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Vermont Garden Journal: Spring-Blooming Trillium

Trillium is a signature flower of spring time. Once they find the right site, they spread and create a beautiful field of color in the forest.

Trillium is a native, woodland plant is one of the signature flowers of spring. It has three leaves, sepals and petals giving it the common name, the trinity flower.
There are more than 40 species of trilliums. The Painted and Great White are probably the most common in our area.

Painted trilliums have bi-colored white flowers with red centers, while the Great White grows 18 inches tall, with white flowers that fade to a pink.

The red-flowered Wake Robin or Stinking Benjamin trillium has a rancid flower smell meant to attract a pollinating fly though it is really only pungent if you sniff it up close. 

Like other spring ephemerals, trilliums are unique because they flower and leaf out before the forest canopy shades them in early summer. They prefer a rich, moist, yet well-drained, forest soil and avoid battling the trees for water and nutrients in summer by simply going dormant.

Once trilliums find the right site, they will spread creating a beautiful field of color in the spring forest.

Tips for growing trillium:

  • Buy plants or bulbs from a nursery or divide those growing on your property.
  • Mark the location of plants in spring and come back in August to dig and divide the small bulbs.
  • Replant them 2 to 3 inches deep in a similar soil and environment.
  • You can grow trillium from seed, but it can take years to grow to a flowering stage.

For this week's tip:

Now is the time to start sowing seeds of your favorite tomato variety indoors under lights. Grow them for six weeks before hardening them off and planting outdoors in the mid to end of May.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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