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Lily of the Valley
About Lily of the Valley PlantsLily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is a woodland flowering plant with sweetly scented, pendent, bell-shaped white flowers borne in sprays in spring. Lily of the valley plants produce adorable flowers with a strong scent that sends a pleasant aroma throughout your yard. With varieties that grow to be only around 6 to 8 inches tall, lily of the valley flowers look right at home in spring gardens or planted underneath trees and shrubs. You can also use lily of the valley plants as borders along walkways and paths to create an enchanting landscape.
How to plant Lily of the Valley flowersWe suggest planting lily of the valley with the roots approximately 2 inches below the soil line and about 6 to 8 inches apart for late spring blooms. Lily of the valley plants require moist and well-drained soil but are easy to care for and are deer-resistant perennials. Some varieties of lily of the valley can grow over a foot tall, but most varieties stay below a foot. Be sure to allow your lily of the valley plants to spread out!
How often should you water lilies of the valley plants?Once established, lily of the valley plants are somewhat drought tolerant and do not need frequently watered. After planting, water your lily of the valley flower once per week for about two months, to help the plant become established: roots love water. After the plants are more firmly established, you can cut back to watering only when the soil is dry. Fertilize lily of the valley in the spring with a balanced fertilizer, then fertilize again as the plant prepares to bloom.
What kind of soil do lily of the valley plants need?Lily of the valley prefers rich soil and plenty of shade, but they do appreciate well-drained soil: the fact that these are shade plants does not mean that they are swamp plants. Add compost, manure, or loam to richen the soil and improve drainage. Lily of the valley prefer slightly acidic soil, so add some sulfur if your soil is very alkaline.
How to fertilize lily of the valley:Use a water soluble fertilizer with a balanced ratio, like 10-10-10 or 5-5-5, on your lily of the valley plants. You should fertilize once in the spring, as the plant begins to leaf out, and throughout the blooming season.
When do Lily of the Valley bloom?For most gardeners, the bloom time will fall in the spring: lily of the valley flowers bloom for about a month in late March or early April, although, in some locations, they'll bloom well into the summer.
Will lilies of the valley bloom in the first year?Lily of the valley should bloom in the first year, but, like all plants, they can take some time to become established. If your lily of the valley doesn't bloom in its first year, don't worry and be patient. If it ceases blooming later in life, check to see that the roots aren't overcrowded and that the plant isn't sitting in water: both factors can affect bloom quantity and quality.
Where does a lily of the valley flower grow best?Lily of the valley plants prefer partial to full shade, so they're great for planting under trees or along buildings. However, they can handle full sun. Lily of the valley works exceptionally well as ground cover, due to its spread and dense root system. As the plants grow, the roots actually crowd out weeds, creating a full, lush carpet of lilies. These quick-growing plants don't mind growing among woody roots -- another great reason to plant them below trees for a fairytale experience.
Lily of the valley are hardy in zones two through nine, meaning that they'll come back year after year in most of the continental United States. They're generally not a favorite of deer, squirrels, or other animals. Other than the need to (infrequently) divide these plants, lily of the valley are incredibly easy-care flowers -- not that their delicate blooms betray that quality! Lily of the valley flowers make a charming addition to a shaded woodland garden. Consider pairing your lily of the valley with plants like geraniums, hostas, tiger lilies, and asters.
How to divide Lily of the Valley:Lily of the valley is extremely easy to grow, even under low-light or crowded conditions. You may want to divide your lily of the valley every three to four years. Splitting your lily of the valley can prevent overcrowded roots and spindly stalks, and can increase bloom size, too. Luckily, dividing lily of the valley is extremely easy!
Divide your lily of the valley in the fall, after the plant has flowered. In autumn, the plant won't be expending so much energy on flowering, and can use those energy reserves to build out roots and leaves before the ground freezes. Water the plants a few days before dividing them, and trim them to about six inches above the ground. Then, use a spade or trowel to dig up the rhizomes of the plants, being careful not to cut them. Use a trowel or knife to cut the rhizomes apart, and, if necessary, use shears to trim your way through any dead or entangled roots.
Replant the rhizomes immediately, allowing six inches or so between each. Water them in well, and wait for the next springtime to enjoy even more lilies of the valley!
Types of Lily of the ValleyIn addition to classic Lily of the Valley species, several newer cultivars are available to decorate the garden. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Bridal Choice Lily of the Valley features a pink hue at the base of the plant, set off against the classic white of the flowers. This is a truly floriferous plant, giving you plenty of flowers for arrangements.
- Giant Lily of the Valley, or Convallaria majallis 'Bordeaux' grows to about twice the size of traditional Lily of the Valley. The foliage is larger and a bit stiffer, somewhat like the foliage of a tulip.
- Convallaria majalis 'Doreen' features larger flowers and taller, thicker stems than standard Lily of the Valley. This is an excellent option for arrangements where the bell-shaped flowers are meant to be the star of the show, not a supporting act.
When to plant Lily of the ValleyLily of the Valley needs a cold period before blooming, so fall is the best time to plant Lily of the Valley. Plant after the first frost but before the ground is frozen solid, to allow your Lily of the Valley to establish roots and then go dormant. Check our Zone Finder to see your last frost date.
If you plan to divide and replant your Lily of the Valley, the best time to do so is also in fall. You can divide and replant your Lily of the Valley any time after blooming.