Growing Erythronium or Dog's Tooth Violet in the Spring Perennial Garden


Erythronium or dogs-tooth violet is a member of the Lily family and most are native to North America (15 out of 16). Only one species, perhaps one of the most difficult to grow, E. dens-canis, grows in Europe and as far east as Japan.

The common name “Dog’s tooth Violet” is because the root of this particular plant resembles a dog’s tooth.

In general, the flowers of this plant are yellow, white and pink shades and they flower in mid-spring. The flowers will be held approximately 12 inches above the ground but there are variations in this depending on growing conditions.

perennial flower garden

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Successful Planting Tips


  • To successfully plant, put the base of the bulb 3-inches below the surface and space 5-6 inches apart if you’re planting clumps.

  • Erythronium wants full to part shade to survive and thrive. This is a woodland plant – think your best soil. While it has no problem with drying soil in the summer, in the spring it will want excellent soil moisture (well-drained so no standing water) and high organic matter content in the soil.

  • If you do not have a shady woodland garden, plant it under shrubs where it will be protected from the summer sunshine.

  • It is very important to plant these tubers as soon as you get them from the garden shop or mail-order nursery. They dry out very quickly when taken out of the ground. Let these sit out over the winter because you’ve forgotten them and they’ll be well and truly dead.

  • Do let them sit in the same place for years and don’t try to move them around. If happy, they’ll multiply and you can move the small tubers.

  • One last hint – you’'ll find a layer of mulch will help keep the tubers dampish. In the natural forest setting there is always a leaf litter layer to do this.




  • Erythronium dens-canis

    This is a beautiful plant but a tricky one to grow. It’s natural habitat is a mountainous woodland area and if you can duplicate that, you might have success. If you can’t then I’'d simply recommend you save your money and don’t bother.

    ‘Rose Queen’

    This is the most common variety sold. It blooms very early in the spring at 8-10 inches tall.

    Erythronium revolutum 'White Beauty'

    This is a lovely mid-spring bloomer with large white flowers (brown-yellow throat). The leaves are brown-flecked and the flowers are held 6-8 inches above the leaves.>

    Book cover spring bulbs

    ’Pagoda’

    This is a hybrid cross between E. revolutum and E. tuolumnense and this is one of the loveliest, most heavy flowering and easily found varieties on the market.

    This is the best plant to experiment with in this family. The flowers are a nodding yellow type and there will be several on each stem. They are held 7-9 inches above the foliage. I note the foliage is also speckled brown.



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