Lily-of-the-Valley is an old-fashioned perennial that looks so delicate with its tiny bell shaped flowers. There is not anything delicate about this hardy shade-lover. Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis) is a tough-as-nails perennial that will keep going after many others fail to thrive.
It is one of the few perennials that can grow in the deep shade of large trees and shrubs. Lily-of-the-Valley also makes a good choice in small contained spaces. In areas where temperatures remain cooler in summer, it can even take full sun. This hardy perennial isn’t very particular about the soil it’s planted in.
Lily-of-the-Valley can spread quickly by underground stems called rhizomes. Although each plant only has two or three wide and glossy leaves, it makes a beautiful ground cover in masses.
The somewhat tropical looking leaves of this perennial belie its ability to survive sub-zero temperatures. Lily-of-the-Valley is hardy in USDA Zones 2 – 7.
Even after the spring blooms fade, the leaves remain beautiful until fall and cover areas where other plants fail. The Lilly-of-the-Valley’s blooms are very fragrant. That’s just one more added benefit of this tough and reliable perennial.
One of the ways Lily-of-the-Valley is sold at garden centers is by sprouts from the rhizomes called pips. These rhizome sprouts should be planted in the spring. This perennial is also available in container grown plants that can be planted anytime during the growing season.
This tough perennial can spread quickly, so planting it in beds with other flowers is not a good idea. It will overtake the other plants and become a problem. Lilly-of-the-Valley will need a place that is enclosed with edging or other barriers to contain its spread.
The container grown plants need to be spaced six to eight inches apart or the sprouts (pips) can be planted three to four inches apart. Lilly-of-the-Valley can also become invasive in natural forest areas, so take care if planting near natural woodlands.
Although Lilly-of-the-Valley is not that particular about soil, it prefers areas that are moist and well drained. During periods of drought, adding mulch to these perennials along with occasional watering will keep them happy. If they are growing under shrubs and trees, a yearly application of fertilizer can be beneficial.
Lilly-of-the-Valley is not susceptible to insects. Sometimes during very rainy seasons they can begin to get leaf spot and stem rot. Remove and destroy the infected parts as soon as they’re noticed. It also helps to remove the dead foliage before the new growth begins in spring. Occasionally these perennials will need to be divided to encourage better blooming.
Lilly-of -the-Valley is a nice combination with early blooming spring bulbs such as daffodils. Daffodils are gorgeous in bloom, but the leaves can’t be cut back until they begin to wither. Lilly-of-the-Valley’s beautiful green leaves can help hide the bulbs leaves when they no longer look attractive. It also is a good combination with Hosta and grows well underneath azaleas, rhododendrons and deciduous trees. Lilly-of-the-Valley can grow underneath evergreen trees as well. They will perform better if the evergreen trees have branches that are high and less dense.
Most Lilly-of-the-Valley perennials are low growing plants that only reach about 8 inches tall. The white flowers grow on stalks about 4 or 5 inches tall from the center of the plant. There are a few other choices. One is the beautiful pink blossomed variety called Rosea. A taller variety called Fortin’s Giant grows about 12 inches tall.
Some varieties of Lilly-of-the-Valley has unusual variegated leaves. A cultivar named Variegata have dappled leaves and Albostriata has leaves with white stripes. There is also a variegated cultivar called Aureovariegata that has yellow stripes in the leaves.
( Note: All parts of Lilly-of-the-Valley are poisonous if ingested)