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Genus Trillium (Trinity flower, Wakerobin, Wood lily)

Trillium Trillium grandiflorum Photo/Illustration: Jennifer Brown
TRILL-ee-um Common Name: Trinity flower, Wakerobin, Wood lily
Most plants in the Trillium genus are native to woodlands and scrub of North America. They have three whorled leaves at their apexes, and nodding or upright blossoms with three whorled petals. They make an elegant understory species planted in groups in a woodland or shady mixed border. Plant Trillium with other shade-loving perennials to share their place until the reappear the following spring.
Noteworthy characteristics: These quiet woodland beauties signal spring with their petals and leaves of three, and then disappear when the season heats up.
Care: Grow in full to partial shade and rich, moist, but well-drained soil with a neutral to acidic pH. Provide with an annual mulch of rich organic matter.
Propagation: Trilliums propagate readily by division (when dormant in late summer or early fall), but take from 7 to 9 years to bloom from seed.
Problems: Smut, rust, fungal spots, slugs, snails.

Species, varieties and cultivars for genus Trillium

no image available Trillium chloropetalum
(Giant trillium, Wakerobin, Wood lily, Trinity flower)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This species blooms in early to mid-spring with large blossoms of white, yellow, or deep purple-black. It is vigorous, growing to almost 18 inches tall and wide, with leaves (usually mottled) up to 8 inches long.

Trillium erectum Trillium erectum
(Red trillium, Purple trillium, Stinking Benjamin, Woodlily, Wakerobin, Trinity flower)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This trillium has upright or outward-facing blossoms of chocolate or reddish-purple, or occasionally white or yellow. At close range, it bears an unpleasant scent. It blooms in mid- to late spring, and grows from 14-20 inches tall and a foot wide.

Trillium erectum var. album Trillium erectum var. album
(White trillium, Stinking Benjamin, Wood lily, Wakerobin)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This white-flowered form of red trillium has delicate, outward-facing petals with striking dark centers. At close range, it bears an unpleasant scent. Plants bloom in mid- to late spring, and grow to 14-20 inches tall and a foot wide.

Trillium flexipes Trillium flexipes
(Bent trillium, White wakerobin, Wood lily, Trinity flower)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This trillium produces large white flowers above the foliage in mid-spring, but the flowers are later hidden as the flower stalks nod. The flowers occasionally are maroon, but they retain the white ovaries. The plant is quite variable, and can grow up to 2 feet tall.

Trillium grandiflorum Trillium grandiflorum
(Great white trillium, White wakerobin, Wood lily, Trinity flower)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This showy spring-blooming trillium has large white blossoms up to 3 inches long, which fade to soft pink and from cup-shaped to open and recurved. Its veined leaves are solid green, and it grows to 18 inches tall and about half as wide.

Trillium luteum Trillium luteum
(Yellow trillium, Wood lily, Wakerobin, Trinity flower)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This mid- to late-spring bloomer bears yellow blossoms atop a trio of leaves often mottled with a paler shade of silvery-green. It is faintly fragrant of lemon oil, and grows to about 14 inches tall.

Trillium pusillum Trillium pusillum
(Dwarf wakerobin, Wood lily, Trinity flower)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

In spring, the foliage of this petite species emerges a deep purple-black-green and is topped by white blooms with rippled petals. As plants mature, the foliage becomes medium green, and the flowers turn pink, then lavender-purple. Dwarf wakerobin grows to only 8 inches tall and readily forms colonies. 

Trillium recurvatum Trillium recurvatum
(Prairie trillium, Bloody butcher, Purple wakerobin, Wood lily, Trinity flower)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This is one of the first and most plentiful Trilliums to bloom in the spring. It has upright maroon blossoms (occasionally white or yellow) without stalks, and its leaves can be nicely mottled. It grows to 12-18 inches tall and 8-12 inches wide.

no image available Trillium stamineum
(Propeller toad shade, Wakerobin, Wood lily, Trinity flower, Propeller trillium, Blue Ridge wakerobin)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This striking spring-blooming species features narrow, chocolate-colored petals that twist like a propeller over slightly mottled leaves. It forms a stocky plant, growing to 10-15 inches tall and not quite as wide.

Trillium vaseyi Trillium vaseyi
(Sweet Beth, Sweet wakerobin, Wood lily, Trinity flower)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This trillium bears the largest flowers in the genus—almost 4 inches across. Growing to almost 2 feet high and not quite as wide, it is also one of the tallest trilliums. Its chocolate-red blossoms (occasionally white) boast strongly curved petals and prominent stamens. They appear just beneath the leaves in mid- to late spring.