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Lily of the Valley Care

Lily of the valley or Convallaria majalis, a plant from the Convallaria Genus in the Asparagaceae family, is indigenous throughout cool temperate environments of the North Hemisphere in Asia, Europe, and North America, but is deemed to be invasive in some areas of North America, although there is some debate about the “native” aspect in regard about the American variety. This species is usually found growing at altitudes up to 4,900 feet.

These perennial species are not true lilies but belong in the asparagus family, although their foliage resembles some lilies. They typically attain heights of 6 to 12 inches with a width of 9 – 12 inches.

Their green leaves extend about 5 – 10 inches and are about 1 – 3 inches broad growing from the middle of the plants. Its small, bell-shaped, and fragrant white (sometimes pink) flowers grow on long stems with two leaves in spring, arising from the centers of leaf clumps.

Usually, 5 – 15 flowers are produced on the tips of the stems. The fruits are orange-red berries containing a few large white or brown colored seeds that appear in autumn. These plants are not self-pollinating and colonies growing from a single clone will not set seed. 

These plants might appear delicate; they are hardy ground covers that grow and spread rapidly. Like several other perennial plants, they propagate by producing rhizome offsets and from seeds, often forming widespread colonies.

They can grow vigorously almost anywhere under some shade. Most gardeners commonly grow it under trees and shrubs where many plants won’t thrive. 

Be careful where you plant them to stop them from spreading from their designated area since they can spread quickly and overtake a big area. Their perennial growth and relatively pest and disease-free nature enable them to outgrow and stifle other plants growing near them.

Planting them along walls or other solid boundaries is a great option. However, their spreading nature can be an advantage if you have slopes in your garden/landscape as they are good for controlling soil erosion. It’s safer to cultivate them in containers or in raised beds to prevent unwanted spread.

They are mostly maintenance-free when they get established, although they might need some watering during dry spells also, older plants might have to be divided when flower production decreases to renew their growth, replanting them in a spot with more space.

In 1956, the French beauty firm Dior came out with a perfume similar to the fragrant flowers of the species, which used to be Christian Dior’s best-loved flower. However, many other perfumes have been developed since then that emulate the flower’s fragrance. The flowers are used in bridal bouquets, although they’re very expensive. 

It was Yugoslavia’s national flower and has also been Finland’s national flower since 1967.

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Sunlight

These plants can grow under the partial sun or full shade. They can tolerate direct morning sun, but need protection from harsh sunlight during the afternoon. However, they need to be under full shade in warmer areas of their growing zones.

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Water

These plants prefer constantly moist but not soggy soil. Water them whenever the soil starts to dry from lack of rain and in hot weather. Dry soil will affect the growth of these plants and reduce flowering.

They need regular watering every week for their first 4 – 6 weeks of growth however, these plants are very tough and can thrive in virtually any kind of soil or climate. While they thrive better with watering, they can be very tolerant of drought once they get established.

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Humidity

These plants prefer mild environments with average humidity levels.

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Temperature

They thrive in temperatures between 60 – 70°F and won’t grow well in dry or hot climates. They might die back even in mild climates with hot summers, but they will survive and come back in spring.

If you would like to enjoy these plants throughout winter, you can grow them in containers and bring them inside when temperatures start dropping – they will continue growing well since they can also grow under partial shade and indoor light will be acceptable.

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Soil

While they thrive better in compost-rich soils with good drainage capacity, they can grow in a wide variety of soil types, including clayey soil. They prefer an acidic to neutral pH but can tolerate slightly alkaline pH, too.

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Repotting

These plants can grow easily in containers, repot them when they start becoming crowded or if their growth suffers. Select a deep container as these plants have long roots that like spreading. After taking the plant out, trim the roots a little, but too much.

Alternatively, you can split the plant into smaller sections to reduce the size. Repot the plant with some good-quality soil and top up the soil, making sure the roots are covered.

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Propagation

They can be grown from seed but will take some time to grow sufficiently. The simplest method to propagate them is to divide the clumps into separate sections in fall, growing them in containers indoors before transferring them outdoors when the weather is warmer in spring. Alternatively, you could divide them into the warmer months of spring since they will struggle in cold conditions.

Additional Care

They typically don’t need feeding unless they are growing in poor soil. If so, add granular fertilizer in spring or add some compost.

Common Problems

These plants are largely free from any pests or diseases.

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