Red trillium is a remarkable plant. The plant emerges from the ground in early spring and spreads its three leaves. The flower bud slowly opens to reveal 3 deep red or maroon petals. Red trillium is also known as stinking Benjamin. It gives off the smell of rotting meat to attract its number one pollinator, flies. The scent is not noticeable in the garden unless you lean down close to the plant.
Highly coveted by some people, in places it has been over collected in the wild. If you want trillium in your garden please make sure they are nursery propagated. This means they were grown from seed and not dug from the wild. They are going to cost more after all it takes about 7 years from seed to get them to flowering or salable size. Seeds are planted as soon as they are ripe, just as the 3 sided seed case begins to open. You need to get them before they hit the ground because if you don't the ants will. The seed has an appendage on it called an elaiosome. The elaiosome is very sweet and the ants are attracted to it they take the seeds back to their nest. The seed is discarded or planted if you will, by the ants. You can flat them or pot them up in a container that you can leave out year round in a protected place. I used pressed peat containers. They will not emerge from the soil the first year and the second year you get little triangular leaves. (In the above picture you can see the little leaves growing at the base of the plant.) The third year you may get 3 leaves. If you keep the seeds moist during the year and the plants moist during the growing season you will eventually have flowering plants. You can use a small amount of fertilizer when the plants are actively growing.
In the garden flies, bees and other insects visit the plant for pollen. The plant is very beautiful in color and is a wonderful sight to behold. The plants in my garden this year are stunning. They look wonderful especially when paired with Virginia bluebells and white trilliums.
Trillium erectum - Red trillium
-Beautiful flowers in the early spring
-Gorgeous maroon color
-Pollinated by flies
-Grows from a rhizome
-Height: 6 to 14 inches
-Zone: 3 to 8