By: C. Colston Burrell
Wake-robin blooms for several weeks in midspring.

Trilliums of various sorts can be found in forests throughout North America. The large flowered wake-robin is probably the showiest one. It is certainly the most widely cultivated. Wake-robin blooms for several weeks in midspring.

Description of wake-robin: With wake-robins, almost everything comes in threes. Each plant produces a single stem bearing a whorl of three deep green, pointed leaves. The leaves are topped by three green sepals that open to reveal a pure white flower with three broad, pointed petals. The long-lasting flower turns pink as it ages. The plant sprouts in early spring, quickly reaches 8 to 18 inches in height, and then blooms. In dry conditions, it dies back to a tuberous root by midsummer. Ease of care of wake-robin: Easy.


Growing wake-robin: Plant in rich, moist, well-drained soil. Apply a thick mulch to imitate the deep leaf litter of the plant's native habitat. If conditions suit it, the wake-robin spreads abundantly but never aggressively.

Propagating wake-robin: By division or seed. Plants take five to seven years to bloom from seed.

Uses for wake-robin: In forests, the wake-robin can become so numerous that the forest floor seems covered with snow during the plant's blooming season. It can also be grown in beds and borders. Although it would seem to be an attractive cut flower, harvesting it means cutting its leaves as well. This deprives the root of its nourishment, leading to the plant's demise.

Related variety of wake-robin: Trillium grandiflorum forma polymorum, also listed as Flore Pleno or Multiplex, is a double-flowered form.

Related species of wake-robin: Snow trillium (T. nivale), an extremely early bloomer, bears small white flowers on a 4- to 6-inch stem. Purple trillium (Trillium erectum) has deep red-purple flowers with narrower petals.

Scientific name of wake robin: Trillium grandiflorum


Want more information on gardening and great plants you can grow? Try:

  • Shade Gardens: You don't need loads of direct sunlight to create a lush retreat in your yard, garden, or patio space. Learn how to plant a vital shade garden.
  • Shade Garden Plants: Find out about stunning options for planting that will make your shade garden unique and lovely.
  • Garden Types: There are many ways to cultivate a lush oasis around your home. Read about all the different types of gardens you can create.
  • Gardening: Get great tips on how to keep your garden healthy and thriving.