Dog’s Tooth Violet – Erythronium dens-canis

Like violets only in name, Dog’s Tooth Violet is not in any way related to violets. It is, in fact, a member of the Lily family.

Erythronium is a genus of about 20 species of very ornamental hardy, bulbous plants. E. densconis, Dog’s Tooth Violet, is dispersed throughout Europe, Asiatic Russia and also Japan.

Flowers and flowering Flowers have recurved petals that are similar to Cyclamen. They are about 5cm (2in) across and appear on 10-15cm (4— 6in) stems born singly, or at most, two to three together. The plant’s flowers appear between March and April.

Leaves are often attractively silver marbled or mottled grey or brown.


E. ‘Kondo’ is a hybrid of E. revolutum and E. tuolumnense. It is larger than the ordinary Dog’s Tooth Violet. Petals are yellow with darker markings on the base.

Display ideas

Dog’s Tooth Violets are most effective when displayed in a group. Plant 9 or 10 in a 20cm (8in) pot 7.5cm (3in) deep and about 7.5cm (3in) apart, and set in a shaded spot.

Through The YearDog's Tooth Violet - Erythronium dens-canis


This is the time to plant bulbs. After placing a layer of crocks, clay pellets or grit, half fill your pot with a damp mixture of equal parts soil-based potting compost, peat and coarse sand. Lay out bulbs, spacing them evenly apart, then plant with the point uppermost and fill up the container with potting mixture so the bulbs are 7.5cm (3in) deep. Bulbs should be 7.5-10cm (3— 4in) apart in a container or 15-23cm (6-9in) in open ground.


For flowering on the patio, place containers in a shaded and damp position where they will flower in March-April. If you want to bring them indoors for flowering either plunge pots up to the rim in the ground or in a tub of compost and leave undisturbed for the winter.


Dig up the plant in early February and move indoors to a cool and shaded position. Keep compost moist and temperature no higher than 10°C (50°F) until flowers start to appear. They will last longer if you keep them in a cool and shaded position.


After flowering, place pots outdoors in a damp, shaded position and when leaves have died back top dress with potting compost.


Use offsets from bulbs to make new plants. Remove when foliage has died back and plant in the same way as a bulb. It will usually take 3 years for an offset to flower.

Plant Problems

Erythronium plants are not usually affected by pests or disease.

Whitish powdery deposit on bulbs. This is a sign of grey mould which is a fungal disease. It can

be caused by storing bulbs at too high a temperature or in damp surroundings. Treatment: Minor attacks can be controlled by dusting with a fungicide. Badly infected bulbs should be discarded.


This is an easy plant to grow. It prefers a shaded and damp position and, once planted, is best left undisturbed, where it will continue to flower annually.

  • Potting: Repot or transplant only when necessary and only during the resting period. Use a well drained soil-based potting compost with equal parts sand and peat. Top dress annually.
  • The compost must always be moist during the growing period but do not let the pot stand in water. Water moderately in winter.
  • Feeding: Mix a little bulb fertilizer in with the compost when planting.


  • Light: This is a plant that likes a shaded and cool position.
  • Temperature: Normal outdoor summer and winter temperatures are fine for Dog’s Tooth Violet. It prefers a cool, rather than bright, sunny position.

When to buy

  • Buy corms for planting in September. Plants are also available, ready planted in pots, in spring.
  • Corms should be firm and ivory-white in colour. Check for, and reject, any that show signs of bruising or mildew.
  • If left undisturbed and planted in the right position, Dog’s Tooth Violet will increase naturally and flower for many years.
  • This small plant with marbled leaves has pink, violet, purple or white flowers in March and April. It can be planted outside on the patio or brought indoors in early spring.

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