When to move Trilliums?

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

It took me a good bit of sleuthing, but I've finally determined these plans are probably T. cuneatum (Toadshade trillium) There are two of them growing in full sun near the edge of a lined pond, each in the middle of a clump of liriope.

I understand these plants do best in full to partial shade and would like to move them, but when and how? Do they die back in the summer (I don't remember seeing them last year, but I could easily have overlooked them back then.)

These plants are not likely to win any beauty pageants - at least not on their "natural good looks", but the more I read about them, the more intrigued I am. I'd like to make sure they make the move okay. Any help is appreciated!

Troy, VA(Zone 7a)

Have they flowered yet? If they have, then it should be OK to move them now. Otherwise wait until after they flower. Yes, they like woodland conditions. :-)

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Louisa, thank you so much! I'm assuming they've "flowered" as the flowers are not very showy, but they've sent up sepals and stamens. I can't believe they've survived in this area - it is in full sun, very little moisture, even though it's next to the pond (the pond is a preformed plastic one, so no leaks), and they are a few feet away from hot pavement.

Their current growing conditions were part of what threw me off track when I was trying to figure out what they were, and when I stopped assuming they were properly situated, I was able to match them to pictures of Trillium cuneatum.

Fortunately, I have another pond under a large oak tree, with lots of shade and amended soil, so I hope they'll be happy in their new home.

Thank you again! Not to stray too far from the thread topic, but I hope you know I'm counting down the days until you move, I know you must be anxious. Have you found any mirrors yet? Sending happy thoughts your way....

Troy, VA(Zone 7a)

It seems that you have it all worked out then with the new site for the trilliums - I'm sure they will do just fine. Thanks so much for your well wishes regarding the impending move to the new house, you are so thoughtful and yes I found the mirrors - well think I have! :-)

Lyles, TN

go_vols; I have had better luck moving trilliums after they've finished growing for the year, but if you get a ball of dirt with it the root should not be too disturbed. The problem is the bud for next years' growth will be checked if it's damaged. BTW dried roots of trillium are called Bethroot, and are medicinal.

Cedar Rapids, IA

I've dug trillium from the woods in mid-May without a problem. But it is a lot cooler usually than your zone.

La Porte, IN(Zone 5a)

My husband and I have salvaged most of our woodland garden plants from construction sites. We have the best success transplanting when they are emerging. Dig deeply, and widely, plant in humus amended soil.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Thanks, all! I really need to move the trilliums in the next week or so, as the pond they're next to has to be re-set (it heaved this winter when some water got underneath it.) As luck would have it, both plants are smack-dab in the middle of clumps of liriope, which I have plenty of, so I'll gladly sacrifice the liriope to save the trillium. Figured I'll dig them up as big clumps, and try to pull the liriope away by hand without disturbing the trillium, and have my planting holes ready and waiting on them when I dig.

What should I expect for roots? (Sorry, I've no experience with these, as you can probably tell.) Will they have a bulb, or is it just roots? If roots, are they fleshy, or brittle? You-all are giving me such good advice, please bear with me as I beg for more info - I want to give these the best chances possible.

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

Trillum are a bulb plant, basically - a large knob, so make sure you dig deep and get it all. They can really go down there. I think they are like daffs in that they haul themselves down in deeper if they don't like the depth that they are in. I have a volunteer in a garden clear around the other side of the house from where all the others are - either a bird drop or it came as a stowaway with some plants I traded for last fall - be exciting to see what it is.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Karma, seriously? These are growing in my flower bed, so I'm not trying to remove them from the wild or anything....from what I was able to research, these are available commercially, so I didn't think they were endangered or anything. Yikes!

Kathleen, thanks for the heads up - I'll plan to dig deep when I am ready to move them, and hopefully avoid or at least minimize any severing of the roots.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Well, armed with all this good advice, I took the plunge and dug the trilliums today. Unfortunately the stem broke off one as I tried to pry the liriope roots away, but I went ahead and planted the bulb. Keep your fingers crossed - maybe it'll do okay. The other two had a really odd, stunted bulbs, I think maybe because there wasn't room for them to get any deeper (the liriope had created a mass of roots beneath the bulbs. I moved all three to a site with dappled shade and soil that I amended with lots of leaf mold and compost.

I'm beginning to feel like a bona fide plant rescuer. I found wild phlox (P. divaricata) growing in the same soil as the trilliums. I don't know how, but they were actually blooming, even though they were baking in full sun, near concrete, in extremely poor, dry soil with an ant hill underneath them. They've been moved to another dappled shade spot, with lots of compost, too.

Thanks again for all your advice and experience - it made me feel a lot more confident in moving them, even though this wasn't the ideal time. Even if their move hadn't been absolutely necessary, I don't think I could bear leaving them in their inhospitable surroundings for much longer, anyway!!!

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

Your broken off stem will probably come up next year, but might not bloom until the year after. They are proabably stretching their little roots out with a great big AHHHHHH!
some thing decided to eat the bud off my little volunteer, ah well, maybe next year.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Thanks for the support, Kathleen! Since this species has really inconspicuous blooms (they're almost the same color as the leaves), I was attracted to the foliage anyway. Do you think it'll send up any new growth this year, or will I have to wait until next year to find out if the root is doing okay?

Antrim, Northern Ire, United Kingdom(Zone 8b)


I checked with a trillum grower tonight who has a huge collection.

Trilliums should only be moved when the shoots appear in spring or when the leaves start to die down. NO other time! as it will set them back and they will huff.


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