- Type Flowering bulb
- Lifespan Perennial
- USDA Zones 3-9
- Light Dappled sun
- Soil Rich humus
- Water Moist
- Design Tip Woodlands
- Companions Wood anemones
- Peak Season Early spring
Trout Lily: A Field Guide
Trout lily (also known as dog’s-tooth lily or, more properly, by its horticultural name Erythronium), is the springtime flower you think of when you imagine green fronds unfurling and pushing their way upward through a layer of last autumn’s fallen leaves.
“In early April there is quite a wealth of flower among plants that belong half to wood and half to garden,” the English gardener Gertrude Jekyll wrote, including Erythronium on her list of favorites. These low-growing plants also can solve problems if underplanted beneath trees, where it is too shady to suit grass.
Jekyll’s favorite species of trout lily was Erythronium giganteum, which she called “the noblest plant of the same family—a striking and beautiful wood plant, with turn-cap shaped flowers of palest straw-colour, almost white, and large leaves, whose markings are not drop-like as in the more familiar kind, but are arranged in a regular sequence of bold splashings.”
Depending on the species and cultivar, trout lilies are hardy in USDA growing zones 3 to 9. Some of our favorites varieties include lemony ‘Pagoda’ (which grows to 18 inches, a towering height for a trout lily) and Erythronium californicum ‘White Beauty’, with a pink tinge at the tips of its petals.
Trout lily is not a fast-spreading bulb; don’t expect it to naturalize wantonly across great swaths of the lawn as if you’d planted Crocus. Instead, writes our contributor Kendra Wilson, “Erythronium revolutum naturalizes happily in sparse turf, while Erythronium dens-canis can be dug up and divided after flowering, every few years.”