The “Lily of the Valley” plant (Convallaria majalis) is one of the sweetest smelling blooming plants during the late spring season as well as the early summer in the northern temperate zone.
Their stems are covered with small white, bell-shaped flowers that have a sweet-smelling scent and medium-sized bright green leaves that have a lance shape, 3″ – 5″ inches wide and 4″ – 8″ inches high.
Convallaria majaris lily of the valley (not lilium) is a moisture loving plant that forms a spreading mass with red seed pods remaining after flowering making the plant look attractive even after blooming.
The plant is easy-care and does not require much to thrive. It prefers partial shade and moist soil. The plants are adaptable and will grow very well in dry full shade.
Lily of the valley plants (called pips available at Amazon) also adapt to full shade or full sun, depending on the amount of moisture it has. Read on to learn more about lily of the valley care.
Planting Guide For Lily Of The Valley
The bell-shaped flower of Lily of the Valley works well as cut flowers. It is also known as “Our Lady’s Tears” as it is said that it grew where Eve’s tears fell when they were driven out of the garden of Eden.
How To Plant Lily Of The Valley Outdoors
The bare-roots are sold during the fall and early spring as lily of the valley pips.
These are the rhizomes from which the trumpet-shaped flowers grow.
The Lily of the Valley pips should be planted during the spring immediately after the ground has been plowed.
The “Valley Lily” can also be sold as a container potted plant during the year.
You may ask yourself – When to Transplant Lily of the Valley?
Transplanting lily of the valley to your garden should be done during the growing season.
Be aware all parts of lily of the valley plants are toxic to humans. If you have little children it should be planted with care.
The location you choose should have well-drained soil and receive partial sun. The Lily of the Valley plant is not choosy on the soil it grows in. However, it does not do well in swampy conditions.
It prefers humus-rich, moist soil. Soils can be amended by adding organic material such as decomposed manure or peat moss.
Lily of the valley spreads very fast and it may over-run other flowers. It prefers partial shade, but it can also tolerate full sun in areas with cooler summers.
Once a location has been chosen for planting lily pips they should be soaked in lukewarm water before planting. The pips will swell as they absorb water. This acts as a head start to encourage growth.
If the pips have roots, snip them about half an inch at the end to encourage branching out, and the fragrant flowers for the garden will have a greater chance of flourishing.
Lily of the Valley pips should be placed about one and a half inches apart and the top slightly above the surface of the soil. Ensure they are well watered.
Depending on the weather, plants should start to grow in about a weeks’ time.
The leaves of this herbaceous perennial are dark green and oval-shaped and bloom in mid to late spring in most locations.
Allow the foliage to remain after blooming as this will feed the pips for more bell-shaped flowers next spring.
The perennial Lily of the Valley over time will fill the ground like a carpet with green leaves and the garden will have a delicate scent of its lily-like flowers. If you notice a reduction in the display of flowers, you can thin out the plant.
Cutting back the leaves is not necessary, but you can spread mulch over the tops of the plant to provide it with enough nutrients.
Growing A Potted Lily Of The Valley Plant – Different Than Outdoors
Growing lily of the valley in pots or containers does well.
The container should have sufficient drainage before it is filled with potting soil that is humus-rich.
Place the container in a location that receives partial sun.
Just like planting outdoors, soak the Lily of the Valley pips in warm water for a few hours, cut roots by half an inch to stimulate growth. While planting pips ensure that the tip barely peeks out of the soil and water well.
How To Care For Lily of The Valley Plants
Because of their beautiful aesthetics, an entire lily of the valley garden looks elegant but while growing lilies of the valley follow the below best practices.
For the best results give them:
- Aged manure
- Peat moss
- Water-soluble fertilizer
Once you have these things the following steps should be followed:
Ensure that your plant is in the right location as mentioned earlier. The location should be cleared of any existing vegetation to prevent competition.
Spread a 3-inch layer of the aged manure, peat moss, and perlite over the soil. Using the organic amendments, work with them in the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches.
When planting Lily of the Valley ensure the plants are at the same level as in the nursery container. Watering should be done promptly to settle the soil and encourage the plant to take root.
To keep the soil moist, watering should be consistent. Fertilize in the spring with a balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10 and use water-soluble fertilizer throughout the bloom time. A top dressing of compost and aged manure to provide more nutrients.
Lily of the valley is an aggressive plant and it can colonize ground cover and easily crowd the neighboring foliage. Consider planting Convallaria majaris in a plant container or flower beds with borders to control its aggressive spread.
NOTE: Under favorable growing conditions Lily of the valley plants multiply rapidly. This trait makes them a good choice for use as a ground cover. However, control conditions when growing as a ground cover as the plant can become invasive.
Related Reading: Growing The Gazania Rigens Plant (aka Treasure Flower)
Propagating Lily Of The Valley
Lily of the valley can be propagated by dividing the rhizomes.
The plant should be divided in the fall when the leaves have died back.
The items needed for propagating task include:
- Hand pruners
- Pitchfork or spade
- Garden hose
- Bleach solution (at the rate of 10% bleach in water)
- Sharp knife
- Cutting board
Follow the steps below:
With the hand pruner (we like the Felco #2), cut the wilted plants foliage down to six inches. This will help reduce water loss through the leaves during the propagation and transplant process.
Using a pitchfork or garden spade, dig the rhizome clump of Lily of the Valley out of the bed. To avoid harming the roots, allow enough clearance from the plant. Dig out as much soil than pick out the rhizomes.
Use the garden hose to gently spray the root mass to allow clear visibility of the rhizome. Use your fingers to clear lumps of soil and do it carefully not to damage the roots.
In the bleach solution, dip the rhizome for 10 seconds. This should kill any diseases that the plant may be susceptible to.
The knife should also be dipped into the bleach solution for sanitization.
The rhizome should then be held flat on the cutting board to locate the “eyes.” Any pink protrusion on the rhizome is an eye and this is where new plants will bud from. The rhizome should be cut with at least two eyes in each segment.
Use a soil rich in compost and plant the rhizome two to three inches deep.
Lily of the valley can also be started from seeds but will require lots of care until they are strong enough for transplanting.
Clumps should be divided every four to six years. A tell sign that the plant needs division is when the blooms appear to be fewer in number and are less spectacular.
Diseases and Pests Affecting Lily Of The Valley
Southern blight this is a ball-like structure, mustard in color found on the base of the stem near the soil. It can be managed by destroying the infected plant or applying fungicide to protect plants.
Leaf spot and anthracnose – these are small water-soaked spots that turn reddish brown as the leaf yellows.
It can be managed by not using a sprinkler to water, but instead wet the soil rather than the plants. Soaker hoses are excellent deep watering solutions.
Rust – these appear as small yellow leaf spots on the upper side of the leaf and orange-brown spore masses from on the underside. This can only be managed by the use of fungicides.
Foliar nematode – these show up as areas around the veins of the plant turn yellow and then brown. This can be managed by watering plants in a manner that keeps moisture off the leaves and removing any infected plants.
Weevils can also cause notched leaves. Black vine weevils chew the leaf edges of the plant and attack the plant well after it flowers. To control them you can spray neem insecticide oil on plants two or three times over a period of 7 to 10 days.
Large Ragged holes on leaves is an indicator of snails and slugs. They are most destructive during the rainy season. They can be controlled using commercial traps.
When buying plants, look for the following cultivars:
Convallaria majalis “Albostriata” – this variety has white to cream longitudinal stripes and dark leaves.
Convallaria majalis “Aureomarginata” – this type has a variety of cream to yellow edged leaves.
Convallaria majalis “Rosea” – this is a pink variety. It is not a vigorous as the white bloom color species, but it is very pretty.
Convallaria majuscule “Greene” – this variety is a North American native. It is great for natural ground cover and it provides a carpet of beauty between other native plants.
NOTE: Lily of the valley plant has poisonous berries. It is recommended the red berries are removed and kept away from children and pets for their safety.
Also, the fragrance of lily of the Valley is so “intoxicating” many paraffin candle and food grade paraffin items are made using the scent!