The lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is not a true lily; It actually belongs to the asparagus family, although its foliage is reminiscent of some lilies. Medium green leaves, about 5 to 10 inches long and 1 to 3 inches wide, arch from the center of a clump. Dainty, fragrant, white flowers emerge on long stalks from clusters of leaves in spring, and orange-red berries appear later in fall when different cultivars are planted for cross-pollination. Don’t be fooled by the delicate appearance of the bell-shaped flowers of the lily of the valley. This is a hardy ground cover that will gradually but persistently spread and form dense colonies.
Lily of the valley can be planted by root division, potted or seeded in the fall, but spring planting is also acceptable. It is considered invasive in much of the Midwest and Northeast, where planting may be strongly discouraged or even banned. Note that lily of the valley is toxic to humans as well as dogs, cats, and horses.2 It contains glycosides and saponins, which can cause heart problems and digestive disorders if consumed in large amounts. The consumption of the berries by children is the most common cause of poisoning and can have fatal consequences.
Lily of the valley care
The lily of the valley thrives in almost any shady location. In fact, gardeners often use it under trees where many other plants don’t grow because of the shade. Plant the rhizomes about 15 inches apart, with the growth buds buried about half an inch deep.
Once established, this plant requires little attention to thrive. It is a long-lived plant that does not suffer from serious pest or disease problems. Plan to water during dry periods. Even when older plants have stopped flowering, it is beneficial to dig them up and divide them to refresh their growth.