Getting to know a trillium

Credit: Denise Morin

Q: I am hoping that you can help me identify this plant. Our house is from the 1950’s and the very large yard is full of the old fashioned type plants. The one side it quite shaded and more like a woodland garden. Amongst the snowdrps and the blue bells is where this plant comes up, at the base of the vine maple in our backyard.

It’s certainly the giant trillium, Trillium chloropetalum, which is a wonderful woodland perennial. It is native from northern California into southern Washington State, but not—as far as I know—in B.C. Where do you live?

It has probably been able to survive because it is tucked in by the tree trunk. It won’t get disturbed by digging in the garden. The soil looks rich in organic matter, which it likes. If other, more aggressive perennials surround it, it may not be able to compete. If I had one, I’d keep other perennials away. It’s also important not to pick the flowers, so it has a chance of making seeds.

Trilliums spread very slowly, forming a small clump of shoots from their underground bulb-like structures. They go dormant in summer so they can survive the dry summers that are typical of western North America.