I couldn’t imagine my garden without the toad lilies, whose blossoms are as close to approximating a tropical orchids as any cold weather plant is ever going to get.

Don’t get deceived by their fragile look, they are hardy to zones four through nine and just like their cousins, the spring bulbs, require minimal care. Their flowers show up very late, often after the garden is already covered in a thick layer of fallen leaves.

The original variety only comes in the classic purple spotted look, but some pink and blue cultivars have been created by growers in recent years. I planted a clump of pink plants in the back yard and they just started blooming.

Toad lilies like shade, especially in hot climates; they thrive in rich humus soil that doesn’t dry out. Their sturdy stalks reach two to three feet tall depending on the variety and grow to form large clumps after they get settled into their garden spot.

Their flowers are quite tiny, about an inch across, you need to get really close in order to appreciate their beauty, but the plants bloom abundantly and will make spectacular specimen plantings for the shade garden.

Toad lilies are very photogenic. Their flowers, rather self-effacing in mass plantings, come alive through the lens of the camera, which reveals their intricate and fascinating features in exquisite detail.

Author's Bio: 

Main Areas: Garden Writing; Sustainable Gardening; Homegrown Harvest
Published Books: “Terra Two”; “Generations”; "The Plant - A Steampunk Story"; "Letters to Lelia"; "Fair"; "Door Number Eight"; "A Year and A Day"; "Möbius' Code"; "Between Mirrors"
Career Focus: Author; Consummate Gardener;
Affiliation: All Year Garden; The Weekly Gardener; Francis Rosenfeld's Blog

I started blogging in 2010, to share the joy of growing all things green and the beauty of the garden through the seasons. Two garden blogs were born: allyeargarden.com and theweeklygardener.com, a periodical that followed it one year later. I wanted to assemble an informal compendium of the things I learned from my grandfather, wonderful books, educational websites, and my own experience, in the hope that other people might use it in their own gardening practice.