Lily of the Valley

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Convallaria majalis
 Lily of the Valley
Lily of the valley
Habit: herbaceous rhizome
Height: 6-12in
Width: 9-12in
Lifespan: perennial
Origin: Europe
Poisonous: all parts
Exposure: part/full shade
Water: medium
Features: flowers, fragrance, naturalizes, invasive
Hardiness: hardy
Bloom: early spring
USDA Zones: 3-8
Sunset Zones: 1-7, 14-20, 31-45, indoors
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Graceful groundcover growing 6in or a little more high, with creeping rhizomes. Arching stems bloom for 2 or 3 weeks in the spring, with nodding, nicely scented flowers shaped like little white bells. The attractive broad green leaves are deciduous, and the plants produce red berries in the autumn. They and the rest of the plant are poisonous. Some cultivars have variegated (with cream) foliage, double blooms, or pink blooms. Good ground cover for places with light to medium shade, but where well adapted can become invasive as it naturalizes.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Lily-of-the-valley (convallaria majalis, which see) is forced in large quantities in the United States all the year round. It is native in Europe, where it grows wild in the woods. It is grown and cultivated in large quantities in Germany for the export trade and is shipped to every country, millions reaching the United States every season.

The growing of lily-of-the-valley roots for the trade is an important branch and is done in Germany by experts. No effort and pains are spared to develop the pips and to produce superior stock. They are planted out in the open in the fall after the fields have been well prepared, deeply plowed and heavily manured. Every fall a certain field is planted and another taken up. The average "valley" is grown three years in the open field; but the best product is derived from a two year crop. The man who assorts his planting stock carefully and does his growing better, raises the finest "valley” in two years and gets the highest prices.

Lily-of-the-valley propagates itself through runners or suckers. In taking up a field in the fall, the pips are assorted. The best ones are used for shipping, the seconds and culls for home consumption and are forced during the winter season. The runners are carefully sorted out and are used for planting stock the next year. They are planted in furrows about 1 foot apart, covered with about 2 inches of soil. Later in the season they should receive a top-dressing of rotted horse- and cow-manure. However, when the soil is heavy, a top dressing of clean river sand should be applied. The soil of the northern part of Germany is so fertile that an application of sand acts as an amendment. These top-dressings are repeated every winter.

During the summer, the fields should be kept free from weeds by hoeing and cultivating. In dry seasons motor watering-wagons are used for sprinkling. The utmost care should be given during the planting season to protect the roots and keep them fresh and free from mold. The many complaints in this country about poor forcing results are usually traced to careless handling at the time when the "valley" is harvested and the stock is spoiled in storage. Good "valley" pips should be strong and have plenty of fine fibrous roots. This is very essential for forcing purposes, as the "valley" does not root in the forcing-bed. If the roots are spoiled or affected through mold, the plants become worthless. The successful growing of lilies- of-the-valley in the open field requires large acreage. Different crops should be grown for three or four years before lilies-of-the-valley are again planted in the same field. It cannot be grown successively on the same ground, as the stock deteriorates and becomes practically worthless.

The forcing of lilies-of-the-valley is done mostly by specialists in this country, where a steady supply is kept up every day in the year for the cut-flower trade. The importing is done in the fall, and on arrival in this country the pips are placed in cold storage. They keep best in a temperature of 28°. After resting two or three months, they are taken out as desired. Cold storage lilies-of-the-valley are much more satisfactory and should be grown at all times. They do not require any special management nor strong forcing, and do best at a temperature of 65°. It hardly pays a florist to force lilies-of-the-valley in small quantities unless it is for home trade for the holidays, for basket- work and in pots. The commercial success depends on many things, and much money has been lost in this country on lilies-of-the-valley. A successful grower must know where his stock comes from and when to grow the different kinds as grown abroad. For early forcing it is best to have "valley" grown on light soil, which forces easier; for late forcing and cold-storage purposes, "valley" grown on heavier soil is to be preferred.

The specialist devotes separate houses to the forcing of lilies-of-the valley, where he is able to give the right atmosphere and ideal conditions for successful growing. Plant right in the benches, which are about 3 ½ feet wide. Fill benches about 5 inches deep with clean sand, not too fine. After planting, keep them well watered all the time. For the first ten to fourteen days keep them dark. For this purpose, the benches are boxed in and covered with boards or cloths. Give light gradually after the stalks are well up, and finally remove the shade entirely in order properly to develop the flowers, give them more substance, and color to the foliage. It requires about three weeks properly to force lilies-of-the-valley in a temperature of 68°. New "valley" requires a good bottom heat of about 70° to 75°. Cold storage "valley" does not need any bottom heat. After cutting, the flowers are placed in the cooler over night and put up in bunches of twenty- five for the market. They are mostly used for wedding and corsage bouquets, and also for baskets and table- decoration.

Lilies-of-the-valley are hardy and are easily grown in the garden. They require no special attention. They are adapted for planting around shrubbery, porches or shady places, where they come up every season and bring an abundance of beautiful flowers.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


Lily of the valley calendar?
April: transplant
May: flowering
August: sow
September: division
October: division

Soil should be damp, rich and leafy. Apply thick leaf mold mulch in the fall for great spring flowers and health. Pips (single rhizomes) and plants should be planted in the yard before soil freezes. Place plants 1-2 feet apart, and pips 4-5in apart.


Remove flesh from ripe seeds and sow in cold frame. Rhizomes can be divided in the fall. A 6 inch rhizome can be divided into about 6 new plants. Keep young plants moist, preferably with mulch.

Pests and diseases

Botrytis can be a small problem, though not usually something to be concerned with.


There are three subspecies that have sometimes been separated out as distinct species by a few botanists.

  • Convallaria majalis var. keiskei - from China and Japan with red fruit and bowl shaped flowers
  • Convallaria majalis var. majalis - from Eurasia with white midribs on the flowers.
  • Convallaria majalis var. montana - from the USA with green tinted midribs on the flowers.



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