Convallaria majalis

Tried and Trouble-free Recommended by 8 Professionals
Common Name: lily of the valley
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Asparagaceae
Native Range: Northern temperate regions
Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Spread: 0.75 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: April
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Fragrant, Good Cut
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer, Heavy Shade, Erosion, Clay Soil

Culture

Easily grown in moist, fertile, organically rich, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Performs well in sun-dappled shade. In optimum growing conditions, it will spread rapidly by rhizomes, almost to the point of being weedy, to form dense colonies in the landscape. This is a long-lived plant which naturalizes easily in woodland areas and may be left undisturbed for many years. Flowering may decrease over time, however, at which point dividing the plants may become appropriate. This is a cool weather perennial which is not recommended for growing in hot and humid summer climates south of USDA Zone 7a where it will perform poorly. May easily be propagated in spring or fall by root division.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Convallaria majalis, commonly known as lily-of-the-valley, is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial that that typically forms an indefinitely-spreading ground cover to 8-12” tall. It is native to Europe, but has escaped cultivation and naturalized over time throughout much of temperate eastern and central North America plus parts of the Northwestern U.S. Foliage and flowers make this an attractive and beloved shade garden wildflower. Each plant has 2 to 3 parallel-veined lanceolate-ovate to elliptic green leaves (to 5-10” long and to 1-3” wide). In spring, an erect to slightly arching flowering stem rises from the center of each leaf clump bearing a one-sided raceme (to 4-9” long) of nodding, bell-shaped, sweetly fragrant, white flowers (corollas to 1/3” long) which bloom in early to mid-spring. Each raceme typically contains 5-10 flowers. Globoid orange-red berries may appear in fall, each berry containing 1-6 seeds.

All parts of this plant are very poisonous because they contain cardiac glycosides.

Genus name comes from the Latin word convallis meaning a valley.

Specific epithet means of or belonging to May in reference to the month of flowering.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for aphids and spider mites. Stem rot, leaf spot, leaf blotch and anthracnose may appear but usually are not significant deterrents to growing this plant. Foliage decline will occur in hot summers.

Garden Uses

Best as a ground cover for shady areas where aggressive spread is desired. May be too rambunctious for shady areas of rock gardens or borders. Popular cut flower. Performs well under the shade of trees and shrubs.