How To Grow And Care For Lily Of The Valley

Love this flower? We do, too.

Everyone has a favorite flower. While roses, hydrangeas, and peonies get a lot of attention, Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) is one of the South's most beautiful flowering plants. 

This graceful, creeping ground cover blooms in spring and grows about six to eight inches high. The arching stems bear small, nodding, delightfully sweet-scented, waxy white bell-shaped flowers. The flowers last only two to three weeks, but their broad, glossy green deciduous leaves are attractive throughout the growing season. Bright red berries may appear in autumn but are poisonous to pets and people like the rest of the plant.

Lily of the Valley
David Q. Cavagnaro / Getty

Plant Attributes

Plant Attributes
 Common Name:  Lily of the Valley
 Botanical Name:  Convallaria majalis
 Family:  Asparagaceae
 Plant Type:  Perennial, Rhizome, Herbaceous
 Mature Size:  6–12 in. tall, 9–12 in. wide
 Sun Exposure:  Partial, Shade
 Soil Type:  Moist but Well-drained
 Soil pH:  Acidic to Neutral (5.0 to 7.0)
 Bloom Time:  Spring
 Flower Color:  White
 Hardiness Zones:  Zones 3-8 (USDA)
 Native Area:  Europe
 Toxicity: toxic to dogs, toxic to cats, toxic to petstoxic to people

Lily of the Valley Care

Lily of the Valley grows well in shady environments and needs little attention after establishing. Since these flowers spread through rhizomes, they can become invasive in specific areas. The Lily of the Valley thrives in the shade, so dividing them and planting the rhizomes around six inches apart should provide enough space to grow comfortably. Remember, these plants need more water in areas without rainfall.


Lily of the Valley grows best in partial sunlight. These flowers will tolerate areas with direct morning sun but need protection from hotter afternoon climates. Full shade is best for growing Lily of the Valley in harsh summer conditions.


Lily of the Valley tolerates relatively any soil conditions as long as it has good drainage and is rich with organic material. These flowers can also grow in clay soil. 


Lily of the Valley needs more water when establishing, but after, the soil should remain moist and not soggy. Use your fingers to tell if the soil is dry during extended drought periods or sweltering weather. Dry soil can hinder Lily of the Valley's growth.

Temperature and Humidity

Lily of the Valley grows best in the Upper and Middle South with mild conditions and average humidity, preferably between 60°F to 70°F. In the Lower South, Lily of the Valley needs full shade and moist, rich soil that does not dry out quickly. Even in good temperature conditions, this plant does not do well in dry, hot climates and might die back during the hottest summer months. Additionally, it can become invasive when Lily of the Valley adapts well to its environment.


Lily of the Valley requires no fertilization if the soil contains rich organic material. If the soil needs amending because it lacks nutrients, add a slow-release fertilizer in the spring.

Types of Lily of the Valley

Various cultivars are available, but all Lily of the Valley species are charming in woodland gardens. Plant them under deciduous trees or high-branching, not-too-dense evergreens. Here is a selection:

  • Lily of the Valley 'Aureo-variegata': A selection containing yellow-striped leaves. 
  • Lily of the Valley 'Fortin's Giant': Extra-large blooms that grow 12-15 inches tall. 
  • Lily of the Valley 'Prolificans': Easy-to-grow double-flowered bell-shaped blooms. 
  • Lily of the Valley 'C. m. rosea': A flower with light pink blooms. 


Lily of the Valley does not require pruning, but you can use pruning shears on individual flower stalks if they begin to dry, turn yellow or brown, or drop the petals. Dead flower blooms, or brown or yellow leaves, should be removed with a horizontal cut at least a quarter inch above the base.

Propagating Lily of the Valley

The easiest way to propagate Lily of the Valley is by dividing the rhizome. Divide the roots every two years in the fall or spring, so the plant does not overcrowd or invade the surrounding environment. This process creates new plants and helps protect the older flowers. Here is how to propagate by dividing the roots:

  1. Dig a deep hole around the root clump every two to four years with a shovel. Ensure the circle is at least four to six inches from the plant's base. 
  2. Gently lift the root ball from the ground, ensuring not to break the roots—remove the excess soil. 
  3. Use a sharp knife or your hands to divide the root ball into sections. Ensure each unit has a healthy rhizome and stem before dividing. 
  4. Place the newly divided roots six inches to two feet apart and at least a half-inch deep. Plant the divided sections in a shady location for best results. 
  5. Water the divisions when planting and consistently while establishing. Don't overwater the soil or keep the foliage wet.

How to Grow Lily of the Valley From Seed

While less common than growing from root division, growing Lily of the Valley from seed is still possible. Sowing seeds is a time-consuming way to grow Lily of the Valley, but depending on the cultivar, it might be the only way to achieve the flower blooms you prefer. Here's how to grow Lily of the Valley from seed:

  1. Start sowing the seeds at the end of winter or early spring. Use a flat, seed-starting container covered in compost. Adding a glass layer will help protect the seeds. 
  2. Bury the seeds in the soil and keep them in a shady location to germinate, which can take two months to a year. Keep the soil moist. 
  3. After the seedlings emerge, transplant the new growth into larger, individual containers. Seedlings will continue to grow for two more years in their containers. 
  4. Lily of the Valley can move to its permanent location after two years in the spring or fall. 


In late summer, add compost to the soil for extra protection. Spread the mulch around the plants in a layer one to two inches thick, but keep it away from the plant's stem. Since Lily of the Valley is a hardy plant, it doesn't require much attention throughout the winter. Maintain the growing environment by pulling weeds near the flowers and removing other debris near the plant.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

While relatively pest-free, insects such as aphids and spider mites can attack the leaves and stems of Lily of the Valley. Use water or horticultural oil to remove the pests from the foliage gently. 

Lily of the Valley is susceptible to diseases including stem rot, anthracnose, blight, and various fungal leaf spots. Depending on the condition, leaves will wilt after turning yellow and brown or appear to have bite-size marks in the foliage. Removing infected leaves and gently spraying fungicides is the best way to treat these diseases. 

How to Get Lily of the Valley to Bloom

Lily of the Valley blooms for about four weeks in mid-spring to early summer. The flowers might not be as showy if you are planting older rhizomes. To stimulate growth, plant rhizomes in the fall before the soil freezes. Use rich soil with ample humus, place the rhizomes one and a half inches deep, and space the clumps one to two feet apart. Spread a one-inch layer of leaf mold, peat moss, or ground bark over the bed each year in the fall.

Large, pre-chilled rhizomes are available in December and January and can be potted for bloom indoors in bright light. After blooming, plunge pots into the ground in a cool, shaded area. When dormant, remove the plants from the pots and move them into the garden. Wash soil off pips, place in clearly labeled plastic bags, and store in a vegetable bin in the refrigerator until time to repot the plants.

Common Problems With Lily of the Valley

Leaves Turning Black/Brown

Common problems with Lily of the Valley stem from temperature and environment. Lily of the Valley will turn brown more quickly in areas with a prolonged summer heat wave than in other areas. Keeping plants well-watered will help prevent this from occurring.

Browning Tips

After watering Lily of the Valley, you should check the plants for signs of anthracnose. Anthracnose symptoms include brown to black spots or irregular shapes that create dead, dry, or brown patches. If anthracnose is present, use a fungicide to coat both sides of the foliage and repeat if the issue continues.

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