Trillium recurvatum
Purple Prairie Trillium Potted Plants
Bloody Butcher Plants
(TRILL-ee-um  rek-er-VAY-tum)
Easyliving Native Perennial Wildflowers
Native Wild Flower Seeds & Plants for Home Landscaping and Prairie Restoration  

Purple Trillium recurvatum  
Photo by cj  
Habitat Bloom Period Color Height Inches Moisture Plant Spacing Lifespan
Purple Trillium recurvatum picture Shade to Part Sun April, May, June Maroon to Brown 12 to 18 inches Average
to Moist
6" to 12" Perennial

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Purple Trillium seeds are not available.
Prairie Trillium recurvatum plants (SOLD OUT) $12 each plus boxing/shipping.
 (email for availability on plants)

Purple Trillium recurvatum, or Bloody Butcher, is a charming native woodland wildflower suitable for growing in shade gardens over most of the USA.

Plant Purple Trillium recurvatum in partial sun or open shade, and moderate moisture, in rich, loamy, sandy soil with ferns and other native woodland wildflowers like  Columbine  Green Dragon  American Spikenard  Jack-in-the-pulpit  Goat's Beard  Wild Ginger  Wild Geranium  Virginia Bluebells  Woodland Phlox  Jacob's Ladder  Bloodroot  Celandine Poppy   Woodland Spiderwort  White Trillium  Blue Cohosh  Black Cohosh  Shooting Star  Ginseng   Christmas Fern   Dutchman's Breeches 

      The delightfully unusual flowers of wild Purple Trillium recurvatum are a harbinger of spring, they bloom in April & May and are found growing wild in the understory of rich deciduous or mixed coniferous-deciduous upland temperate forest of the Midwest and Eastern United States in moist shade in roadsides, floodplains, ravines, along bluffs, and along rocky slopes in woods. Great white goes dormant with the heat of summer.

Trillium: Latin tres for three and lilium for lily
recurvatum: Bent backwards
Trillium recurvatum seeds need cold-warm-cold stratified and germinate at 21 C.  Plant seeds when ripe in early summer for germination the following spring. 

    Mature plants have a single stem, a whorl of three leaves and a single flower with three maroon or brown petals.  The spring-blooming flowers of purple Trillium recurvatum bloom for 23 weeks in the early spring (late April to mid-May), before forest canopy leaves appear, and are pollinated by bumblebees.  Trillium Plants can live for 25 years or longer and usually do not flower until they are several years old.  Populations of Purple Trillium recurvatum expand slowly, wild populations may be jeopardized in areas where they are heavily browsed by deer, plants will die out after several years of repeated browsing.

      Purple Trilliums grow from an underground rhizome, cultivation is slow requiring several years from seed to flowering.  Ants, flies and beetles pollinate trillium flowers and seeds are dispersed over small distances often by ants.  Chipmunks that take the fruit also help disperse seeds.  Trillium seeds require consistently moist conditions to survive but can remain viable for many years provided they are in moist soil.  Gardening with trilliums teaches the rewards of patience: after seeds germinate roots grow the first year, a single seed leaf the second and the first true leaf the third year.  The familiar three-whorled leaves often do not develop until the forth or fifth year and may require 2 or 3 more years to bloom.  Trilliums are long-lived, spreading slowly and taking several years to form a significant clump. Do not remove old flowers but let the seeds develop; ants will disperse them around your garden to start new clumps.  Purple trillium grows 8 to12 inches tall, and over several years can become a patch up to 18 inches in width. Trilliums are poor competitors, do not to plant aggressive plants nearby.

    Purple Trillium recurvatum and  White Trillium grandiflorum plants require fertile, humus-rich, well-drained soil and grow best in areas with morning sun and afternoon shade or the bright shade beneath deciduous trees or very tall conifers. In hot afternoon sun their foliage burns and in heavy shade they will not flower well. Trilliums are sensitive to light and full sun exposure is detrimental. For this reason, selective lumber harvesting will not destroy a trillium colony, but clear-cutting will. Trillium flowers are a favorite source of food for deer, and repeated grazing over several years will kill the plants.

     Picking a trillium flower does not necessarily kill the plant but damage will result if the green leaves are taken as well. The green leaves are needed for photosynthesis and if picked will not re-grow until the following year and this may not happen at all depending on the size of the rhizome.

The map below shows areas where wild Trillium recurvatum, Purple Prairie Trillium plants grow wild but they can be planted and will grow over most of the USA.  
USDA plant hardiness zones 3 to 8.

Trillium recurvatum
Purple Prairie Trillium

North Carolina

Purple Trillium recurvatum State Distributional Map

Purple Trillium seeds are not available


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Trillium recurvatum Purple Trillium Plant distribution map complements of USDA, NRCS. 2001. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.1
  ( National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.