Skip to main content

A complete care guide to growing whimsical lily of the valley in your spring garden

From planting to fertilizing, here's how to keep your lily of the valley happy

With their whimsical, bell-shaped blooms and lovely, sweet fragrance, lily of the valley flowers can make for a beloved fixture in any springtime garden. A gorgeous ground cover, the lily of the valley plant is easy to care for. Still, if you're new to these quaint blooms, you might be wondering how to plant and grow them. To help you get started, we've compiled this comprehensive guide on lily of the valley care.

Difficulty

Easy

Duration

30 minutes

What You Need

  • Lily of the valley pips

  • Gardening gloves

  • Mulch

  • Balanced, slow-release fertilizer

  • Garden soil

A lily of the valley
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What is the lily of the valley plant?

Native to Asia and Europe, lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) features quarter-inch, down-facing blooms with thick, ovate leaves. Technically part of the asparagus family, it's commonly found in moist soil in mountain forests, but it's now cultivated as a garden flower or bouquet filler.

The sweetly scented white flowers emerge on short stalks around springtime, spreading through rhizomes in the ground. The plant can sometimes produce red berries, but keep in mind that all parts of it are toxic — you should keep an eye on curious pets and kids.

Cluster of lily of the valley flowers
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How to plant lily of the valley

When growing lily of the valley plants, you'll usually be working with rhizomes called pips. Sometimes, you may find pre-chilled pips that have been forced to bloom during the winter, just in time for the holidays. Usually available around October or November, you can plant them in December for them to arrive during the holidays or late winter. Once potted, pre-chilled pips can take as little as three weeks to bloom.

Lily of the valley flowers can be quite simple to plant, whether you keep them in a container or grow them in the ground — they can adapt to most soils. Because they're toxic to ingest and potentially irritating to touch, be sure to handle them with gloves.

Step 1: Set your garden soil in a container or flower bed of your choice. Ideally, you want a cool, partially shaded area to set your pips down.

Step 2: Set clusters of pips 1 to 2 feet apart and single pips 4 to 5 inches apart in the soil.

Step 3: Top dress your soil with 2 to 3 inches of a mulch, such as wood chips.

Step 4: After your lily of the valley plants have bloomed, you can clean the pips and keep them in plastic bags to repot again during the winter.

Lily of the valley plants in terracotta pots
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How to care for lily of the valley

Lily of the valley plants are actually quite low maintenance. In fact, some people even consider them aggressive, if not invasive, growers in their garden — they're fairly resistant to most pests and diseases. Here are a few simple care tips to keep your lily of the valley happy.

  • Soil: Lily of the valley plants do best in well-draining, slightly acidic soil that's rich in organic matter. That said, they're highly adaptable to different types of soils.

  • Watering: Your soil should be moist but never soggy. Lily of the valley flowers also like normal humidity levels, so you may have difficulties growing them in dry conditions. Mulch will help with water retention.

  • Lighting: Lily of the valley plants appreciate light but really do best in partial shade. In warm regions, you may even want to give your plant full shade, if possible.

  • Temperature: Lily of the valley flowers are hardy to climate zones 2 to 7, so they fare best in mild, cool temperatures around 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in a warm climate zone, they may do best as indoor plants.

  • Feeding: You can add compost or manure to your soil when growing it, but you generally don't need to feed your lily of the valley. You can also add a balanced 10-10-10 slow-release fertilizer into the soil once or twice throughout the growing season — 1 tablespoon per square foot should be sufficient.

  • Pruning: You don't need to prune lily of the valley, as its dead foliage can create a mulch for it. Still, you can cut about a quarter of an inch above where the flower stalk connects to the main plant to maintain a tidy look. Because this plant grows aggressively, you can also divide its roots in spring or fall to thin out colonies and promote blooms.

Lily of the valley in grass
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Different ways to incorporate lily of the valley into your home garden

Because of their delicate blooms, lily of the valley plants can easily add a whimsical charm to your home garden. As fast bloomers, they look beautiful growing as prolific ground cover beneath trees or shrubs — out in their native habitats, you'll find them growing beneath lush shade trees.

You can also grow them against north-facing walls to keep them away from too much harsh light. Just make sure that wherever you grow them, there's not too much foot traffic to damage their long leaves. If you have pets or kids around, it may be a good idea to keep them in hanging baskets or high, out-of-reach areas.

For small but eye-catching blooms, add lily of the valley blooms into your home garden this spring. The only thing to keep in mind is that lily of the valley is toxic, so protect your hands with gloves and keep the flowers away from your fur babies and little ones. When it comes to the actual plant care, growing lily of the valley only takes a small effort on your part, as you can easily cultivate this dainty, sweet-smelling bloom that spreads prolifically on its own.

Editors' Recommendations

Topics
Stacey Nguyen
Stacey's work has appeared on sites such as POPSUGAR, HelloGiggles, Buzzfeed, The Balance, TripSavvy, and more. When she's…
5 essential spring lawn care tips you need to know
Top tips for taking care of your grass this spring
Manicured lawn with flower beds beneath shade trees

As the weather warms up and the days grow longer, your lawn will start growing more rapidly again. Spring is an important time for lawn care, no matter what type of grass you have planted. If you aren’t sure where to start with your spring lawn care, then this is the guide for you. We’ve compiled our five favorite spring lawn care tips to help you revitalize your grass.

From seeds to weeds, these tips will help you plan your routine and get back into the swing of things, so you can have the happy, healthy lawn of your dreams.
Check your equipment

Read more
How to pollinate cucumbers for your garden
Tips and tricks for successful cucumber pollination
Cucumber vines flowering on trellis

A staple of the vegetable garden, cucumbers have many uses. They pair well with other vegetables and can make great companion plants. If you’ve tried growing your own cucumbers, you may have noticed that even when your plant is loaded with flowers your harvest can still be small. The most common issue is pollination. If you want to learn how to pollinate cucumbers so you can enjoy a full cucumber harvest, this guide to cucumber pollination is for you!

Read more
Protect your sanctuary with these amazing garden fence ideas
Let these fencing ideas inspire your next project
Dark pink bougainvillea flowers along a fence top

A garden fence serves several important functions for your garden. They can protect your plants from certain pests, help stop spreading plants from escaping the garden, keep other people from trespassing, and even just look nice. There are many styles, colors, and features to choose from when it comes to selecting your fence, which can be overwhelming when you’re trying to decide what type of fence is best for your garden.

This handy guide to garden fence ideas will help you decide on a basic fence style and offer guidance for alterations and decorations you can use to personalize your garden fence.
Classic picket fence

Read more