How to Grow False Unicorn or Fairy Wand (Chamaelirium luteum)

Last Updated on August 9, 2023 by Real Men Sow

False unicorn, or fairy wand, a member of the Liliaceae Family, is a native to North America. Its natural range extends from Florida to New York to west to the Mississippi River. The southern region of its range is home to the majority of the plant’s wild populations. It is an herbaceous perennial that forms a basal rosette with an emerging stalk of flowers. 

The stalk bears either a male flower spike or a female flower spike and stands about 2 feet high. The flowering season is from May through June. False unicorns prefer moist, acidic soil in areas that are partially or fully shaded in meadows and thickets. The harvesting of roots occurs usually in autumn after flowers have finished and when the plants are approximately four to eight years old.

Uses and Treatments

Native Americans use false unicorn as a women’s herb. It was traditionally used to prevent miscarriage and treat menstrual issues. It has been used in Western herbal medicine to treat pregnancy problems, ovarian cysts, and as an anti-inflammatory agent and diuretic.

How to Plant Chamaelirium luteum

Although large quantities of seed and root division are not easily available, propagation is done by seed or root division. You can propagate false unicorns by splitting the rhizomes either in spring or fall. Although plants can be started from seeds, the rhizome divisions might allow for faster harvesting. It is more difficult to propagate by seed.

Rhizome Divisions

The rhizome’s surface is covered in buds that resemble small eyes and have the ability of generating new roots and growth. Cut rhizomes into pieces as small as one-quarter inch and leave the disk-shaped pieces to callus overnight. To allow new growth to occur, cuttings must have at least one eye-like growth bud. 

Pots are best for new growth. Keep the soil moist, and keep pots covered until they emerge. Place young plants in a 3-foot-wide, well-prepared bed with high organic matter. Space the plants 6-10 inches apart. Mulch such as; bark mulch, pine needles, and rotted conifer-derived seedust, can be used to topdress the beds. 

Seed Germination

It is possible to germinate false unicorn seeds, but it can be hard work. The seed must undergo cold stratification and then warm stratification. Use seeding flats with a high-organic soil mixture consisting of two parts peat moss, one portion decomposed pine needles and one part perlite. The newly harvested seed should be sown in late fall or early winter. Leave the seedlings undisturbed until they are ready to transplant into permanent beds.


False unicorns are usually harvested in autumn. This allows the seed to be collected prior to digging the roots. Because rhizome pieces are usually less than three inches long, it is easier to dig with a spading fork and a smaller digging tool. Marking or staking the location of the plant may help you locate it if the leaves have fallen off in the past.

Make sure roots are clean and free from dirt. Mixing roots with false unicorns can lower harvest quality and make it more difficult to sell. Protect the harvested roots from heat and sun; don’t allow them to dry out.


Fresh roots can be susceptible to mold so keep them in sphagnum moss until you are ready to use them. Make sure the roots are not too wet. Stir the roots occasionally to allow for air to circulate. 

It is best to wash the false unicorn roots using a pressure washer or hose before they are ready for processing. As you clean the roots, be careful not to damage them. Also, remove any dirt particles.


After cleaning the roots, dry them in an area with sufficient airflow. False unicorn roots can be quite small so they should be dried whole. A dehydrator, converted greenhouse or converted rooms within a barn can be used to dry the roots. 

Dry the roots for one day at 70°F with high airflow and low temperature, then increase the temperature to 100°F until they are completely dried. After the roots have dried completely, place them in plastic bags, cardboard boxes, or polypropylene bags. Keep the roots dry and in a dark, cool place. False unicorns can be stored in this manner for up to three years.

Real Men Sow
Real Men Sow

Hello, I’m Pete and I’m currently based in the west of Scotland, in a small place called Rosneath, where I’m exploring my garden adventures. I personally started gardening around 6 years ago and initially, I started out by growing my favorite fruits and berries, such as strawberries, Raspberries & Gooseberries. Since then I’ve added a lot of vegetables and working closely with my neighbor, it’s been a lot of fun.