Lily of the Valley

Lilies of the Valley have clusters of small, white, bell-shaped flowers that hang from a strong reedy stalk. There may be a dozen or more blossoms per plant. Their outstanding feature is their sweet fragrance; their scent has even inspired perfumes. The best way to appreciate the fragrance is to plant Lilies of the Valley along a walkway or in raised containers which you regularly pass by.

Lilies of the Valley don't actually have bulbs. They have a rhizome (which is like a long, thin, sideways-growing, carrot-like root). The rhizome has large buds, called pips, which produce new stalks and leaves. Garden catalogues and nurseries will either sell a complete potted plant, or a package of pips, from which you can start new plants. Use the second alternative, pips, if all possible, as they are much cheaper.

Lilies of the Valley are easy to grow under most conditions, though they do best in partial shade. Once they are well rooted they will spread indefinitely by means of the underground rhizomes. They are an excellent ground cover that lasts until frost sets in. Once they are well extablished, they will form large clumps that need almost no care and live for many years.

All varieties have a fragrance; I have indicated this by putting an asterisk (*) after the name of each variety.

Flowering time:Late spring
Plant height:6 -12" (15 - 30 cm)
Minimum planting depth:Plant pips 1" (2 -3 cm) below soil surface
For already potted plants, make sure soil around plant is well tamped down and plant is well watered
Hardiness zones:Can survive in zones 2 - 9, but does best in zones 3 - 7
Colours:White; however, the cultivated variety Rosea is pale pink
Shape/form:A dozen or more fragrant, nodding, bell-shaped blossoms suspended from a strong, reedy stalk
Two or three broad, upright, glossy, pointed leaves
Alternate names:Latin name: Convallaria majalis
Notes:Good as a container plant, ground cover, cut flower, in borders, rock gardens, under trees or shrubs, or in a woodland garden
Tolerates both acid and alkaline soil, sun and shade, but prefers partial shade with moist, humus-rich soil
Warnings: All parts of the plant are poisonous
Where well adapted, plants can become invasive
Example varieties:Fortin's Giant* (larger white blossoms), Rosea* (pink, most intense when blossom first opens, then a pale pink)

Lily of the Valley Lily of the Valley Rosea


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Last modified: October 13, 2008