Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Monday - May 29, 2006

From: Glenview, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Transplants, Shade Tolerant
Title: Saving or transplanting stand of white trillium that has lost shade
Answered by: Joe Marcus and Dean Garrett

QUESTION:

We have a generous stand of white trillium that has been under the shade of a white oak for many years. Now the 100+ year old oak has died and the trilliums are in the sun. Are we in danger of losing them? If so, how do we save them? We have heard transplanting is very difficult and thought if we planted huge hostas like the sum and substance around the trillium that the hosta would provide shade. What do you think and do you have a better suggestion?

ANSWER:

Trilliums prefer to be on the floor of mature, hardwood, primarily deciduous forests in some amount of shade. If they are now in full sun throughout the day, they may very well expire. However, if they're still getting dappled shade from other neighboring trees or shrubs, especially during the hottest part of the day, they may pull through. Hostas might work, but it's hard to know for sure.

What would probably be better in the long run would be to plant native deciduous trees or shrubs near them, tall enough to provide at least dappled shade from the outset. That way, the woody plants' leaves will provide the kind of shade with which the trilliums have evolved and will also enrich the soil when they drop in the fall, contributing to the kind of woodland soil to which trilliums are accustomed.

The Illinois Plant Information Network notes that Trillium grandiflorum, the best known white trillium and one native to your state, is often found growing among the following trees and shrubs:

American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)
Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
White Ash (Fraxinus americana)
American Basswood (Tilia americana)

Planting young specimens of one or two of those trees, tall enough to provide shade during the day, is one idea. Our Native Plant Database can help you learn about the many other kinds of deciduous trees and shrubs native to your area, and our National Suppliers Directory can help you locate plants when it's time to purchase.

If you do decide to attempt transplanting, it's best to wait until the plants go dormant and then get as much of the root and surrounding soil as possible. A local chapter of your state's native plant society or of the Wild Ones may be able to give you more information on how best to do this, if at all. Many native plant societies do plant rescues and they may well have had experience salvaging trilliums in your area.

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Native grasses for shady yard in Austin
September 04, 2011 - I was looking at your research on native grasses to be used in a yard. I want to plant your native mix of seeds, but worry that there is too much shade in my yard. I live in central Austin and wante...
view the full question and answer

Habiturf for shady areas in San Antonio TX
November 08, 2013 - Will the Habiturf grass mentioned here do well in shady areas too?
view the full question and answer

Plants for shaded area in East Texas
July 23, 2013 - I live in East Texas and have an area that is shaded most of the day - it only gets sun in the middle of the day but it is direct. What would be best? I would prefer something that won't freeze, bu...
view the full question and answer

Plants under Oak Trees in Austin TX
December 10, 2012 - Half of my small yard is in the shade of one big live oak and one kumquat. Nothing I plant grows in this shade. The other half of my yard gets sunlight. It is planted with Jasmine grass which grows w...
view the full question and answer

Need mowable ground cover for shady area under trees in Lake Charles, LA.
July 12, 2010 - I live in Southwest Louisiana. I have a large portion of my back yard that is very shady because I have large trees in the yard. The area dries up fairly quickly after a heavy rain, so it isn't extre...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.