What would spring be without the sweet fragrance of lily-of-the-valley? These dainty little bells add grace and beauty to any shady spot in early spring, and they are one of the easiest plants to force indoors.
Lily of the Valley – Lily of the Flower
Lily-of-the-valley – the flower lily (Convallaria majalis) grows only about a foot tall, and it spreads quickly to fill an area. The small, fragrant white or pink bell-shaped flowers bloom in early spring. Lily of the valley flowers make wonderful cut flowers and are often used in bridal bouquets.
Lily-of-the-valley thrives in full or partial shade in rich, moist, but well-drained soil. It makes a good ground cover under shade trees but is not a good plant for borders because of its aggressive spreading habit. Lily-of-the-valley is hardy in USDA zones three to eight.
Traditionally, lily-of-the-valley is planted in the fall for spring blooms, but you can also plant it in spring. If you are concerned about the plant’s invasive nature, plant it in containers, and then sink the container into the ground. Plant the pips 3 inches deep and 6 to 10 inches apart.
Once planted, firm the soil by pressing lightly with your foot, and then water slowly to allow the soil to absorb as much water as possible.
Lily of the Valley Plant Care
- Keep Lily-of-the-Valley moist but not waterlogged.
- Fertilize the plants at the beginning of spring, or side-dress with leaf mold or compost. Take care not to splash fertilizer onto the leaves.
- Do not cut back the foliage until it turns yellow. The pips need to absorb nutrients from the foliage to make next year’s flowers.
- Divide plants every five years, or more often if blooms become sparse. Plants in containers should be divided more often. To divide, dig up the pips in fall or early spring and divide them into groups of five. Plant the divisions as instructed above.
Lily of the Valley flowers are easy to grow indoors any time of year, and the fragrance is especially nice on a bedside table or near a favorite reading chair. The plants grow quickly indoors, and you should see growth within a week and flowers in about four weeks.
You can use almost any container as long as it had drainage holes and is at least 3 inches deep. Use potting soil that holds lots of moisture. A soil with a high percentage of peat moss works well.
- Soak the pips in room temperature water for a couple of hours or until they are full and hard.
- Clip off the last inch of the roots to allow the pips to absorb water easily.
- Plant the pips so that the tops are just visible above the soil. Place them about 1 1/2 inches apart.
- Water thoroughly and keep the soil moist. The plants grow quickly and need a lot of water.
Cost and Availability
Lily of the Valley is readily available in local garden centers and nurseries. It is also available from most online companies that sell bulbs and plants. The cost ranges from $1.50 to $2.00 per rhizome in lots of 6, 10, and 12.
References and Resources
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Convallaria majalis