Great Plant Pick: Trillium grandiflorum

Trillium grandiflorum is a harbinger of spring in the eastern North American woodland.

Trillium grandiflorum are poor competitors, so don’t plant them near aggressive plants. (Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks)

Trillium grandiflorum are poor competitors, so don’t plant them near aggressive plants. (Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks)

What: Trillium grandiflorum, commonly called great white trillium or white wakerobin, is a harbinger of spring in the eastern North American woodland, where it can be seen carpeting the forest floors. In early spring, succulent, bright green stems sprout from the soil and develop a canopy of three large, egg-shaped, almost stalkless leaves. In their center emerges a large, stalked, upward- or sideways-facing, pure white blossom. Each of its three petals have slightly ruffled edges. The enchantment and inspiration that this charming wildflower brings to the garden is unparalleled. A natural with other spring bloomers mix with primrose, pulmonarias or Omphalodes. The contrasting foliage of ferns will help set off the foliage.

Where: It grows best in light to open shade — ideally, in a spot with morning sun and afternoon shade or the bright shade beneath deciduous trees or very tall conifers. In too much shade they will not bulk up or flower well, in hot afternoon sun their foliage burns.

Size: The plant grows to be 1 foot 6 inches tall and wide. Young plants can take three to five years to bloom and another five to eight years to develop into a nice clump.

Care: It requires regular watering and fertile, humus-rich, well-drained soil. Do not remove old flowers, but let the seeds develop; ants will disperse them around your garden to start new clumps.

— Richie Steffen, Great Plant Picks

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