April's plant of the month: Erythroniums

Something to get your teeth into: Erythronium 'Pagoda', dog's-tooth violet

Erythronium 'Pagoda'This beautiful clump-forming perennial has graceful nodding yellow flowers with petals that curve back, reminiscent of Turk’s cap lilies. It is a fabulous, vigorous woodland plant, perfect mixed with other woodlanders native to North America such as Trillium and Uvularia.

Erythroniums, or dog’s tooth violets (so-called because of the shape of the bulbs) occur in habitats ranging from deciduous woodland to open mountain meadows in Europe, Asia and North America. ‘Pagoda’ is an outstanding hybrid of North American Erythronium californicum which can also be found growing here at RHS Garden Rosemoor.

The rich green, glossy leaves with bronze mottling are very attractive; the longer the leaves, the better the plant flowers the following year, as this is when the growth reserves and flowers are laid down. The shade of yellow that the flower exhibits can vary depending on the age and vigour of the individual plant; descriptions range from sulphur-yellow to creamy-yellow.
 

Where to grow them

Erythroniums are best grown under deciduous trees in a deep, loamy soil, but do not plant too near to other, more delicate plants as they will multiply and grow strongly if happy. Offsets develop freely so they build steadily into large clumps that are best left undisturbed; they die down in the summer and it is easy to forget that they are there.

We have our biggest group next to the lake planted amongst Cornus alba 'Wintersun' with bright red-orange stems, intense blue Pulmonaria 'Mawson's Blue' AGM and Asplenium scolopendrium AGM (hart’s tongue fern).

There is a whole host of woodland plants that like similar conditions to try with this erythronium including anemones, epimediums, other erythroniums, trilliums and Tiarella. However, you don’t have to have a woodland garden to appreciate this lovely plant; use to underplant shrubs including roses in informal and cottage gardens or in a rock garden.

If you would like to try Erythronium 'Pagoda' AGM, you will find it in the Rosemoor Plant Centre - while stocks last - or buy online from RHS Plants.

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