Valley of the lily

Growing Lily Of the Valley: When To Plant Lily Of The Valley

Around since at least 1000 B.C., lily of the valley plants are one of the most fragrant blooming plants in the spring and early summer throughout the northern temperate zone.

The stems are covered with tiny white, nodding bell-shaped flowers that have a sweet perfume and medium-bright green leaves that are lance-shaped, 4 to 8 inches (10-20 cm.) high and 3 to 5 inches (7.5-12.5 cm.) wide.

This moisture-loving plant forms a spreading mass with red seed pods remaining after flowering, which makes lily of the valley attractive after blooming and very carefree. Growing lily of the valley plants (Convallaria majalis) is easy, as they will remain perennial in USDA Zones 2-9.

Growing Lily of the Valley

This easy-care plant doesn’t require much to thrive. Preferring partial shade and moist soil, growing lily of the valley is easy if you know how and when to plant. That being said, these plants are adaptable and will grow very well in dry shade too. Lily of the valley can also be adapted to full sun or full shade, depending on the amount of moisture it receives.

When purchasing plants, look for the following cultivars:

  • Convallaria majalis ‘Albostriata’ – This type has dark leaves with white to cream longitudinal stripes.
  • ‘Aureomarginata’ – This variety has cream to yellow-edged leaves.
  • Rosea – A pink variety, not as vigorous as the white-flowered species but very pretty.
  • Convallaria majuscule ‘Greene’ – This North American native is great for naturalistic ground cover and provides a carpet of beauty between other native plants.

When to Plant Lily of the Valley

Knowing when to plant lily of the valley will help to ensure its survival in your garden. Planting lily of the valley should take place by late fall. Cool winter temperatures are required to allow a proper dormancy period.

The single underground rhizomes of this plant, which are known as “pips”, can be divided anytime after flowering. November or December would be the ideal time for division and planting lily of the valley. Care should be taken when planting as it is a poisonous plant, so keep it away from children and pets.

Try planting lily of the valley plants in a naturalistic garden. Planting lily of the valley in outdoor containers would also be a great way to control its spread and provide it with the moisture it enjoys.

No matter what method you choose for growing lily of the valley, you will find that lily of the valley care is easy and worth the rewards.

Secrets of growing Lily of the Valley

For those who have wanted to grow Lily of the Valley but have failed for one reason or another here are our tips .

When established, Convallaria majalis or Lily of the Valley, is a very easy plant, some would say weed, but it is surprising how many people have difficulty getting it to that stage.

As with all plants choosing a position in your garden that parallels its native environment of cool, well lit, woodland is the first step. For those with light shade and a humus laden soil establishing the plants we sell should be no great issue if an even moisture is maintained all summer. Our plants are grown using 6 pips in a 10cm pot and grown for a season to establish their root system – they often flower in their first season with us and will certainly do so in their second given the right climate. A great deal of failure can be attributed to retailers persisting in selling bare-rooted pips which are dehydrated by the time the gardener plants them – Lily of the Valley is just not suited to this type of abuse – so avoid the hanging packets sold in the big box stores they are quite simply colourful labels with disappointment attached.

For those who only have light shade in an area congested with tree and shrub roots, growing Lily of the with Valley in pots is the best option. Pots should be on the shallow side , certainly wider than they are deep and big enough that they will not dry out over the summer given your personal watering regime. If you can only get to watering the pots once a week then make the pot big enough to remain moist for that stretch. Choose a pot that has straight outwardly angled sides for easier repotting , fill with good quality potting mix amended with extra peat and rotted cow manure. Plant your Lily of the Valley, water in and place in a cool place preferably facing east and make sure the pot is on feet to prevent worms entering and upsetting the drainage. We mulch our pots with sphagnum moss which is both attractive and effective in maintaining moisture.

Smaller pots of Lily of the Valley can be bought inside for short periods where the fragrance is intensified by the little extra warmth – just make sure they are thoroughly watered beforehand and returned outside at the first signs of dryness. This is not an option though if you live in hot ,centrally heated, house as Lilly of the Valley will quickly become resentful of the dry air.

Your pot of Lily of The Valley will remain green and full of leaves right the way through until autumn at which point the old leaves should be cut away. When this is done ,a top dressing of cow manure and a liquid feed will set things up for a vigorous start to the new season. After a few years of filling out the pot it will be time to decant the root-ball. You will discover just how congested Convallaria roots can get. Shake off as much old soil as possible and return to the bottom of the pot where you have covered the drainage holes with sphagnum, squish the ‘wire-cage’ of roots to the bottom of the pot and add new soil from the top pushing it in through the roots as much as possible , when nearly done give the pot a good water. You will find the soil level will drop ,just repeat the process and top with Sphagnum. Keep moist if winter weather isn’t doing this for you and expect lots of new leaves and flowers in spring. This type of decanting can be done a surprising number of times before the need to divide becomes necessary at which point you simply chop in half and pot up two bowls.- the more the merrier.

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Lily Pad

The Lily-of-the-Alley is a one jellybean flower.


Its name is a reference to the silent drama film Lily of the Alley, while its hyphenation resembles that of a real plant species, lily-of-the-valley.

Carnations What-in Carnation • Instant Carnation • Hybrid Carnation • Side Carnation • Model Carnation
Daffodils Laff-o-dil • Daffy Dill • Giraff-o-dil • Time and a half-o-dil
Daisies School Daisy • Lazy Daisy • Midsummer Daisy • Freshasa Daisy • Whoopsie Daisy • Upsy Daisy • Crazy Daisy • Hazy Dazy
Lilies Lily-of-the-Alley • Lily Pad • Tiger Lily • Livered Lily • Chili Lily • Silly Lily • Indubitab Lily • Dilly Lilly
Pansies Dandy Pansy • Chim Pansy • Potsen Pansy • Marzi Pansy • Smarty Pansy
Petunias Car Petunia • Platoonia
Roses Summer’s Last Rose • Corn Rose • Tinted Rose • Stinking Rose • Istilla Rose
Tulips Onelip • Twolip • Threelip
Gardening Specials Donald Statue • Mickey Statue • Minnie Statue • Mickey Fountain • Toon Wave Statue • Toon Victory Statue • Toon Authority Statue • Toon Embrace Statue • Melting Snowman • Melting Snowdoodle • Flappy Cog

How to grow: Lily of the valley

Flower colour and form can vary too. Convallaria majalis var. rosea is treasured by some but the dusty-pink colour needs sympathetic neighbours (not clean white or bright pink) if it is not to look merely grubby. Growing it en masse solves the problem. ‘Prolificans’ is a more peculiar clone, which has clusters of tiny flowers along its branching stems. The double-flowered ‘Flore Pleno’ is very pretty and, for those who like everything big, ‘Fortin’s Giant’ should fit the bill.

But for me, nothing beats the simplicity and glorious scent of the classic muguet, the very essence of May.

How to grow

Despite its temperamental reputation, lily of the valley is easy to grow if you buy it ready potted in spring. Dried crowns take ages to get going and do not always survive and it may also prove difficult to establish chunks supplied by friends. In both cases, pot up the crowns separately in loam-based compost, water well and allow them to establish for a year before planting out. (You can do the same in midwinter, forcing the crowns for an early show indoors.)

At planting time, work in some humus, good garden compost or, even better, leafmould. Spread out any underground stems and cover with just a couple of inches of the planting mixture. Mulch well with leafmould.

If you find that flowering is poor, an occasional dose of high-potash organic liquid feed may help.

Good companions

Lily of the valley is so unpredictable that it is difficult to make any permanent plans for plant partners. Neighbours with similar habits are the best bet.

Omphalodes cappadocica ‘Cherry Ingram’, which has dimpled flowers of a brilliant blue, will give it a run for its money. Wood anemones can precede and accompany it and Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ makes an interesting bedfellow. However, it is at its best with contrasting greenery – the delicate fretwork of emerging ferns or the divided leaves of aquilegia or corydalis.

Buy Lily of the valley from the Telegraph Gardenshop.

Lily of the Valley

When I started Our Herb Garden, I wanted to primarily focus on edible herbs. But, that would mean I couldn’t talk about many of my favorites. Granting myself an exception, today I’m sharing with you one of our favorite non-edible herbs.

We absolutely love growing lily of the valley in our garden. The aroma is heavenly. And, the sweet little white flowers are such a lovely way to herald spring each year too.

Best of all, growing lily of the valley is super easy and the plants don’t require much care, once established.

Lily of the Valley Characteristics

(Scientific Name: Convallaria majalis)

Lily of the Valley Meaning:

The Latin name for lily of the valley, Convallaria majalis, is fairly descriptive of the plant – convallis translates to valley and majalis is “belonging to Mai.” Most translate it simply to May. More accurately translated, it refers to the Roman goddess Maia for whom the month was named for her. Maia embodies the concept of growth and motherhood – both apt references for one of the first flowers to bloom in springtime.

Natural Order:

Asparagales (yes, it is related to asparagus and not lilies)

Growing Cycle:

Perennial Herb


There are thought to be three different varieties of lily of the valley – Convallaria majalis var. keiskei (China and Japan), Convallaria majalis var. majalis (Eurasia) and Convallaria majalis var. montana (Appalachian regions of the United States)


6-10 inches


Lily of the valley is most easily recognized by its single stem of bell-like, white or pink flowers and pair of tall leaves.

Lily of the Valley Flowers:

White (most common) or pink.

(Seeds, sowing, propagation and where to plant)

Sowing Lily of the Valley Seed.

Growing lily of the valley from seeds is possible but can be problematic. If you can protect the seeds from hungry wildlife until they are fully formed, you still have to remove the fruit of the berry from the seeds. The berries are quite toxic; be careful when handling them.

If purchasing seeds from someone, be sure to cold stratify them in the fridge before planting. Unfortunately, they are generally not known as good germinators and can take as much as a year to grow into a healthy plant. Plant the seeds immediately after harvesting or after cold stratification about 6 inches deep.

Beware of Photoshopped pictures of flower species that do not exist

Don’t Be Scammed by Fake Lily of the Valley Seeds

Many seeds sold as lily of the valley are proving to be for significantly cheaper plants like grass or clover.

If that’s not bad enough, others are trying to sell something that does not even exist.

They are selling “colorful lily of the valley” or purple/blue lily of the valley seeds. Simply put, the picture is “Photoshopped” and those pretty multi-colored lily of the valley flowers only exist in the digital world. Please don’t throw your money away by thinking they are real.

Lily of the Valley Propagation.

The most common and effective way to propagate lily of the valley is through rhizomes.

When to Plant Lilies of the Valley Rhizomes or Pips

Rhizomes or pips from an existing colony of plants should be harvested and transplanted in August or September, depending upon your climate. The goal is to transplant after the growing season but before the ground freezes.

Plant transplanted pips about one inch deep and six inches apart.

If you have purchased pips from your local garden center or online, soak them for a few hours in temperature neutral water – not really cold or warm, around room temperature. Trimming off a little of the bottom of the roots can also help stimulate growth.

Growing Lily of the Valley in Pots

Lily of the Valley can be potted. This pot has been growing for several years and thriving.

Growing lily of the valley in pots works well, particularly if it is early in the season, or if you would just like to grow them inside.

In a well-draining pot with a soil mixture with about 1/3 organic material like peat moss, plant the pips about an inch deep. Position the pips in an upright position with some of the dried foilage is poking through the soil. Give them plenty of bright light but don’t put them in a hot, sunny window. After blooming, plants can be moved into a shady spot in the garden.

Where to Plant Lilies of the Valley

Lily of the valley prefers partial to full shade. Our colony of plants is in a protected and shady part of the garden. Some are in partial shade and others are fully shaded.

The plants that are only partially shaded are not as happy. The leaves yellow and disappear long before the plants that are more well-shaded. With the plants going dormant earlier, they also don’t fruit.

Additionally, our plants are part of a section of the yard that is fully covered by periwinkle or vinca. While I have no scientific proof that growing lily of the valley with plants that help shade them and the soil, they do appear to co-exist beautifully. I also suspect the vining nature of the vinca and it’s ability to easily root help prevent the lily of the valley from taking over. Hostas are strong enough to hold their own and also make a good companion plant for lilies of the valley.

Climate & Soil Requirements for Growing Lily of the Valley

Recommended USDA Hardiness zones have been listed as 3-9 by some sellers but other gardening experts suggest not going beyond zone 8. Seeds require cold stratification, so it would seem logical that unless you experience a true winter season, these plants might not do as well in your garden. The few pink varieties we saw also seemed to prefer slightly colder environs – one flower farm felt “they labor in the south.”

Before picking an area of the garden to dedicate to growing lily of the valley, I would suggest you consider where these plants are found in the wild. You’ll find lilies of the valley often in heavily wooded and forest-like areas. The soil is extremely rich, contains a lot of organic material and generally stays cool and moist throughout the growing season.

Is lily of the valley invasive?

The fact that people call groups of these plants ‘colonies’ should provide a clue that they grow and spread. Be mindful of that when you plant these sweet little things; otherwise, they might choke out other plantings. That said, while somewhat invasive, Convallaria majalis has not been identified as a truly invasive species by the USDA.

Buying Lily of the Valley

Lily of the valley plants are self-incompatible. That means a colony of plants that were grown from a single individual (i.e. they are genetically identical) will not produce seeds. They will, however, continue to propagate via rhizomes. My suggestion would be to buy plants from more than one source to ensure your plants produce seeds. Lily of the Valley rhizomes are typically only available in garden centers in the early part of the year. However, they are available online year-round.

Where to Buy Lily of The Valley

I found two vendors on Amazon offering lily of the valley pips where the reviews were fairly good and the buyers seemed to actually receive lily of the valley rhizomes. When buying online, read the reviews carefully. One of the vendors I’ve shared with you had a few negative reviews simply because the buyers thought they were buying a blooming plant rather than a semi-dormant rhizome or pip.

Uses of Lily of the Valley

(stems and leaf stalks, leaves, seeds, perfumery)

All parts of the plant should be handled with care as some people have reactions to the saponins and the berries are poisonous to humans and pets.

Lily of the Valley Stems & Leaf Stalks

Lily of the Valley contains a number of cardiac enzymes. These enzymes are similar to those found in Foxglove plants and used to create the drug Digitalis. Experienced herbalists utilize lily of the valley in creating treatments for cardio-vascular problems.

Lily of the Valley Seeds

Poisonous to people and domesticated animals.


The scent of lily of the valley is one that is treasured around the world. Unfortunately, the small size of the flowers and the expense involved to mass-harvest them; make it virtually cost prohibitive to use in commercial applications. Sadly, that means that any perfumes or soaps are made with synthetic scents.

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