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Trillium catesbaei in the Shade Garden

By Edited May 3, 2016 2 1

Trillium catesbaei is a perennial native to the U.S.  You can find this plant growing in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.  Although marketed as a rare plant, in reality, it is not that rare.  It simply has a small native range, and as far as I can tell it is not endangered, extinct, or threatened in any of the places where it would normally grow.

Trillium catesbaei

Common Names for Trillium catesbaei

A catesbaei by any other name

Gardeners know Trillium catesbaei by the common names of Bashful Wake robin and Rose Trillium.  Why people call them by these names is easy enough to figure out.  The flowers of this species of Trillium have a nodding habit and the petals curve backwards.  The flowers also grow under the leaves.  That explains the bashful part.  The Rose Trillium name probably comes from the pink color of the flowers. 

How to Identify a Trillium

The mystery plants among us

Trilliums are a spring ephemeral.  A spring ephemeral means that the plant grows, flowers, and then the leaves die back before summer.  Another popular spring ephemeral is the Bleeding Heart plant.  These plants have an interesting growth habit.  They have only three leaves.  If you find a leaf stalk topped with three leaves you can narrow down the possibilities of what you have.  These are not the only plants that have this growth habit though, so do no assume what you have is a Trillium.  Another plant that has this three-leaved habit is Jack-in-the-Pulpit.  Trillium leaves have five veins and can get large.  The leaves get larger the older the plant.  The easiest way to identify this plant is to wait until it flowers and start comparing your plant to pictures that you find in books and online.  It takes experience to be able to identify one by sight, but that comes with time.

Growing Trillium catesbaei from Seed

Why are Trilliums so expensive?

The age-old question of Trillium lovers is why are they so darned expensive anyway?  The answer to that is that they take from five to nine years to go from sprout to flowering grownup plant.  You need patience to be a Trillium breeder.  It takes two years for a Trillium seed to send up its first leaves.  They require two cold cycles before sprouting.  I have a lot of Trillium catesbaei, but it is not because I am so super gardener.  Mother Nature planted and cared for them and they just seed around.  They came in from the woods and just took up residence.  I did not plant them, I just happen to live in a house, which nobody has cared for for many years.  Apparently, Trilliums thrive on neglect.

Where to Plant Trillium catesbaei

This is going to be a quick run through of the conditions that this plant prefers to live in.  This plant likes a moist, highly amended, and shady location.  I have not seen any mention of this in my research but I am assuming since it grows in the oak forests of Georgia that it also likes acidic soil.



Jul 9, 2011 1:03pm
Hi, I love the Trillium and it grows wild all along the Appalachian Trail between Tennessee and North Carolina. I have pix on RedGage of Spider Wort that I grow and it also has the three petals and may be in the same family as the Trillium. T really enjoyed the write up as well...
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