Erythronium dens-canis is attractive from the moment it pokes up from the soil in early spring. The oval pointed leaves with bronze patterns appear in early spring and are followed shortly by nodding rose pink to purple, elfin-cap flowers that bloom for several weeks. After the blooms fade the plants mysteriously vanish until next spring, leaving room for bushy summer perennials.
Erythronium dens-canis are native to Europe and Asia, they are hardy in a wide range of temperatures. This temperature resiliency is a testament to their toughness, despite their fragile appearance. They thrive in shady woodland settlings where they will naturalise beautifully over time.
Is there a part of your garden that's slightly on the wild side, a shady or woodland area that isn't carefully manicured and frankly, you like it that way? Erythronium, commonly known as Dog Tooth Lilies are perfect for these spots. All Erythronium have good interesting leaves and associate well with Dicentra, Trilliums, Epimedium and Anemone nemorosa. They also make excellent shade partners for Hostas.
The flowers of Erythronium are pollinated by bees. They are an important nectar source for bees as they, along with other early spring flowers such as cyclamen are one of the first sources of nectar.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
Erythronium dens-canis has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
Erythronium require a moisture retentive, fertile soil. They do best when planted under trees and shrubs, in as near to a woodland setting as possible. They like cool humus-rich growing conditions in the spring with a period of drier dormancy in the shade in summer. They tolerate most pH but dislikes dry soils. They dislike being moved so try to choose a spot where they can be left undisturbed.
If you want to plant them in containers use a John Innes compost rather than a peat based compost. They will be fine in this and should only be re-potted when it is absolutely necessary.
Sowing: Sow as soon as possible at cool temperatures.
Growing from seed is quite straightforward, though you may have to wait quite some time before the first flowers appear, typically 18 months to two years.
Sow the seed thinly so that it will not be necessary to prick them out for their first year of growth. Give an occasional liquid feed to the seedlings to make sure that they do not become nutrient deficient.
When the plants are dormant, pot up the small bulbs putting 2 to 3 bulbs in each pot. Grow them on in a shady position in the greenhouse for another year and then plant them out into their permanent positions when they are dormant in late summer.
Erythronium seedlings and bulbs should not be allowed to dry out and should be planted point up 10cm (4in) deep and 12 to 18cm (5 to 7in) apart in a cool, well-drained position where it will not become too sun-baked in summer, such as under shrubs and trees, whose roots will take away excess moisture.
Divide congested colonies in the summer, May to June as the leaves die down. Many Erythronium have a habit to divide freely to form clumps containing many small non-flowering bulbs. To remedy this, lift and divided congested colonies and replant the bulbs singly about 10cm (4in) below soil level.
Larger bulbs can be replanted immediately into their permanent positions, but it is best to pot up very small bulbs and grow them on in a shady position in a greenhouse for a year before planting them out when dormant in late summer.
Shade and Woodland Gardens, Containers
Erythronium dens-canis is native to central and southern Europe from Portugal to Ukraine and is the only naturally occurring species of Erythronium in its native range. It is found in damp, lightly shaded settings such as deciduous woodland.
This bulbous herbaceous perennial flowering plant is in the family Liliaceae.
The genus name Erythronium is a corruption of a Greek name taken from an ancient Greek plant name erythronion, also from erythros, meaning ‘red’, and derives presumably from the reddish colour of the leaves and flowers of some species
The species name dens-canis is derived from the Latin denti meaning ‘tooth’ and cani meaning ‘dog’.
The white bulb is oblong and resembles a dog's tooth, hence also the common name ‘dog's tooth violet’. Despite this common name, it is not closely related to the true violets of genus Viola.
Erythronium dens-canis are also commonly called Trout Lilies because of the fish-shaped, speckled foliage.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
- Additional Information
Packet Size 20 Seeds Family Liliaceae Genus Erythronium Species dens-canis Common Name Dog's Tooth Violet Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Nodding rose pink to purple flowers Natural Flower Time Early spring Foliage Oval pointed leaves with bronze patterns Height 10 to 15cm (4 to 6in) Spread 25 to 50cm (9 to 12in) Position As near to a woodland setting as possible