Delicate, fragrant and humble-looking, lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) is a hardy perennial that requires little care and is one of the few plants that will thrive in the shadiest location of your landscape. A spring-time bloomer, the plant’s name comes from religious history that claims the tears cried by Mary for her son, Jesus, became lily-of-the-valley flowers. That origin can’t be proved, but the flower is mentioned in the Biblical book of Song of Solomon.
The shadier, the better, but the plant will tolerate a sunny location when growing in a cool climate. Hardy in zones 2 to 7, this shade-loving perennial prefers moist soil, but will grow well in less than ideal soil conditions that may be too wet or too dry at times.
Lily-of-the-valley spreads rapidly and plants (called pips) should be set out at eight inch intervals. Dig a planting hole in prepared soil and place pips in soil at the same level in which it was in the container. Back-fill planting hole and water.
Lily-of-the-valley in low growing and will reach a mature height of 8-10 inches. The plants will spread indeterminately and take over a landscape space within a few growing seasons if not kept in check. However, that rapid plant growth is often a desired feature when planting lily-of-the-valley in a natural woodland area. Keep plants growing where you want them by digging up wayward perimeter plants and thinning out the plants in the center of the growing space.
Clusters of small, fragrant, bell-shaped white or pink blooms appear under arching flower stems in the spring and last until mid-summer. Glossy-green leaves remain vibrant all growing season to create a thick mat of attractive ground cover that will brighten any shaded location. Lily-of-the-valley pairs well with other spring bloomers like daffodils, periwinkle and azaleas.
All parts of the plant are poisonous if digested. Lily-of-the-valley is not a safe plant for woodland gardens near areas where children or pets frequent.
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