Erythroniums, or dog’s tooth violets, are beautiful spring-flowering plants, grown for their star or lily-shaped flowers with swept-back petals.
They are primarily woodland plants, so thrive in a shady border or under a deciduous tree. They combine very well with other spring-flowering, shade-loving plants, such as hepaticas, trilliums and hellebores.
They grow from bulbs that look like dogs’ teeth, hence their common name. Their leaves appear in February, followed by flowers in spring.
Erythroniums are easy to grow, provided they are given the right conditions, and will slowly multiply and spread if left undisturbed. Don’t let them dry out – they do best in moist but well-drained soil. Mulch annually with leaf mould.
While erythroniums can be grown from bulbs, they have a tendency to dry out, so are best grown from plants in pots.
Erythronium dens-canis is one of the first erythroniums to flower in spring. It has nodding, mauve-pink flowers that look like tiny hats and leaves that are mottled with brown spots.
Height x spread: 20 x 15cm
Erythronium ‘Joanna’ is a pretty cultivar with large, yellow flowers which darken to apricot as they mature. The pale, glossy green leaves are marbled with brown. It spreads well.
Height x spread: 35 x 35cm
Erythronium ‘Citronella’ is a vigorous and free-flowering cultivar. As its name suggests, it has bright, lemon flowers that are backed with green. It has slightly marbled leaves. It spreads well.
Height x spread: 35 x 35cm
Erythronium ‘Harvington Snowgoose’
Erythronium ‘Harvington Snowgoose’ has large, white flowers with elegant, recurved petals that have a feathered edge. The green leaves have pretty maroon markings. It flowers slightly later than other erythroniums.
Height x spread: 40 x 30cm
Erythronium ‘Harvington Wild Salmon’
Erythronium ‘Harvington Wild Salmon’ has elegant, salmon-pink flowers. It looks dainty but is actually very robust and vigorous. It flowers a little later in spring than most erythroniums and is more compact than ‘Harvington Snowgoose’.
Height x spread: 25 x 25cm
Erythronium ‘White Beauty’
Erythronium ‘White Beauty’ has pale cream, lily-like flowers with a coppery stain at their centre. This is echoed by the leaves, that are also mottled with copper.
Height x spread: 30 x 30cm
Erythronium ‘Hidcote Beauty’
‘Hidcote Beauty’ was originally spotted growing at Hidcote, the well-known Gloucestershire garden. It has lilac-pink and cream flowers and especially eye-catching, mottled and veined foliage. It’s very vigorous and flowers a little later than some erythroniums.
Height x spread: 25-35cm
Erythroniums go dormant from summer onwards, coming back the following year. To avoid disturbing them, mark where they are planted; over time they will sink deep into the ground. Leave to spread for up to five years before dividing.