Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is not a true lily; It actually belongs to the asparagus family, although its foliage is reminiscent of lilies. Medium green leaves, about 5 to 10 inches long and 1 to 3 inches wide, arching from the center of a clump. Dainty, fragrant, white flowers rise 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 to form dense colonies.
Lily of the valley can be planted by root divisions, potted plants, or seeds in the fall, although 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. Be aware that lily of the valley is toxic to humans, as well as dogs, cats and horses.2 It contains glycosides and saponins that can cause heart problems and indigestion if large amounts are eaten. The consumption of the berries by children is the most common cause of poisoning, deaths are possible.
Lily of the valley care
Lily of the valley will grow vigorously in almost any location with some shade. In fact, gardeners often use it under trees where many other plants don’t grow because of the shade. Plant the rhizomes about 6 inches apart, with the growth buds buried about 1/2 inch deep.
This plant needs little attention to thrive once established. It is a long-lived plant that does not suffer from serious pest or disease problems. Plan to water during dry periods. Even when flowering has shrunk on older plants, it is beneficial to dig up and divide them to refresh their growth.
Plant lilies of the valley in partial sun to full shade. Direct morning sun is fine, but the plant needs protection from the harsh afternoon sun. And if you live in a warmer part of the growing zones, full shade is best.
Lily of the valley prefers organically rich soil with good drainage. But it can grow in a range of soil types, including clay soil. It likes an acidic to neutral soil pH, but also tolerates slightly alkaline soils.
This plant prefers consistently moist but not soggy soil. Water whenever the soil begins to dry out due to lack of rain and/or hot weather. Too dry soil hinders the growth and flowering of the plant.
temperature and humidity
Lily of the valley prefers mild conditions with average humidity. Temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit are best. The plant does not do well in dry, hot climates. And even in mild climates, it could die off during the hottest summer months. This usually won’t kill the plant; it generally returns the following spring.
Lily of the valley does not usually need fertilizer unless you have poor soil. If your soil is lacking in nutrients, you can add a slow-release granular fertilizer in the spring. Follow product label directions for amount to use.