Thursday, May 7, 2009

Growing Trilliums

Trilliums are a quintessential spring time woodland flower. Despite being sold in the late winter by some garden stores I have to say planting them in fall is a bit more effective. Regardless though, these are another Rhizome plant which can survive underground and produce no green growth for the first year of development. After being moved or recently planted too, they may also take a season or even a year to adjust. Moving plants is best done in August or whenever they go dormant for the year. They should NEVER be dug up from the wild unless that land is being demolished for "development."

I suppose though it would be fine to simply take one and bring it back to the garden, but that's it! Don't tell anyone where you go them, Don't sell them unless they're extras coming up on your own property! As you will read these plants take an outragious amount of patiants to grow.

Starting them from seeds is the environmental way to do it. Roughly 8 to 10 weeks after flowering the plant will produce a berry filled with seeds inside of it. These are covered with Eliasome, a tasty substance that ants find irresistible. Once the berry turns soft it's safe to pick off the Trillium in question. Miss it though, and the berry will fall to the ground for the ants to have. Ants of the right size compared with the seed will haul the seed back to the nest and essentially plant it, prevent it from being eaten by birds or insects. If the ants are to small though they may simply eat the Eliasome off the seed and abandon it there. Seeds need to be brown in order to be good, so don't pick the berry to soon.

There are lots of reasons why these plants are rare. First off they're monofloral. This means if anything happens to the flower they won't produce a new one for another one to two years. So Don't Pick Them! Second is the ant thing. If there are tomany small ants around they won't spread well. Of course a gardener can help this process along by collecting the seeds and planting them in the ground. Once in the ground they won't really "germinate" for another year, and even then it will only be a blade of grass. These young Trilliums might be mistaken for a weed so be careful. The next year after that will be a simple leaf sticking out of the ground. The next year after that will be 3 leaves as seen here. From here they will flower in 1 to 3 years. From then on they'll flower every year unless moved.

Now you may think this is to much to put up with. No flowers for 3 to 5 years, that's to much to put up with.Well the good news is most rhizomes will grow and spread as adult plants form their location. That is the rhizome to the parent plant continues to grow and spread as the older parts of it die off. That means new plants will simply emerge around the established one, as seen in the image below.

So once you have a couple of these plants going they'll continue to spread and grow around slowly, as long as the soil is nice. They prever semi sandy soil with organic matter in it. When dormant they still need to be watered, remember the rhizome is still alive underground. Also DON'T fertalize! This will kill them.