The common name of toad lily is rather unfortunate for such an attractive and unusual flower. The amphibian reference really refers to the blotches and markings on the flowers. The genus name is from the Greek for "three" and "convex" because the 3 outer petals have tiny bags or swellings at the base.
Description of toad lily: Plants have alternate, 6-inch leaves on arching, hairy stems that are usually 2 feet high. They bear single, creamy white flowers, often in clusters, which open to purple-spotted petals and centers resembling pieces of chenille. They usually bloom in late September or October. Toad lily ease of care: Moderately easy.
How to grow toad lily: Toad lilies need a moist, fertile soil with a high humus content and partial shade, or the open shade found beneath trees. In higher elevations of Zone 5b where fall frosts arrive early, the plants must be protected.
Propagating toad lily: By seed or by division in spring.
Uses for toad lily: Toad lilies should be planted where they are easily seen. The plants are especially valuable for the shade garden and are among the few that bloom so late in the garden year.
Toad lily related species: Tricyrtis formosana has flowers spotted with mauve on a lighter background with yellow in the throat. T. latifolia is a summer bloomer with upright yellow flowers in branched terminal clusters. 'Forbidden City' has dark stems and the outer, triangular petals each marked with a chocolate-brown band across the middle. T. macrantha var. macranthopsis features decumbent stems bearing broadly lance-shape, shiny pleated leaves and gorgeous inflated yellow bells borne in the leaf axils along the upper third of the stem. Hybrid toadlilies: 'Kohaku' bears open, vase-shaped white flowers, heavily spotted with rich purple, face upward from the leaf axils on the upper half of the stems. 'Lemon and Lime' has golden foliage edged with green on stems under 2 feet tall. 'Lightning Strike' has gold leaves edged in dark green and lavender, spotted. 'Shining Light' has irregularly striped gold and green leaves with lavender flowers. 'Sinonome' has white flowers spotted with rich violet. 'Tojen' has upright cymes of unspotted lavender-and-white flowers decorating stout stems to 2 feet tall.
Scientific name for toad lily: Tricyrtis hirta