Plant of the Month March 2018: Virginia Dwarf Trillium

Virginia Dwarf Trillium in bloom.  Photo by Gary Chafin

Virginia Dwarf Trillium (Trillium pusillum var.virginiana), the only native trillium in the Northern Neck, is an exceptionally attractive small wildflower that grows naturally in Lancaster County. There are many different kinds of trillium but this one is unique because of its small size of only about 7 or 8 inches in height at maturity. 

   As its name implies, leaves of the Virginia Dwarf Trillium come in threes, and the flower has three petals. The shoots and leaves emerge with a purplish color in early spring but quickly turn dark green. The flowers first appear with white petals but turn pink with age. 

   Virginia Dwarf Trillium likes acidic woodsy soil with abundant moisture and dislikes direct sun. It is often found along streams and at the edges of bogs but will grow in better drained areas as long as it does not dry out in the spring. By early summer the leaves die down and the plant remains dormant until the following spring. 

   Its flowers attract numerous bees. Virginia Dwarf Trillium is a great addition to a shady woodland garden, but needs to be identified with a marker to avoid disturbing it while dormant.  See Go Native—Grow Native for more information on choosing native plants appropriate for landscaping.