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Virtues: 'Autumn Glow' toad lily brings bright color to the shade garden throughout summer with its variegated leaves. As a huge bonus, it also adds vivid purple flowers in late summer or autumn. These intricately marked flowers can be best appreciated where the plant is sited close to a pathway or highlighted in a container. They are also good cut flowers for the vase.
Common name: Autumn Glow toad lily
Botanical name: Tricyrtis formosana 'Autumn Glow'
Exposure: Part shade or full shade
Flowers: Small flowers reminiscent of orchids or alstroemeria appear in midsummer (southern regions) or early fall (northern regions). The petals and sepals are light purple with darker purple speckling. The center of the flower is bright yellow, with prominent gold to rust stamens. Several flowers appear on each stem that rises through and above the foliage, so that while the individual blossoms are quite small, the flowering is still visually effective. This deer-resistant perennial is easy to grow as long as it receives regular watering.
Foliage: Leaves are similar in shape to those of Solomon's seal (Polygonatum) or a narrow hosta. They are medium green with a broad lime to yellow margin. The leaves appear on alternating sides of the stems, forming stair steps.
Habit: This toad lily forms a two- to three-foot-wide clump of erect stems reaching about two feet tall. It creeps by underground stems but it is not aggressive or invasive.
Origin: Tricyrtis formosana is native to forests and thickets of Taiwan. 'Autumn Glow' is a cultivar that was selected in Japan, where toad lilies are cultivated for the cut-flower trade.
How to grow it: Plant 'Autumn Glow' toad lily in full or part shade, in fertile soil that remains moist but not soggy. Flowering and growth is best with some sunlight. Provide supplemental water if rain is scarce. This perennial can be divided to rejuvenate it if growth or flowering lags after a few years. It can be one of the later perennials to reappear in spring, so mark its planting spot as a reminder of its location. USDA Zones 5–9.
Images credit: Walters Gardens
Recommended related reading:
Learn more about plants with variegated or colorful foliage and how to best use them in garden design with the book Gardening with Foliage First by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz.
Find more gorgeous, unexpected plants for the shade plus advice on how to design and tend your shade garden with Larry Hodgson's Making the Most of Shade.