Don’t judge this flower by its delicate appearance – it’s much tougher than it looks.
By Photographs Toad lilies (Tricyrtis hirta and T. formosana) closely resemble orchids with their exquisite, exotic-looking flowers but don’t be fooled by their dainty appearance. They are hardy plants that occur naturally in Asia, including the woodlands of the Philippines, Japan and the Himalayas. Toad lilies bloom from late summer into autumn on thin stems carried above the foliage. Their white or off-white flowers are covered with hundreds of small dark purple or maroon speckles. These plants are not difficult to cultivate and although the stems grow quite tall, it’s not necessary to stake them. Toad lilies are perfect for damp, shady spots in compost-rich soil. In cooler regions, they can cope with morning sun.
It’s important that the plant never dries out, but the soil also shouldn’t be soggy – make sure it is kept moist. Sprinkle a layer of mulch around the roots to retain moisture and provide the plant with shelter from the wind. Cut back the entire plant – flower stalks as well as leaves – right down to the ground in late winter; it will resprout. Toad lilies seldom need to be divided but if you want to propagate more plants, divide them in spring. The new plants should bear flowers the following summer.
Toad lilies make a wonderful display in pots in a shady corner. Good companion plants include ferns, Helleborus, Hosta, Plectranthus and Japanese anemones.
Botanical name Common name Shade Plenty of water Frost-resistant Perennial Grows 60cm to 1m tall Good cut flower Marié Esterhuyse Francois Oberholster