How to Plant a Toad Lily

Overview

Blooming in late summer with spotted flowers that look like tiny orchids, toad lilies (Tricyrtis spp.) make welcome visual additions to a woodland garden when little else is blooming. Native to eastern Asia, with highest diversity in Japan, these perennials grow from a fleshy horizontal stem called a rhizome that spreads underground. Appreciating moist, cool soils that are rich in organic matter, toad lilies die back after the first fall frost. Grow them as garden companions alongside ferns and hostas in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 6 through 9, depending on the species.

Container Plants

Step 1

Select a location in your garden that has a fertile soil and is in partial to heavy shade under the branches of tall shade trees, or is shaded from a building. It may receive no more than two to four hours of direct sunlight across the day, but weaker morning or evening sun rays are fine.

Step 2

Roughly measure the size of the root ball of the toad lily in the container using the garden shovel handle or your hand as a comparison.

Step 3

Dig a hole twice as wide as the toad lily's root ball and equally as deep. Break up the soil so there are no large clumps in it and create a pile to the side of the planting hole.

Step 4

Add compost or well-cured manure to the pile of soil taken from the planting hole so that there is roughly an equal ratio of organic matter to soil. Incorporate them together with the shovel. If your soil is already rich in leaf litter and compost, this step may not be necessary.

Step 5

Remove the toad lily from its nursery container by inverting it and gently shaking the root ball out. Place the plant in the center of the planting hole and check to see that the top of the root ball is at the same level as the top of the planting hole's edges. Add or remove soil until the toad lily rests at the proper depth in the planting hole.

Step 6

Replace the soil in the hole around the root ball, gently compacting the soil with your finger tips as the hole is filled. Add enough soil until the root ball's top is even with the surrounding soil grade. Excess soil can be made into a shallow berm to create an basin to catch water.

Step 7

Sprinkle 1 to 2 gallons of water across the root ball and the catch basin to thoroughly wet the soil and remove air pockets.

Step 8

Scatter a layer of leaves or other mulch over the planting area to help shade the soil and retain moisture. The depth of the mulch should be between 2 and 3 inches.

Seed Sowing

Step 1

Select a location in your garden that has fertile soil and is in partial to heavy shade under the branches of tall shade trees, or is shaded from a building. It may receive no more than two to four hours of direct sunlight across the day, but weaker morning or evening sun rays are fine.

Step 2

Pull back any mulch, fallen leaves or other soil covering from the area where you wish to sow the toad lily seeds.

Step 3

Cultivate the soil with a garden shovel to a depth of 4 inches. Break up any large soil clumps so the soil is crumbly and finely textured.

Step 4

Plant the seeds in the soil, resting a seed on the soil surface and gently pushing it into the soil with your fingertip so it is no deeper than 1/4 inch. Gently scratch the soil surface to get soil particles atop the seeds.

Step 5

Water the area gently with a sprinkling can to moisten the area. Add enough water the soil is moistened to a depth of 3 inches

Step 6

Monitor the area for the next six months, watering the soil surface if natural rainfall is overly lacking. The seeds need to be exposed to winter cold before germination. Look for the seeds to germinate next spring before scattering a light layer of mulch over the soil to shade it and retain moisture.

Tips and Warnings

  • Watch out for slugs and snails. They readily eat emerging stems and tender leaves on toad lilies.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden shovel
  • Organic matter (compost or manure)
  • Sprinkling can/garden hose

References

  • University of Illinois Extension: Planting and Transplanting
  • University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension: Toad Lilies
  • GardenWeb: Toad Lilies: The Genus Tricyrtis
  • University of Minnesota: Gardening in the Shade
Keywords: Tricyrtis, planting toad lilies, shade perennials, sowing perennial seeds

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for "The Public Garden," "Docent Educator," nonprofit newsletters and for horticultural databases, becoming a full-time writer in 2008. He's gardened and worked professionally at public and private gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. He has written articles for eHow and GardenGuides.