Content Detail

Prairie trillium has unique, red-wine-colored flowers with three stunning, mottled leaves. This species flowers from mid-spring to late spring and goes dormant by midsummer. It prefers full to partial shade in average, well-drained soils. Prairie trillium can be planted in cottage gardens, native gardens, shade gardens, and naturalized woodlands. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region and current research.

  • Family (English) Trillium
  • Family (botanic) Trilliaceae
  • Tree or plant type Perennial
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Medium plant (12-24 inches)
  • Light exposure Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances clay soil, Occasional flooding
  • Season of interest mid spring, late spring
  • Flower color and fragrance Red
  • Shape or form Upright
  • Growth rate Slow
  • Wildlife Insect pollinators

Size and method of spreading:

At maturity, prairie trillium is between 1 to 1 ½ feet tall and three-quarters to 1 foot wide. They spread slowly through underground stem structures (rhizomes) and some self-seeding. 

Native geographic location and habitat: (include C-value if appropriate)

The native range of prairie trillium includes the Central United States. C Value: 5.

Attracts birds or pollinators: 

Prairie trillium attracts ants that help to distribute the seeds. 

Leaf description:

Prairie trillium produces a single whorl of three, mottled green leaves. The leaves are broadly elliptic and taper at the tip and base. They are up to 6 inches long and 3 ½ inches wide. The edges of the leaves are smooth, and the veins give the leaves a slightly wrinkled appearance.

Flower description:

The flowers of prairie trillium are produced at the terminal ends of the stems, above the leaves. Prairie trillium flowers are stalkless (sessile). The flowers have three diamond-shaped (rhombic), brownish-red petals that curve toward the center of the flower. Emerging from the center of the petals are six dark-colored, pollen-bearing structures (stamens) surrounding a three-parted structure (divided style). Surrounding the base of the petals are three green leaflike, recurved sepals. 

Fruit description:

Prairie trillium produces a six-angled seed capsule that opens to release many seeds upon maturity. They are ovoid and pale green to purplish-green in color. 

Plant Care:

Prairie trillium does not transplant well. This species will go dormant by midsummer and will die back. It may require supplemental watering in dry conditions.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Slugs and snails can be minor pests of prairie trillium. This species is often eaten by deer, which can devastate populations. It is generally free of disease.


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