Plant Of The Month: The Toad Lily Gets Out Of Bed Early And Stays Up Late

After every other perennial has finished in the garden, my toad lily (Tricyrtis hirta ) blooms. The irony is that it was one of the first perennials to break ground in the spring, their elongated shiny leaves popping out alongside daffodils and tulips. But, despite growing tall quickly, they played the long game, holding back throughout the summer while other perennials bloomed. They make their entrance at the last moment. Tiny, speckled flowers resembling an orchid finally burst open on arching stems in a ladder-like fashion. You have to love an attention-seeker like that!

A lilac toad lily blooms with and out-of-focus background.

Light and Soil

Toad lilies are perfect for the shade garden. Found growing wild at the edge of woodlands, streams, and creeks, they thrive in a sun-to-part shade mix. The more moisture the plant can absorb from the soil, the taller it grows.


Toad lilies will spread slowly through their underground network of rhizomes, creating a nice clump in the autumn garden. Because of this aspect, they are not suitable for container gardens. They like to spread their wings, and new shoots will extend from the parent plant up to 12 inches.

The best time to divide the plant is early spring. Toad lilies are one of the easiest perennials to divide; dig in where a new set of emerging thick green leaves has appeared.

A purple toad lily with green leaves and a blurred background.

Make sure to get enough roots and transplant them throughout the garden. In my experience, toad lilies will take readily to any new location and may even produce new shoots and flowers before the end of the season if divided early enough.


Most varieties are hardy to at least Zone 5 (-29°C). Rain doesn’t bother the flowers, but wind is not the plant’s friend. Instead of letting the stems arch, I stake them to grow upright at the beginning of the season. This creates more garden space and keeps the plants tidy and secure.


There are many varieties of toad lilies. The common toad lily grows in my garden. The orchid-like blooms are white with dark purple spots.

But other popular varieties include ‘White Towers,’ which bears pure-white flowers in late summer and fall on 2-foot-tall stems. The Tojen toad lily has lavender flowers in early fall.

Drawbacks: Pest and Diseases

The plant is deer-resistant, but slugs, snails, and rabbits will munch on the leaves. Keep kitty away, as toad lilies are toxic to cats.

To keep fungal diseases like powdery mildew at bay, always water at the base of the plant. Other than that, as the tag that came with them said, toad lilies are an easy and enjoyable plant to grow in your garden. I am a huge fan, and I hope you will be too!

Join me for November’s plant of the month as we grow and garden together!

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Invited by the Canadian Garden Council to be an ambassador for the Year of the Garden 2022, Jennifer is a garden enthusiast, writer, and alumni of Simon Fraser University. Her bylines have appeared in the opinion section of the Toronto Star, and her portfolio includes articles for Chatelaine online, Reader’s Digest, Canada’s History Magazine, and Modern Farmer magazine, among other newspapers, magazines, and websites across Canada. When not writing, you can find her visiting local garden centers or puttering, planting, and nourishing her urban garden oasis in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.