There are many types of Tricyrtis. Some have an arching stem, some a trailing stem, and some have an erect upright stem. Their flowers may have flat petals, petals that do not open far and are shaped like a bell, or petals that open beyond horizontal and bend backwards (are reflexed). The flowers may occur only at the tips of the plant or all along the length of the stem. The flower color varies from multi-colored hues of yellow, blue, pink, and white. Creating categories from this wide variation is difficult but the species tend to clump into together with certain groups of these traits.
One such category to consider are the species with arching stems and purple flowers in the fall. The following is a description of toad lily species in this group.
Tricyrtis hirta (Toad Lily) (syn. Tricyrtis japonica, Tricyrtis masamunei) Tricyrtis hirta is the species that comes to mind when most gardeners hear the word toad lily. This ubiquitous species, which hails from the Japanese islands of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, is quite easy to grow and has a wide range of climatic adaptability. The arching stems, clothed in hairy light green leaves, can range from 1 to 3 tall, depending on the population genetics. Tricyrtis hirta comes into bloom in late summer/early fall, when the light lavender speckled, orchid-like flowers magically appear in every leaf axil. (Hardiness Zone 4-8)
Tricyrtis hirta ‘Alba’ (White Toad Lily) This name is given to any seed-grown white-flowered Tricyrtis hirta, and does not represent a single clone. Plants sold under this name can vary dramatically with regards to vigor and flower quality. (Hardiness Zone 4-8)
Tricyrtis hirta ‘Albescens’ (Albescens Toad Lily) Like Tricyrtis hirta Alba, this is a catch-all name for white flowered seedlings of Tricyrtis hirta. (Hardiness Zone 4-8)
Tricyrtis hirta ‘Albomarginata’ (Variegated Toad Lily) This is a creamy white-edged leaf clone of the popular toad lily. The, 18 arching branches burst into flower in midsummer through early fall with 1″ purple orchid-like flowers in each leaf axil. (Hardiness Zone 4-8)
Tricyrtis hirta ‘Golden Gleam’ (Golden Gleam Toad Lily) Years after its 1996 introduction from Terra Nova, Tricyrtis ‘Golden Gleam’ is still one of our favorite toad lilies…even if it never flowered. This dwarf only reaches 18″, boasting chartreuse golden foliage spotted with large grey dots, that looks great all summer in the woodland garden when used among textural contrasts like ferns and carex. The foliage color tends to fade to green in climates with hot summers. In fall, each leaf axil is tightly packed with 1″ wide dark purple and white-speckled flowers. (Hardiness Zone 4-8)
Tricyrtis hirta ‘Lightning Strike’ (Lightning Strike Toad Lily) This unusual attention-getting Japanese selection of the commonly grown Tricyrtis hirta makes an outstanding feature in the woodland garden. The bright golden foliage is streaked with green on 2′ tall arching stems. Even though the pattern of streaking is variable, we have seen no reversions to solid green. In early fall, the stems are highlighted with 1″ light lavender, orchid-like flowers in the leaf axils. (Hardiness Zone 4-8)
Tricyrtis hirta ‘Minazuki’ (Minazuki Toad Lily) Not to be confused with Tricyrtis hirta ‘Miyazaki’, Tricyrtis Minazuki is a short-growing selection of the hairless Tricyrtis hirta var. masamunei from Kyushu, Japan. As the summer progresses, the 12 tall stems of narrow golden leaves develop a thin green border along with a few green streaks in the leaves. Starting in September (NC), the plants are adorned with pale lavender flowers, both terminally and in the leaf axils. Tricyrtis ‘Minazuki’ is the more stable form of the highly streaked Tricyrtis ‘Lightning Strike’. (Hardiness Zone 4-8)
Tricyrtis hirta ‘Mine-no-yuki’ (Mine-no-yuki Toad Lily) Tricyrtis Mine-no-yuki is a 1 tall vigorous Japanese selection with arching stems and light-pink flowers with purple spots. (Hardiness Zone 4-8)
Tricyrtis hirta ‘Miyazaki’ (Miyazaki Toad Lily) Tricyrtis hirta ‘Miyazaki’ is a seed strain of the Japanese native Tricyrtis hirta that was selected for its shorter, more arching habit than the typical species. In late summer and early fall, the 1″ purple and white spotted, orchid-like flowers burst forth in the leaf axils. Slightly moist soils are best, although Tricyrtis hirta can endure extended droughts by diminishing its flower production. (Hardiness Zone 4-8)
Tricyrtis hirta ‘Miyazaki Gold’ (Miyazaki Gold Toad Lily) This choice variegated toad lily is from the dwarf Tricyrtis ‘Miyazaki’ strain. Growing to only 12″ tall, this gem is clothed with green leaves with a distinct creamy yellow edge (darker gold than Tricyrtis hirta ‘Albomarginata’). In late summer/early fall, the arching branches are covered with purple orchid-like flowers in each leaf axil. (Hardiness Zone 4-8)
Tricyrtis hirta ‘Moonlight’ (Moonlight Toad Lily) This Bluebird Nursery introduction is an all-gold clone (often with tiny green lines) that originated as a sport of Tricyrtis hirta ‘Variegata’. The hairy chartreuse/parchment-colored foliage tightly clothes the 15″ stalks and this eventual 2′ wide clumper. In fall, every leaf axil is home to a nickel-sized, orchid-like flower…a white background with dramatic purple specks and a purple ring at the inside base of the flower. We have not found this to be the most vigorous of the gold-foliage selections. (Hardiness Zone 4-8)
Tricyrtis hirta ‘Shining Light’ (Shining Light Toad Lily) Tricyrtis ‘Shining Light’ makes an attractive 2′ tall ladder of foliage, each leaf a chartreuse gold with a contrasting dark green edge. In fall, the clumps are topped with 1″ wide orchid-like flowers in every leaf axil. (Hardiness Zone 4-8)
Tricyrtis hirta ‘White Towers’ (White Towers Toad Lily) Tricyrtis White Towers is an 20 tall upright clone of Tricyrtis hirta with liver spots when young, and topped in late summer/early fall with white flowers. (Hardiness Zone 4-8)
These Tricyrtis all make wonderful garden plants for partially shaded, temperate locations. Enjoy!