lily of the valley plant

Lily of the Valley Flower (Convallaria majalis): Types, How To Grow and Care

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Lily of the valley is not only known for its beautiful pure white petals, but also because of its unforgettable strong scent.

Hardy to zones 3 to 9 according to USDA, this elegant flower has bell-shaped petals that will appear from spring to fall. Even though its flowers are quite small, they will cluster together and form a sea of plants, which is also very impressive.

lily of the valley

Continue reading if this flower should be on the list of plants you would like to grow now!

Basic Facts about Lily of the Valley Plant

white lily of the valley flower
  • Lily of the valley is scientifically referred to as Convallaria majalis. Although, this plant’s name suggests it’s a lily, in reality, it isn’t, as this flower belongs to the asparagus family of plants. This can be clearly seen when looking at the foliage.
  • This hardy plant is usually sown by gardeners who want to have a great ground cover that grows relatively quickly and spreads rapidly throughout the available areas—and sometimes even on the most difficult of soils.
  • This is an easy to cultivate plant as it will self-sow for consecutive years. They also don’t require much external input in order to maintain it.
  • They are often used as an ornamental plant, not only because of its beauty but also because of its scent.

Characteristics of Lilies of the Valley

stalks of lily of the valley flowers

If the right conditions are met, then the lily of the valley flowers can grow vigorously. However, they must live in moist soil and cool climates to thrive.

It could be argued that its rhizomes are like their roots, and they will spread out throughout the soil thanks to them.

This characteristic could be a blessing and a curse for gardeners. On the one hand, you will have fast-growing plants in no time. On the other hand, they tend to grow too quickly sometimes; thus, they will become overcrowded, or they could take nutrients away from other plants so that they can thrive.

As a result, this plant is often considered an invasive species in some parts of North America, and most gardeners won’t recommend planting this flower in a garden. 


How To Grow Lily of the Valley

lily of the valley flowers in the woods

If there is a partially-shaded area or even a shaded area, then the lily of the valley will surely be the one to appear first, and that just shows how hardy they are!

Sun Exposure

As one of the plants that grow in shade, they don’t require sunlight to survive. In fact, they will thrive best if they are left alone in the garden’s dark and shaded corner!

Soil

This flower prefers moist soil and it also needs to drain well, otherwise, its rhizomes may rot in no time. However, it is not uncommon to see it grow in clay soil. 

Water

This plant requires plenty of water. As a general rule, if the soil is too dry, then you need to water more regularly, especially if you live in a warm gardening zone.

Fertilizing Needs

Unlike some common flowers, lily of the valley plants do not need to be fertilized as they can handle themselves pretty well!

Propagation

It is not a very common practice to propagate lily of the valley, especially if their self-sowing capabilities are considered. However, if you wish to do so, then you need to dig the rhizomes out and cut them into smaller pieces.

You can then plant them back, just make sure they are separated as the rhizomes tend to grow rapidly.

On the other hand, it is possible to grow it by seeds, but they will only bloom during their second or third year of life.

Repotting

If your lily of the valley is in a pot, you will eventually have to repot it as their rhizomes may become too large and could potentially break the container.


strand of lily of the valley flower

How To Care for Lily of the Valley

Many beginner gardeners are surprised when they find out that they don’t need to do much for their lily of the valley plants. On the contrary, they will thrive and grow healthier if they are left to do their own thing without external influence from others.

These plants are one of the oldest plants in the world, so they have adapted themselves thoroughly, and they know how to fight against difficult soils or even severe droughts.


Common Types of Convallaria Majalis

There are some lesser-known varieties of lily of the valley, such as:

Fernwood’s Golden Slippers

fernwoods golden slippers

This type of flower produces white petals that slowly turn yellow-gold. It blooms throughout the summer, and it spreads easily.

Albostriata

albostriata lily of the valley

This plant’s main characteristic is the fact it has vibrant white strikes on its leaves. This is the only type of convallaria majalis that does this.

Rosea

As its name suggests, its petals are blush pink, and they can reach up to 6 inches in height. This variety of lily of the valley will perform better in zones 3 to 8. 

Fortin’s Giant

fortins giant lily of the valley

This variety has bigger flowers than the rest. They bloom throughout the summer and spread rapidly.

Flore Pleno

Has double-white flowers. It is very exotic in comparison to other types of lily of the valley.

Hardwick Hall

This type of plant has yellow or green strikes on its petals. This variety of lily of the valley will perform better in zones 3 to 9.


FAQs

Here are some common questions about this flower:

Can lily of the valley get pests or diseases?

lily of the valley foliage

Fortunately, this flower is so toxic that it deters pests and diseases. Although, this isn’t to say that it doesn’t happen at all.

On the contrary, during the rainy season or very humid days, it is advisable to check the plants and see whether slugs or snails have appeared.

If they are eating the plants away, then simply remove them by hand!

Are lilies of the valley toxic?

Yes, these flowers are very toxic to humans and pets. If ingested, they could even cause heart problems or death.

Its roots are the most toxic part of the plant, however, this plant produces red and orange berries that are very attractive to some individuals who may not be aware of its toxicity.

Some of the symptoms this flower can cause are diarrhea, strong stomach cramps, seizures, vomiting, and an overall feeling of drowsiness.

But, do not worry though! Fortunately, gardeners will be perfectly fine if they have to work with this plant, and they need to touch it.

It is only poisonous to those who consume it, unless you have sensitive skin, of course. If that is the case, make sure you wear special gardening gloves when handling these plants.

How do you eradicate the lily of the valley?

It is important to note that the lily of the valley plant is often considered as a plague, precisely because of the quick growth rate they have.

As a result, you may want to act fast enough to stop the spread of this plant. It is completely understandable to want to get rid of some of these plant colonies, otherwise, they could represent a threat to the rest of your garden, especially if you do not have much space left. Eradicating this plant is not an impossible task, however, you will have to do so for a long time, as you will need to catch up to its growing speed.

You can dig the rhizomes out of the soil and discard them. Or you could try putting a gardening bed on the area it grows. This way, you could have a small perimeter area reserved for this flower.

Alternatively, you could stop watering them and place them in a very sunny area.


Conclusion

lily of the valley in the dark

Convallaria majalis is a highly fragrant beautiful flower that grows everywhere! Although it looks like a small and delicate flower, this plant surprises everyone precisely because of its toughness and hardiness in some areas.

Lilly of the valley offers a great opportunity to welcome pollinators into a garden, as they love the flower’s nectar.

Overall, it is a great flower to have around, but pay close attention to its spreading habits.

Up next: Lily of the Valley Flower Meaning and Symbolism

*featured image by ekramar/depositphotos

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