VIU Milner Gardens and Woodland

Plant Pick: Pacific Trillium

by Vancouver Island Master Gardeners Association

Latin name: Trillium ovatum

Common Name: Pacific or Western Trillium, Wake-Robin

Pacific Trilliums, Trillium ovatum, also known as Wake-Robins appear in spring when the robins return. These showy Trilliums, native to British Columbia, are an excellent companion plant in a Rhododendron garden. Their white blossoms are perched above a whorl of 3 dark green leaves and as the flower ages it turns to a light pink to mauve.

 Trilliums are perennials which die back sometime after flowering only to start up again in spring. In time, clusters of stalks will form from their rhizomes. Plants to not take well to being dug up, but can readily be started from seed.  They are a woodland plant preferring moist, well-drained soil in shaded open locations.

Trillium ovatum flower   Pacific trillium flower

Photos courtesy:  Dorothee Kieser.

Form: Rhizomatous, deciduous perennial.
Foliage type: Whorls of 3 (up to 5) triangular/oval leaves up to 18 cm long.

Height/

Width:

Up to 45 cm in height on a single stalk. Clusters of stalks arising from the rhizome are common. The 3 petaled flowers perch above the 3 large single leaves.

Hardiness
Zone:
Zone 6.
Exposure: Shaded open areas in woodlands and at edges of woodlands.
Flower
Colour:

White petals of 2.5 to 8 cm long, turning to pink/mauve with age.

Leaf
Colour:
Dark green.
Flower
Time:
March - May.
Preferred Soil &
Watering:

Moist, but well drained areas preferring acidic to neutral soil.

Pests &
Diseases:

Generally disease-free. Young growth may be damaged by slugs and snails. Fungal, smut and rust problems sometimes occur.

Other:

Trilliums do not transplant easily when dug out.  It is best to start them from seed. Picking the flowers robs the rhizome of nutrients needed for next year’s flowering.

References:

A-Z encyclopedia of Garden Plants. Eds: Christopher Brickell and Trevor Cole. Dorling Kindersley Ltd 2004.

Plants of British Columbia including Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Eds Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon. Lone Tree Publishing, 1994.

Arthur Kruckeberg and Linda Chalker-Scott: Gardening with Native Plants. University of Washington Press 2019.