Dog tooth violets - how to grow them

There’s no doubt that March has been unkind to gardeners. We’ve dealt with snow days and high winds, torrential rain and frosts. I’ve also got mildly annoyed by some pond algae, but that’s another story.

 Erythronium revolutum flower in April throughout the garden

Erythronium revolutum flower in April throughout the garden

It’s been such a cold month that I’m looking forward more than ever to seeing the Erythronium push up from the ground. We have masses of them here and they look glorious. Over the years they have self-seeded and cross pollinated, because of this easy-going habit they are a plant labeller’s nightmare.  However, that same easy-going approach to life makes them easy for everyone to grow. If your garden has a spot with some dappled shade in spring, preferably under a tree or two, then you have good conditions to plant bulbs of these delicate-looking woodlanders.

A plant for shady spaces and woodlands

Don’t worry too much about where the sun will reach them, just plant them where you can see them on ground that isn’t too wet. They prefer the sort of mulchy, acidic soil you get under trees where the leaf litter has rotted down. They will disappear in the summer, so remember where you put them if you’re planting anything else on top.

I enjoy the way their attractive, dark green leaves make a good backdrop to the delicate flowers, that are pink, white or yellow. They get their common name, ‘Dog Tooth Violets’ because the bulbs are pointy like canine teeth. They don’t look like your typical violets, so I’m not so sure where that bit comes from! They have swept back petals and look more delicate than they are. You don’t need to do much to maintain them, just let them do their thing.

I shall appreciate them more than ever this year as it seems as though we’ve been looking at winter plants for too long. I think this year once the soil warms up we could be in for an extraordinary late spring. Now there’s something to look forward to!