Content Detail

The mottled leaves of white trout lily ensure that each plant is as unique as a snowflake. White trout lilies open early in the spring, benefitting queen bees, and go dormant in the summer (spring ephemeral). Though they are individually small, white trout lily colonies are beautiful. This is a species that would be great around a pond or in a moist area of a landscape that provides some leaf debris. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region and current research.

  • Family (English) Lily
  • Family (botanic) Liliaceae
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Low-growing plant (under 6 inches), Small plant (6-12 inches)
  • Light exposure Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, 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, Wet soil
  • Tolerances Occasional flooding, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early spring, mid spring, late spring
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Irregular, Narrow, Upright
  • Growth rate Slow
  • Wildlife Game mammals, Insect pollinators

Size and method of spreading:

White trout lilies are often between 4 to 12 inches tall and 3 to 6 inches wide. They primarily spread through their underground structures (corms) that send out horizontal stems (stolons) from which clonal colonies form. The seeds of white trout lilies are also spread by ants. It may take up to six years before seedlings will produce flowers, however. 

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

White trout lily is native to most of the Eastern and Central United States. C-value: 5.

Attracts birds or pollinators: 

As an early spring bloom, white trout lily is an important source of pollen for queen bees. They also attract other long-tongued and short-tongued bees. Trout lilies have a specialty pollinator in the bee species Andrena erythronii. The seeds have a special store of lipids (elaiosome) that attracts ants to take them back to their nests. 

Leaf description:

When white trout lilies are immature, they will produce only one leaf at ground level (basal), and when they mature and flower, they will have a pair of basal leaves on opposite sides of the singular flower stalk. The upper leaf surfaces are light green in color and have a spotty type of mottling in brownish or grayish green. The undersides of the leaves are medium to pale green. The white trout lily leaves are hairless (glabrous), but the upper portions of the leaves will be slightly waxy (glaucous). They are often long and narrow (lanceolate), but can be more rounded (elliptic or ovate). The edges of the leaves are smooth (entire margins) and the tips of the leaves are pointed (acuminate to acute). 

Flower description:

Approximately 1 inch in diameter, the flowers of white trout lilies are made up of six petallike structures called tepals. These tepals are white and reflexed backward slightly, with the yellow stamens protruding from the center. Each plant will only have one flower on a single, hairless (glabrous) stalk.

Fruit description:

The fruits produced by white trout lily are about three-quarters of an inch long and dry (capsules). They are three-chambered with each chamber containing two rows of seeds. 

Plant care:

As they often grow on forest floors, white trout lilies prefer a bit of leafy mulch to be added in the spring and winter. White trout lily corms can be transplanted in the fall.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

White trout lilies may be susceptible to smut, rust, leaf blight, or botrytis. They are not deer resistant, but the damage from feeding deer is likely to be minor because the leaves are hard for the color-blind deer to see.


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