Trillium chloropetalum

giant trillium

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks (white form)

Outstanding Qualities

Few plants can rival the beauty of giant trillium in the spring. Native to the central California coast, it is unsurpassed for its size and presence in the garden. Through the winter, you often see huge pointed buds poking from the soil. These rocket into growth in March, sending up stems 12 to 18 inches high. Large, bold 'umbrellas' top the stems, each composed of three diamond- or egg-shaped leaves without petioles (leaf stalks). These newly opened leaves are pleasingly spotted and splotched with chocolate brown. Resting in the center of this whorl of foliage is a 2- to 3-inch-tall, three-petaled flower. While flower color is variable, a rich, saturated, blood-red is most common in cultivation in our area. Be sure to smell the blooms and enjoy the unexpected rose fragrance.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: perennial

Foliage Type: deciduous

Plant Height: 1 ft. 6 in. (0.46 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 1 ft. 6 in. (0.46 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 to 9

Flower Color: red

Sun/Light Exposure: light to open shade

Water Requirements: occasional to regular watering is best

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: burgundy, silver, gold

Great Color Partners: white, variegated, dark green

Culture Notes
Trilliums grow best in fertile, humus-rich, well-drained soil in bright open shade. Too much shade results in little growth or flowering. Trilliums requires patience: young plants can take three to five years to bloom and another five to eight years to develop into a nice clump. But the wait is well worth it for these garden gems. Do not remove old flowers but let the seeds develop, ants will disperse them around your garden to start new clumps. Although this species is drought tolerant in the wild, cultivated plants will grow better if provided supplemental water at least occasionally (every 10 to 14 days) during dry weather; watering regularly (once per week) is optimal. Trilliums are poor competitors, so be careful not to plant aggressive plants nearby. Trilliums are long-lived, spreading slowly and taking several years to form a significant clump.