Trillium erectum

Common Name: red wake robin 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Melanthiaceae
Native Range: Eastern North America
Zone: 4 to 7
Height: 0.75 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Maroon
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy


Best grown in deep, organically rich, humusy, moist but well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Partial to dappled shade in spring followed by full shade in summer is preferred. Needs consistent moisture. Apply leaf mulch in fall each year. Rhizomatous plant that can be slow and difficult to propagate from seed. Spreads very gradually if left undisturbed to form clumps.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Trillium erectum, commonly called red trillium among a score of other common names, is a herbaceous perennial native to the eastern temperate forests of the United States from Maine south to northern Georgia with disjunct populations in Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. It can be found blooming in spring in moist, acidic soils of upland deciduous or mixed deciduous-coniferous forests. Mature plants will reach 0.75-2' tall with a 0.5-1' spread. One or rarely two scapes (naked, branchless stems) emerge from stout, underground rhizomes bearing a single whorl of three, sessile, broadly rhombic to obovate leaf-like bracts that will reach around 3-8" long and equally as wide. Single, nodding flowers with a fetid odor are held above the whorl of bracts on an upright, 1.5-3" long pedicel in mid to late spring. The three, lanceolate petals are maroon in color and subtended by three, similarly shaped, green sepals (occasionally with maroon streaks). Fruits are dark maroon in color, fleshy, round to slightly pyramidal in shape and will reach around 0.5" wide. Foliage will typically dieback by late summer.

Genus name means "triple lily", in reference to how all the main parts of the plant occur in threes. Linnaeus originally placed this genus in the Liliaceae family.

The specific epithet erectum means "upright" and refers to the upright peduncle (flower stem) of this species.


Watch for slugs and snails. Potential disease problems include leaf spot, smut and rust. Best left undisturbed.


Woodland gardens and moist shady borders.