Native Trout Lily Adds Early Spring Color to Shade

Yellow trout lily is a spring ephemeral wildflower that adds beauty to native plant shade gardens and wooded areas. Learn how to grow this early bloomer.

Yellow Trout Lily Care

Closeup photo of a trout lily (Erythronium americanum) growing in the woodland.Deb Perry/Getty Images
Closeup photograph of a trout lily, also known as a dogtooth violet. Trout lilies grow in woodland areas and bloom in the early spring.
  • Erythronium americanum
  • Zones 3 to 9
  • Light needs: Partial shade
  • Soil: Rich, moist soils
  • Size: Up to 8 inches tall

Yellow trout lily is a spring ephemeral wildflower that adds a brief bright spot of early color to partially shaded wooded areas and native plant gardens. It receives the sunlight that it needs because it blooms before trees fully leaf out in spring.

This low-growing perennial plant gets its unique name because the brown mottled leaf spots are said to resemble the spots on a trout. Deer and rabbits typically leave trout lilies alone, perhaps because the spotted foliage blends in with its woodland surroundings. It is also sometimes known by the common names dogtooth violet and fawn lily, but it is not a violet.

See the top 10 beautiful lily flowers to love.

trout lilyCourtesy Stuart Fiedler
Yellow trout lily in bloom

“In the spring, in our back woods, we have trillium, bloodroot, and trout lilies. They only last for a couple of weeks, so I hunt every day starting in early April. I didn’t understand how the trout lily got its name until I looked at its leaves in this photograph (I was always looking at the flower),” says Birds & Blooms reader Stuart Fiedler.

Psst! Grow the Stella D’Oro Daylily for a dazzling garden star.

Pagoda Trout Lily

pagoda trout lilyJacky Parker Photography/Getty Images
Use native Pagoda trout lily to brighten up your shade gardens.

Pagoda (Erythronium ‘Pagoda’) is one of the largest trout lilies, standing up to 12 inches tall, and one of the easiest to grow. In addition to the sunny yellow flowers, the plant’s leaves are a glossy green, sporting bronze and maroon markings that fade later in the growing season. This member of the lily family goes dormant after flowering so plant it among other shade-loving perennials that bloom in early summer such as ferns and hostas.

Next, learn how to grow a blackberry lily for bold color.

Lori Vanover
Lori has 20 years of experience writing and editing home, garden, birding and lifestyle content for several publishers. As Birds & Blooms senior digital editor, she leads a team of writers and editors sharing birding tips and expert gardening advice. Since joining Trusted Media Brands 13 years ago, she has held roles in digital and print, editing magazines and books, curating special interest publications, managing social media accounts, creating digital content and newsletters, and working with the Field Editors—Birds & Blooms network of more than 50 backyard birders. Passionate about animals and nature, Lori has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural and Environmental Communications from the University of Illinois. In 2023, she became certified as a Wisconsin Extension Master Gardener, and she is a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology and sits on the organization's Publications Advisory Committee. She frequently checks on her bird feeders while working from home and tests new varieties of perennials, herbs and vegetable plants in her ever-growing backyard gardens.