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White Trout Lily, a Magical Wildflower for Spring

Virtues: White trout lily is a delicate-looking wildflower but it relishes the early spring and will sprout and bloom while the weather is only beginning to warm up after the winter. This eastern native perennial makes a lovely carpet of leaves and nodding flowers in the spring and then falls dormant, leaving space for later shade-loving perennials to shine.

white trout lily

Common name: White trout lily, white dogtooth violet

Botanical name:Erythronium albidum

Exposure: Shade

Season: Spring, for flowers and foliage

Flowers: Each white trout lily plant produces a single nodding flower atop a slender stem in early spring. The flower has white petals with a tinge of pink that flare open around golden stamens.

Foliage: White trout lily’s leaves are medium grayish green mottled with a purplish brown or silvery white. The foliage emerges in early spring, develops quickly and dies by midsummer, when the plant goes dormant.

Habit: A spreading spring ephemeral that increases by underground runners, white trout lily can form an impressive colony in the right conditions. Each plant in the colony is about 6 inches tall.

Origins:Erythronium albidum is a wildflower native to much of the Midwest and parts of the Mid-Atlantic. It has naturalized in some states surrounding these regions.

How to grow white trout lily: Site in the shade of trees, in moist to wet soil. This plant is sold as seed or corms (similar to a bulb). Trout lilies grown from seed may take up to 5 years to flower. Corms will establish more easily and bloom sooner. Individual plants can also be divided from a mature stand and replanted. This method should not be done outside of a garden setting, however; do not harvest trout lilies from the wild. White trout lily is best used in a woodland garden, mingled with groundcovers and perennials that develop later in the season and thereby fill in the gaps trout lily leaves when it goes dormant in summer. USDA Zones 3–8.

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