Indigenous into the mountains and moist woodlands from eastern Asia to the Philippines, the toad lily (Tricyrtis genus) boasts magnificent blossoms that belie its name. In late summer to mid or early fall, exotic star, bell or funnel-shaped flowers burst into bloom in white and an array of vibrant, combined hues. This herb perennial belongs into the Liliaceae family and grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9.
Common Toad Lily
The most commonly known of the species, typical toad lily (Tricyrtis hirta, T. japonica) bears vertical, funnel-shaped, purple-spotted white blossoms with a purple posture, either individually or in clusters on the stem ends. The flowers develop 1 1/4 inches long and pale green, lance-shaped leaves with heart-shaped bases grow to 6 inches across on plants that reach up to 3 feet tall. Pure-white blooms with a pink stamen are borne on the “White Towers” cultivar, while “Variegata” sports lavender flowers and leaves edged in gold.
Formosa Toad Lily
The pink-tinged white blooms on the long-blooming Formosa toad lily (T. formosana, T. stolonifera) are seen reddish-purple inside and yellow at the base of the petals, with a red-speckled white posture. The upward-facing, star-shaped blossoms develop to 1 1/4 inches long and the 5-inch-long, shiny, lanceolate leaves are dark green with purplish-green splotches. Formosa toad lily spreads by stolons, or shoots, forming large clumps and growing to 3 feet tall. The “Amethystina” cultivar displays purple-spotted, bluish-lavender blossoms with cream-colored bases.
Tufted Toad Lily
Nodding 1.5-inch-long blossoms appear in small clusters on tufted toad lily (T. macrantha). The dark yellow bell-shaped blossoms are seen reddish-brown on the interior. Glossy, dark green, lance-shaped leaves with heart-shaped bases climb to 6 inches across on arching stems. Tufted toad lily attains a height of 3 feet.
Tricyrtis “Tojen” produces lavender, orchid-like blooms with yellow throats, growing to 1 inch long in clusters. This hybrid boasts large, oblong leaves, reaching up to 15 inches across. Tricyrtis “Blue Wonder” displays 1-inch-long, creamy white to pale blue blossoms with deep purplish-blue mottling and purple anthers. This compact hybrid returns 4-inch-long oval-shaped, dark green leaves and grows in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 8.
Increase and Propagation
Toad lily plants prefer partial or full shade, but can tolerate sunlight in cooler climates. They grow best in moist, well-drained soil with a high organic material, experiencing only occasional issues from snails and slugs on new development. Due to their small size, the colorful, striking blossoms on toad lilies are typically planted where they could be closely observed, such as around the borders of shady websites or along woodland borders. Upon ripening, toad lily seeds are sown in containers in a cold frame. The plant clumps are split when dormant in early spring.