Amnesia? I Swear I Don’t Remember Planting It There!


One of the pitfalls about trying to garden with native plants? Most plant identification books or websites show what the flower looks like, but little else. I’ve let a lot of weeds grow because I was afraid they might be a native plant that I just didn’t recognize from the leaves alone.

A couple of years ago, a small plant volunteered close to a coral-bark Japanese maple in one of my shade beds. There was something intriguing, almost familiar about the leaves and its growth habit. So…I let it alone; and then forgot about it.

Fast forward to late summer 2016: I’m sweaty, dripping, stinky, dirty…just having a great time weeding in my garden. I raised up to give my poor back a rest and to wipe the sweat out of my eyes – and behold! A toad lily was blooming by the coral-bark Japanese maple.

The thing was…I don’t think I planted one there. I did plant a toad lily in a different bed and it’s doing very well, but this “surprise” toad lily is a mystery.

Whether it “volunteered” or the Plant Faery left it there, it’s in the right spot. Toad lilies (Tricyrtis formosana) like part-shade to shade; medium to wet soils with organic matter. Although I’ve read that they shouldn’t be allowed to dry out, both toad lily plants don’t get much extra irrigation in my gardens.

Hardy in Zones 4 to 9, they are hardy, obviously require little care and the blooms look a lot like orchids – very elegant and lovely – white background with magenta spots and yellow throats.

The deer and the voles have ignored the toad lilies so far, for which I’m grateful. I think I’ll try moving them to a more visible spot next spring, because although the flowers are quite pretty, they are also quite small and should be admired up close.

Here’s another joke on me….toad lilies aren’t even native plants -they are from Taiwan! Go figure!

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