Trillium Grandiflorum Rhizomes 12 Months Later

Trillium grandiflorum (look at me I'm growing)
Trillium grandiflorum (look at me I'm growing)

I have to take back the disparaging remarks I made about the Trilliums in a plastic bag. I planted the perennials twelve months ago, and never saw a sign of them in the garden.  Now, those overdue Trillium grandiflorum are finally making an appearance. I was so pleasantly surprised when the characteristic three leaves suddenly appeared in the garden.

I bought them very cheaply from the shelf of a store last May. The little rhizomes were in plastic packages, carelessly arranged on a dusty shelf, with no extra signage.  How could such a special and pretty little woodland plant be laying on a shelf in a plastic bag? However, the price was so reasonable, that I had to give them a try. As I purchased them, I had misgivings, but I figured that I  didn’t have much to lose.

I planted the little brown rhizomes carefully in this garden bed under the maple, thinking that they would enjoy the shady location and fallen deciduous leaves.  I watered and tended the space all last year, but there was never a sign of any growth. When the slow-paced perennials  had still not appeared this spring, I admitted defeat and bought three new Trillium grandiflorum plants. Now the old rhizomes are coming to life.

I feel bad that I gave up on the little Trillium rhizomes in this previous post. However I feel even worse that I was stepping over this area of the shade garden a week ago, as I cleaned up, finally sure that nothing was under there.

Now the fresh leaves have appeared, and I’m elated at this unexpected bonus. Only two of the six have appeared so far, but with our current weather, I wouldn’t blame the others for staying cozily underground for a while longer. I’m definitely not giving up on the other Trillium rhizomes yet, after a twelve month delay for the first two.

Trillium grandiflorum new flower
Trillium grandiflorum new flower

Here’s what the three petaled blooms will look like, if they flower this year. This flower picture is of one of my newly purchased plants.

I’m thrilled to see these perennials in the garden.  My little Trillium patch is growing. I’m not sure how long it will take them to flower, perhaps not this year. However, there is a little piece of charming woodland growing under the trees now.

Have you given up on a plant, only to have it surprise you much later?

20 thoughts on “Trillium Grandiflorum Rhizomes 12 Months Later”

  1. I don’t know where it came from, but “First year sleep, second year creep, third year leap” certainly applies to some plants. My peonies were like that – only 3 of the 4 came up the first year, so I thought I’d have only 3. The second year, the straggler came up, surprise! This is the third year, and the straggler is covered in buds. I hope that’s your experience with your trilliums. Oh, how I’d love to have some! I’ve not seen any here, but I will look.

    1. Kim, I’m surprised that the straggler trilliums waited for 12 months to show above ground. I was very tempted last fall to plant something else in that spot. Now I have to decide how to arrange the new trilliums that were bought.

  2. I’ve just planted one of these. I’m hoping it comes up next year as I find them hard to establish. Then if they do come up they often get eaten by slugs!
    It is sad when you see some of the neglected plants you see trapped in plastic bags in various stores. I don’t know why they bother selling them at all.

    1. Easygardener, I’m curious to see if these will produce flowers this year. I know they sometimes take a while to bloom, and I’m not sure if the rhizomes were a mature size. We’re fortunate not to have a large slug problem, but my climate is probably much drier.

  3. Interesting to read about your experience. I’ve wondered whether to plant more trilliums as they seem to do fairly well in my back garden. Maybe bare root is the way to go.

    Thanks, too, to Kim for the “sleep, creep, leap” saying. I’ll remember that one.

    1. Helen, I wonder how long the trillium rhizomes remain viable in a bag. The two plants that have risen look healthy. I’m keeping off that area just in case now.

  4. Hi Northern Shade: Congratulations on the bagged trillia rhizomes. I thought they needed special care, so I would never have bought them, but checking Cullina’s book I see that it is the seeds that are very difficult. He credits the rhizomes with teaching him patience. They are very slow growing and he says even eye-less sections of the rhizome may form buds “but it can take a few years”. So, even if nothing shows with the missing plants this Spring, there still is hope for next year. He suggests dusting them with a little dolomite in the fall.

    I can’t say I’ve had any similar surprises with rhizomes or bulbs (those snowdrops still aren’t showing), but I did have a good seed experience this Spring. I usually buy seeds to support the Devonian Botanical Garden and two years ago I got a packet of large, black Paeonia anomala seeds and promptly potted some up, watered them all summer, kept the pots overwinter in the yard, and watered them all summer again. When nothing had shown up by last Fall, I gave up and dumped them in a raised bed. This Spring as I was weeding what I thought were Lovage seedlings (great plant for insects, but way too many dill-like seeds that spread everywhere), I noticed large black seed coats dangling from some. Back into pots for them and now I have three healthy looking seedlings – but who knows how many years until they flower?

    1. Dave, thanks for the information on Trillium growth. I will keep that space for the rest of the slow poke rhizomes, and see what happens. I don’t think I will be trying will be trying seeds, though.

      I planted Galanthus bulbs twice, and did not have them come up at all in spring. This time, I planted the Galanthus elwesii last fall, and they have all popped up. It was only a small group of 15, since I didn’t know how they would do. They look nice, but a little lost and sparse. I will expand the group this fall. I’m not sure if I just got healthier bulbs this time, if the G. elwesii is better adapted, or if they prefer the different location I gave them.

      Good luck with the Paeonia seedlings. Those rescued flowers will be all the more special when they appear.

  5. Hi Shade, what a happy ending to the story, hooray for plants that surprise us! Christopher from Outside Clyde gave me some of the very same plant last year on Mother’s day. It seemed very late in our spring season and there was no sign of them. The jack in the pulpits had bloomed as had the bloodroot. Here’s the thing, The trilliums came up quite a distance from where they were planted. They were up but I just wasn’t looking in the right place. They seemed to pop up scattered around the original planting hole. A happy ending here too. :-)

    1. Frances, while keeping my eye out for any more trilliums growing, I’ll be sure to check a wider area. I’d hate to absentmindedly weed them out where I wasn’t expecting them. I do smile when I see them now. They feel like a bonus plant.

  6. Northern Shade, Is it just the photograph or my eyes that are playing tricks. Are the petals on your plant in the first photo kind of “waxy?” Congratulations on having these begin to grow. I hope they all make it! Isn’t gardening an adventure? :-)

    1. Shady Gardener, those leaves burst up very quickly. One day there were none, and then there were those shiny leaves. I didn’t even have to use furniture polish on them. :) Since I planted them so long ago, without a sign of growth, it feels like pretty wildflowers just suddenly appeared in the garden.

    1. Joanne, so far the trilliums just have leaves, but no evidence of flowers yet. It’s fun to discover a flower in the garden. It is better than the multitude of maple seedlings in that location.

  7. I bought an Oregon Stonecrop off the discount table at my favorite garden center a few years ago, at the end of the season. I planted it, and I think it came back the following year but didn’t do much. Then it vanished for 2-3(?) years, and has come back in full force this year. The really odd thing is that it’s about 8-12 inches away from where I planted it, and spreading quickly.

    The trilliums are lovely, I also remember them fondly from my youth!

    1. Rebecca, it’s tempting to give up on some plants, and their ability to survive surprises me sometimes. I just found a third trillium in this group this week. It’s amazing to think of the rhizome waiting underground for over a year before sending up some leaves to start photosynthesizing, but I suppose it’s a good survival strategy for waiting out adverse conditions.

  8. Hi Northern Shade

    I know this reply is so much later than the rest, but I just stumbled across it. I have about 6 trillium plants that were in bio-pots and never did get planted. How long were yours on the shelf for? I would love to try them again next spring but am worried that the entire rhizome has dried out. I’m excited as they are all yellow trilliums. Do you think they would be safe to over winter in the garage and try again in April?

    1. Amanda, I’m not sure how long mine were on the shelf at the store before I bought them. My Trilliums were planted in the ground, and the area was watered, so I don’t think they dried out too much after planting. I found it odd that they were in the ground with no sign of green above ground for a little over 12 months. I even had another one pop up after 14 months. They are very resilient to remain alive underground, with no photosynthesizing to supply extra energy. They seem able to handle dormancy for a while. When the plants did arise, the foliage was very healthy, but they didn’t get blooms yet. I’m hoping that they bloom next spring.

      Has your ground frozen yet? If not, I would try planting them now. You could cover them with the fall leaves, if you have any. It would help insulate them, and they would feel right at home in spring with the woodsy mulch.

  9. Hi, similar story here in Toronto. Bought and planted rhizomes from plastic packages last spring, nothing happened all year, then this year 3 of the 4 popped up. This year at a garden show, I saw the same brand of rhizomes, but they were all sprouting in the bags! so I got 4 more and am growing them indoors until I plant them out in the fall (2 of which look like they would flower).

    1. Toras, I was pleasantly surprised when they finally appeared above ground and flowered. They came back again for the second time last year, and flowered well, so I think the rhizomes were actually quite healthy. They just need patience. The plastic packages turned out to be an inexpensive way to purchase them, and they did eventually grow well.

      The foliage then dies back in later summer, giving room for other perennials around them. Good luck with growing them on until a fall planting.

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