowers
Yellow Trillium

How to Get More Trilliums for Free

Trilliums are shade loving spring wonders. They can be harder to find and on the more expensive side. They are really interesting spring plants though. So when I came across an old blog post by NYT columnist and famed gardener Margaret Roach about how to divide them, I mentally tucked it away. The thing is you divide them just when they are at their prime in spring. Last year I finally tried it. It totally works!

Since these are ephemeral plants, growing and blooming in spring and then dying back not to be seen again until next spring, if you want to divide them, now is the time when you can see where they are. If you are super diligent, I suppose you could mark their locations and search for the underground rhizomes in fall. I am not that organized.

Right now, it's very easy to dig them up. Here is Margaret's post on how to do it. I tried it last spring and turned three plants into ten. This year, I am aiming to do more.

I use a hand tool called a weeding fork. I feel like if I accidentally dig into the plant it won't be as big a cut as with a trowel. Yesterday, I dug up a wedge petal trillium (Trillium cuneatum) plant with several blooms by gently pushing the fork into the ground about 5" from the base of the stems. Going as deep as I could, I began to softly loosen the plant from beneath and remove it. This particular plant had one tuber and I did not see any obvious growth nodes or place to separate the plant so I replanted this one and tried again with another plant.

This second plant had several tubers nestled together. After removing the clump, it was very easy to gently separate it into four parts - three new tubers and the remainder of the original. You can watch a 20 second video here.

I replanted and then watered well. When you replant, make sure the white part of the stem is below the soil surface. I'll make sure these don't dry out over the next couple of weeks and next spring, I should have three new trilliums!

white spring flowers
Trilliums planted among Foamflowers and Heuchera

Where to Plant Trilliums

This may seem obvious but sometimes, the obvious can elude! I originally planted three trilliums along the side of our house in a shady woodland garden, technically the ideal location for trilliums. They grew among heuchera 'autumn bride' and other perennials. The only thing is I never saw the trilliums both because of the location and the other perennials which were already growing tall as well, obscuring the trilliums. A couple of weeks ago, as the trilliums were just emerging from the ground, I dug them up and moved them to a shady spot near the front walk among smaller plants. So much better for these amazing ephemerals. Somewhat of a duh moment but sharing nonetheless!

If you are looking to purchase trilliums, now is the time for that too before they die back. Like other ephemerals, you may also be able to find bare root plants in winter or early spring too. Nurseries that currently have trilliums include Watermark Woods, Nature by Design and Kollar Nursery.

Happy Gardening!


We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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