Toad lily seedlings galore


After three decades in this garden it seems that too often I am baffled by one thing or the other. There is no need to delve more deeply into why I know so little, but rather we will discuss today’s mystery.Toad lily in late September

I have grown toad lilies (Tricyrtis) for eight or ten years, and older plants have spread vigorously in girth. At no time have I noticed seedlings of any sort, until this year. Now, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds. So many, that my wife is convinced seedlings should be weeded out before they take over (not that anything of the sort has ever occurred in this garden, with few exceptions).Toad lily in early September

I am curious to see what becomes of the seedlings, though at this point I don’t know where any more than a few could be transplanted for observation. I’ve instructed my wife (nicely this time) to let them be for a while until I can figure what can be done with them. Someday, something must be, since there is not space for fifty or a hundred toad lilies growing so close together. So, in a few months, or perhaps next spring when they have grown a bit larger I’ll dig most of them out. Some will be transplanted, but with the numbers growing some must be discarded. Though the seedlings show little variation today, with a dozen or more varieties in the garden there could be natural hybrids.

An unidentified hellebore flowering in early April
An unidentified hellebore flowering in early April

I go through this every year with hellebores, that seed prolifically with hundreds of seedlings each year. I started years ago by planting a handful of hellebores, and kept planting new varieties that caught my eye, but half or more of the plants in the garden are seedlings. With many dozens of flowering size plants there are now so many hundreds of tiny seedlings that it would take a garden three times this size to hold them all. I hope to pass many along to my sons who are beginning gardens in their new homes. Everyone can use hellebores, I think, and soon there are likely to be as many toad lilies as they’d like also.Toad lily

A year ago I planted several new toad lilies (as I do most years), and one that was purported by the grower to be the earliest to flower (Tricyrtis latifolia ex SICH 1735, above and below). In early July it is on its third flower, while others are only beginning to bud with most flowering in late August and September. The flowers of this toad lily are small and almost yellow, and as it grows perhaps it will have less ornament than others with larger blooms, but at this point I’m quite pleased to extend the season of toad lily flowers a month earlier. Perhaps one of the seedlings will one day become such a treasure.Toad lily

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Gary says:

    I have the same problem. I planted a few in one spot several years ago, but they spread so fast that two years ago I removed the original planting and transplanted to a space farther from the main part of my shade garden. It did not work and I have toad lilies appearing everywhere. I pull them out like weeds but they come back or new seedlings appear within a week or two. I no longer remember what type of toad lily I have, but I will avoid them all in the future. It is a shame since they are very pretty once you learn to control the mold.

    1. Dave says:

      Since I have not experienced problems in prior years, I am not anticipating that seedlings will become difficult to manage. Seedlings of heelebores are abundant, but still appreciated, and I’m hopeful that toad lily seedlings will be moved about the garden and shared.

  2. Ray says:

    I have had the same experience with my hostas. All of a sudden after many years, I saw dozens of seedlings sprouting in the spring of 2012. The hostas continue to produce a few seedlings here and there, but nothing like that particular year.

    1. Dave says:

      Every year, there are handfuls of hosta seedlings in the garden. Some are discarded, but several are transplanted around when they show an interesting form. Most are blue-green, big leafed hostas similar to sieboldiana Elegans, but there are a few miniature growers and one yellow leafed hosta that is particularly ugly, but it’s unique so I’ve kept it.

  3. Runa says:

    Hi Dave, I was wondering if you would be willing to share some of your seedlings of hellebores and toad lillies. I live in Montgomery county, MD.

    1. Dave says:

      I think the toad lilies are a bit too young to move without a lot of extra attention, but many hellebores are ready to transplant. There are more than I care to move around, and probably more than my sons care to plant, so you’re welcome to take a few if you can figure out how to get them.

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