Erythronium - Dogs Tooth Violet


Pretty, spring flowering woodland plants that thrive in cool humus-rich soils and partial shade. Erythronium are not as popular as they once were, which is a real shame, as they are very easy to grow and several new attractive cultivars are now available. The common English name "dog's tooth violet" refers to the shape of the tubers and not the flowers.

Family: Liliaceae (lily)
Botanical Name: Erythronium
Common Names: Fawn lilies, trout lilies, dog's tooth violet.

Foliage: Deciduous, broad ovate or elliptic mid-green leaves. Often attractively blotched or mottled.

Flowers: Solitary, lily-like, star-shaped flowers with reflexed (curled back) petals. Mainly available in shades of yellow or cream but lilac, pink and violet forms are now becoming popular again.

Flowering Period: Spring (March-April).

Soil: Moist but well-drained soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam). Any pH.

Conditions: Full sun. Can be grown in any aspect.

Habit: Low, clump forming.

Type: Bulbous perennial.

Origin: North American, Europe, Asia.

Hardiness: Hardy in most regions of the UK.

Planting and Growing Erythronium

Plant tubers between August and October in a cool, well drained but damp situation, which does not dry out entirely. Best in light shade.

Thrives in deciduous woodland settings and shady spots in borders and rock gardens. Ideal for naturalizing in grass and woodland.

Add plenty of organic humus and leaf-mould to improve the soil before planting. Planting depth 4in (10cm), spacing 4in (10cm).

Taking Care of Erythronium

Foliage dies away quickly once flowering has finished, so planting positions should be marked to avoid later disturbance.

Never allow the soil to totally dry out. Mulch with organic matter once the flowers and leaves die back, to conserve moisture. Apply top dressing of general purpose fertilizer (such as bonemeal) in spring.

Pests and Diseases

Susceptible to slugs and Erythronium rust.

Propagating Erythronium

Sow seed of species in August.

Increase named cultivars by offsets or by division of corms in autumn.

Do not allow corms to dry out in storage.

Popular Varieties of Erythronium Grown in the UK

Erythronium dens-canis is usually the standard variety available in garden centres but there are several other attractive species and cultivars.

Erythronium dens-canis has dark mottled leaves with brown markings. Pink or white flowers from March-April. Height 6in (15cm). Popular cultivars include 'Pink Perfection' and 'Lilac Wonder'.

Erythronium hendersonii has rose-pink flowers in March on stems with purplish markings. Height 6in (15cm).

Erythronium revolutum has attractive mottled foliage with lilac-pink or white flowers on tall stems. Height to 8in (20cm). Cultivar 'White Beauty' is an excellent pure white form with brownish green mottled leaves. Flowers April-May. Height to 1ft (30cm).

Erythronium tuolumnense is a free-flowering form with pretty yellow flowers and plain green leaves. Height 1ft (30cm). The cultivar 'Pagoda' is an excellent form with sulphur-yellow flowers with a brown ring. Flowers in April.