How to Grow and Care for Toad Lily

Toad lily flowers with tiny purple blooms and buds on thin stems

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Toad lilies make beautiful, exotic-looking additions to any shade garden. These unique lilies boast white to light purple, orchid-like, six-petaled blooms famous for their vibrant purple spots that appear along tall, arching stems in the late summer. Leaves grow in an alternating fashion and have parallel veins. The entire plant is hairy, earning its common name of hairy toad lily. The unique blooms make great cut flowers and can be used in flower arrangements.

Common Name Toad Lily, Hairy Toad Lily
Botanical Name Tricyrtis hirta
Family Liliaceae
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 2-3 ft. tall, 1-2 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Partial, Shade
Soil Type Loamy, Moist but Well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, Neutral
Bloom Time Summer, Fall
Flower Color Purple, White
Hardiness Zones 4-8, USA
Native Area Asia

Toad Lily Care

When planted in the right conditions, toad lilies are quite easy to care for. They prefer moist, rich soil, shade or partial shade, and consistent water. Regular moisture content in the soil will help these plants grow taller. Because of their tall stalks, they benefit when planted in areas that protect them from strong winds. 

Toad lilies are not overly susceptible to pests or diseases. However, slugs in the garden may cause damage by eating the foliage of these plants. 

Toad lily flowers with purple orchid-like blooms and buds closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Toad lily bush with bright green pointed leaves and thin stems with purple blooms

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Toad lily bush stems with bright green pointed leaves closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Light

Toad lilies prefer partial to full shade. They are often found growing naturally on the edges of shady forests. In areas with intense sun and hot summers, full shade is ideal. Partial shade or morning sun and afternoon shade are ideal for areas with milder climates.  

Soil

Fertile, moist, and organically rich soil is perfect for these flowers. They prefer loamy, well-draining soil with consistent moisture and a slightly acidic pH level. Adding a generous amount of compost or other organic material to the soil will keep these plants very happy. When the soil is kept consistently moist, toad lilies will grow taller than in dry soil conditions.

Water

Toad lilies like consistent moisture, and therefore require consistent watering. Do not allow the soil to dry out. Water as frequently as needed to keep the soil evenly moist without making it soggy. This will depend on your location and rainfall, but these flowers may need to be watered multiple times a week.

Temperature and Humidity

These plants can be grown almost anywhere in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 9. They can withstand very cold temperatures and can be grown in areas with hotter temperatures when given full shade. They do well with moderate humidity levels. Too much moisture can cause rot, while too little can cause browning foliage.  

Fertilizer

Toad lilies like nutrient-rich soil. Therefore, giving these flowers fertilizer each spring will ensure healthy growth habits. Use a well-balanced liquid fertilizer at half strength. Adding generous amounts of compost works great as well. This option also helps the soil retain a balanced amount of moisture without becoming soggy. 

Propagating Toad Lily

Toad lilies are best propagated through division and cuttings. Division can be done in early spring, while cuttings can be taken in early summer. 

To divide these plants, you will need a pair of garden gloves, a shovel, and a pair of snips. Then follow these instructions:

  1. In the early spring, use the shovel to dig a circle around the plant, slowly loosening the root system. 
  2. Once the plant can be lifted from the ground, use the shovel and snips to divide the root system into multiple sections. Be sure each section has healthy roots and foliage if present. 
  3. Plant each section in its own spot, amending the soil with plenty of compost before planting. 

To propagate through cuttings, you will need a pair of garden gloves, a pair of snips, a small pot, rooting hormone, and well-draining, rich, moist soil. 

  1. In early summer before flower buds appear, snip a cutting that is around 4 to 6 inches long. Be sure the cutting has healthy leaves on it. 
  2. Dip the cut end into rooting hormone
  3. Gently bury the cut end into the moistened, rich soil. 
  4. Place the cutting in an area that receives bright, indirect light and keep the soil moist. 
  5. Check in a few weeks for root growth by gently tugging the cutting. Resistance means roots have formed. 

How to Grow Toad Lily From Seed

Toad lilies can also easily be grown by seed. They can be started indoors or by directly sowing them into the garden. Either method you choose, it is important not to bury these seeds, as they require light to germinate. The seeds also must be used fresh, not dried and stored.   

To start outdoors, follow these instructions:

  1. In the early spring or late fall, scatter fresh seeds in the garden. The cold experienced through winter or early spring will naturally stratify the seeds
  2. Keep the soil moist and watch for little seedlings. They should appear in the late spring as temperatures warm up. 

To start seeds indoors, follow these instructions: 

  1. Place fresh seed in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for about one month. This will simulate winter, as the seeds require cold stratification before germinating. 
  2. Remove the seeds after one month and lightly sow them on top of moist, rich soil. 
  3. Place the seeds in an area with bright, indirect lighting and keep the soil moist. Germination should occur in 4 to 6 weeks.  

Potting and Repotting Toad Lily

Toad lilies can be grown in containers, as long as the soil is kept moist. Because these plants do not have access to underground water sources, they will need to be watered more often. Choose a pot with good drainage holes to prevent standing water. You should also pay attention to container material; a glazed ceramic pot or plastic pot is ideal, as terracotta can whisk away moisture too quickly. 

If the toad lily outgrows its container, you can either repot or divide the plant. To repot, simply tip the container on its side and tap it until the root system is loose and can be slid out of the pot. Fill a pot at least 1 inch larger with rich, moist soil, and plant the toad lily into its new container.   

How to Get Toad Lily to Bloom

Toad lilies produce small, white to light purple blooms covered in iconic, vibrant purple spots. The flowers appear in the late summer to early fall. Each bloom is only about 2 inches in size and has six petals. They form on the nodes of long, arching stems that can reach up to 36 inches in length. Their arching shape and unique, exotic blooms often draw comparisons to orchids. 

To encourage abundant blooming, be sure to give these plants plenty of compost or organic material and keep the soil moist. Make sure they do not receive too much sunshine, especially in warm climates. These flowers do not require any deadheading.  

Common Problems With Toad Lily

These hardy plants are not prone to problems as long as they are provided with adequate amounts of shade and moisture. However, even hardy plants can sometimes run into problems. Foliage problems can occur and be an indication of moisture management issues. 

Brown Spotted or Tipped Leaves

Brown spots or edging on foliage is a sign of too little water. These plants require consistent moisture levels to stay healthy. If you notice any brown spots forming, be sure to give these plants more water. Water frequently, and do not allow the soil to dry out. At the same time, be sure to avoid soggy soil, as this can lead to rot. 

FAQ
  • Will toad lilies return each year?

    Toad lilies are perennial flowers, returning each year. Keep in mind that in most areas of the plant's growing zones, it will bloom in early fall. However, in the more northern regions of its hardiness zone, it may bloom in late summer.

  • How long do toad lily blooms last?

    Toad lilies bloom in the late summer to early fall and usually continue blooming for a month or so, or until frost begins to kill the foliage. 

  • How big do toad lilies get?

    Though the individual flowers are small, toad lily plants can reach up to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide.