The Triplet Lily: Triteleia laxa
Triteleia laxa (previously Brodiaea laxa) is a triplet lily known by several common names, including Ithuriel’s spear, common triteleia and grassnut. It is a bulb plant that originates in Western North America and is found primarily in California and Oregon. It is a member of the 15 species “cormous” perennial group.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Clade: Tracheophytes
- Clade: Angiosperms
- Clade: Monocots
- Order: Asparagales
- Family: Asparagaceae
- Subfamily: Brodiaeoideae
- Genus: Triteleia
- Species: T. laxa
Triplet lilies are perennial plants. They are commonly called ‘Pretty Face’ or ‘Wild Hyacinth.’ It can often be found in heavy soils, open forests, mixed conifer or foothill woodlands, and grasslands on clay soils.
Triplet lily bears a tall, naked stem topped with a spray of smaller stalks, each ending in a purple or blue flower. The flower is tubular, opening into a sharply six-pointed star. The plant grows from a corm which is edible and similar in taste and use as the potato. The most used common name for the species, Ithuriel’s spear, is a reference to the angel Ithuriel from Milton‘s Paradise Lost.
Blooms of triplet lily plants can be light blue, lavender, or white. Reaching 15 to 20 inches (40-50 cm.), planting triplet lilies among plants that flower earlier adds a splash of color around foliage that should remain in the landscape until it yellows.
The blooms will last two to three weeks with the right planting and triplet lily care. The flower grows on stalks that rise from grass-like clumps. These stalks have 20 to 25 small blooms in a 6-inch (15 cm.) umbel, making them appear dainty and attractive when growing in the garden.
- Plant Type: Bulb
- Maintenance: Low
- Life Cycle: Bulb, Perennial
- Recommended Propagation Strategy: Division, Seed
- Wildlife Value: Food source for native bees.
- Bulb Storage: Store the corms in a dry space at 70 to 77 degrees F. Bulbs last one year.
- Dimensions: Height: 1 ft. 3 in. – 1 ft. 8 in. Width: 0 ft. 9 in. – 1 ft. 6 in.
- Cultural Conditions:
- Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
- Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
- Soil Texture:
- High Organic Matter
- Loam (Silt)
- Soil pH:
- Acid (<6.0)
- Neutral (6.0-8.0)
- Soil Drainage:
- Good Drainage
- Occasionally Dry
- Available Space To Plant: Less than 12 inches
- USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: 5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
- Leaf Color: Green
- Leaf Type: Simple
- Hairs Present: No
- Stem Is Aromatic: No
- Stem Description: Blooms appear on leafless stems in spring to early summer.
- Flower Color: Purple/Lavender, White
- Flower Inflorescence: Umbel
- Flower Value To Gardener: Long-lasting, Showy
- Flower Bloom Time: Spring
- Flower Shape: Funnel
- Flower Petals: 2-3 rays/petals, Colored Sepals
- Flower Description: Blooms in very late spring (June). White with violet petal stripe.
- Landscape Location: Naturalized Area
- Design Feature: Border
Triplet lily plants grow from corms. Plant the corms in spring, when all danger of frost is passed or plant in autumn with other spring-blooming flowers. Those in USDA Zone 6 and further north should mulch heavily for winter protection. Plant the corms about 4 inches (10 cm.) apart and 5 inches (12.5 cm.) deep, or three times the height of the corm. Remember to plant with the root side down.
Plant in a sunny to partly sunny location that has well-draining soil. Triplet lily plants grow best in organic soil. Prepare the area before planting with shredded leaves, adding compost and any other well-composted, organic material. You can also add a slow-release fertilizer. Water in and cover with organic mulch after planting.
Triteleia care includes watering the corms until roots grow. The plant is drought tolerant. Remember, though, even drought resistant plants like an occasional drink. When planting triplet lilies, make sure corms are firm. Plant in front of iris corms, so the blooms can detract from the foliage after the iris bloom is done. Learning how to grow a triplet lily is rewarding when the blooms burst open and grace the garden with powerful, perky color.