Growing Trillium from Seed: Trillium Production at Plant Delights

Growing Trillium from Seed: Trillium Production at Plant Delights

with Tony Avent

By Published August 30, 2022 Updated March 10, 2023

Shop for Trillium at Plant Delights Nursery

In this video, Tony talks about one of our favorite native plants, trillium. See how trillium plants are propagated here at Plant Delights and find out why trillium have an undeserved reputation for being difficult to grow.

Video Transcription

Today we're going to talk about trilliums. Trilliums are one of our wonderful native Spring ephemerals in the woodland garden that you can find pretty much across most of the United States. Trilliums always had a reputation for being very difficult to grow but in fact they're very easy to grow. A lot of the reputation comes that most of the plants purchased are purchased at some of the big box stores where they're sold in plastic bags. Those are mostly dead before they ever were even packaged. So, people take them, and they think that the trillium's hard to grow and it’s not that. It’s that they didn't get a good quality plant to begin with.

Image of trillium seedlings

1-year old trillium seedlings

We grow all our own trilliums from seed here at Plant Delights. These are 1-year-old seedlings. These have just germinated so we're here in March and this is when the trilliums begin coming up. Trilliums, to get a one-leaf stage, depending on which trillium, may take from one to two years. So, it's very slow process.

So, the trillium seed are sown in the pots. They're covered with a very small gravel, just very slightly, and then kept cool. They only germinate if they're cool. So, we keep them right around freezing. We also keep the trilliums in the pots for a couple years. The larger leaves are the second-year leaves. So, if it germinates in one year, these are two-year leaves. Many trilliums will also germinate both one to two years. So, here we have some one-year trillium leaves along with some two-year trillium leaves.

Second year trillium seedlings

2-year old trillium seedlings

From the trillium seed pots, they are transplanted here in the ground beds where they grow on until they're ready to sell which would be flowering size. We plant them out as a two-year seedling. So, here would be a three-year seedling and in this case, we're already getting flower bud at three years which is a little bit on the early side.

Typically, what we would see would be these four-year-old plants and these would be flowering size. So, the flower buds are on there. And what we're always interested in is the leaf variation. You notice that each leaf is different. This one has a little more silver toward the center, this is a little more olive green, this is a little more generally spotted, and this is a little more silver. So, that's the beauty of growing things like trilliums, where each individual is different.

4 year old flowering size trillium

4-year old trilliums ready to flower

You can find all grades of different varieties and just have this wonderful diversity in your garden. We're always looking for interesting diversity when we get a seedling and when we can find one that's interesting, we can actually take and self-pollinate it by going into the flower and just doing this … and that way we get an isolated strain. For example, these right here have a very dark-leaved strain, and we actually have a yellow flowered one, which is pretty unusual in trilliums. Although there is one yellow or a couple yellow species, this particular one is normally purple. So, we'll isolate that yellow and self it and we come up with something unique.

Once a trillium's reached flowering size we go in, once they go dormant, which is generally late spring, around June here, and we will actually harvest these. We will dig these out of the ground. What we're looking for is the rhizome that it forms below the ground. And these will be potted up and they'll be ready for sale the following year.


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