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Paris (genus)

March 4, 2018
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Family:  Trilliaceae
Origin: Widespread across Europe and Asia. Centre of diversity in China.


The genus Paris consists of around 24 species of flowering herbaceous plants found in temperate mixed forests. Distribution is wide, from Iceland to Japan. The greatest concentration is found in China.

The genus’ classification has been revised several times. In 1986, Dr. Li Heng proposed two subgenera: Paris and Daiswa. Molecular evidence found in 2002 indicates the Paris subgenus should be split again into section Paris and section Kinugasa (Farmer & Schilling). All three taxa are often used, so you are likely to find Paris quadrifolia, Daiswa luquaensis and Kinugasa japonica listed.

Paris is a popular genus that is increasing in availability.


All species have simple, erect stems. A single flower sits above a terminal whorl of leaves.

Daiswa and Paris do look the same superficially. Daiswa, however, has an ovary with one chamber and seeds are attached to its sides. Paris has at least four chambers with seeds attached at the centre. Kinugasa is recognised by its white petaloid sepals.

Cultivation – in the garden

Choose a deep, well-drained woodland or humus-rich soil (preferably neutral to slightly acidic).

Plant in a slightly shaded spot that remains moist in summer. Avoid transplanting: all plants in this genus are best left undisturbed.

Feed with a good quality leafmould mulch in autumn. Most species can tolerate temperatures down to -10°C if planted deep. Combined with the mulch, this helps protect the emerging flower bud from frost damage.

Cultivation – in pots

Plant in a compost of loam, leafmould and gritty sand, opened up with fine bark or perlite. This should suit most, if not all, species. Do not allow it to dry out completely, even when dormant.

The root system can be extensive – deeper pots suit species which form thick, stout rhizomes. In the subgenus Paris, there are some species which form slender, branching rhizomes. These grow well in more shallow pots.

Propagation – by division

Propagation of slender rhizome species (e.g. P. quadrifolia) is straightforward:

  • Lift the clump, break it apart and replant
  • A 100% success rate can be expected for most plants.

Thick rhizome species (e.g. P. polyphylla) do not self-propagate so well:

  • A tip from observing the related genus Trillium is to cut a heavy rhizome in two and replant both halves. (This can bring success as rhizomes that are mechanically damaged can produce lateral growth buds around the wound site.)
  • Cutting the rhizome in this way sometimes encourages the dormant ‘eyes’ on the back section to grow.

Another method for thick rhizome plants is to fully remove the terminal bud in summer, soon after dormancy. This works as when the terminal bud grows in spring, it produces a hormone which inhibits side-shoot production. Removing the bud activates dormant growths along with the bonus of ‘pups’ produced at the neck of the wound.

Propagation – by seed

Seed is best sown straight after harvesting. (It can also be stored and sown in late winter/early spring in a shaded cold frame.) Seed can germinate within one to three months. Shoots are produced in the second year. Good air circulation is essential to prevent damping.

It is advisable to keep seedlings in a cold frame during winter. Plant them out the following spring, once they have emerged. (Note: some seed can remain ungerminated for several years.) Plants usually flower in four to five years.

If you can grow Trillium in your garden, then Paris is definitely one to try.