INFORMATION ABOUT LILY-OF-THE-VALLEY…
By: Nikki Phipps
Image © Natalia Balcerska Photography Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis ), also called May lily, is a European and Asian native. Its name signifies a “return to happiness” and is quite popular for use in bridal bouquets.
Lily-of-the-valley is traditionally associated with May 1st and commonly sold in the streets of France on this day. Lily-of-the-valley is also the national flower of Finland. The flower is also known as ‘Our Lady’s tears .’ According to legend, the tears shed by Mary at the cross turned into lilies of the valley.
Lily-of-the-valley has spear-shaped leaves and white nodding, bell-shaped flowers that appear in spring. These blooms produce an intoxicating, sweet fragrance, making it a popular garden plant . Lily-of-the-valley will occasionally produce berries that turn bright red in the fall; however, if there are children around, be cautious as these berries and other parts of the plant are highly toxic.
Lily-of-the-valley grows by small rhizomes (sometimes called pips). These should be put in the ground, approximately 2 inches, during fall. Lily-of-the-valley is easy to grow under most conditions but enjoys sites that receive light shade the best. This plant will thrive in a variety of soils provided there is adequate drainage; however, lily-of-the-valley usually prefers moist soil.
Its compact growth, about 6 inches, makes lily-of-the-valley a great choice for ground coverage, either for edging paths or covering slopes or woodland and shade gardens. Always make sure lily-of-the-valley is planted where it can be easily controlled. Due to its ability to form extensive, quick-spreading colonies, lily-of-the-valley can sometimes become a nuisance, overtaking garden areas.
Lily-of-the-valley also makes an excellent cut flower because of its sweet scent. This plant can be grown in containers as well where its wonderful aroma can be appreciated. Additionally, lily-of-the-valley can easily be forced indoors for winter enjoyment too. Ferns make good growing companions for lily-of-the-valley.
The pink variety (C. majalis ‘Rosea’) has dainty sprays of pink bells and is not as invasive as the white. C. majalis ‘Plena’ has double white flowers and will bloom longer than the other species. The American lily-of-the-valley ( C. Montana ), a slightly larger species, grows in the Appalachian Mountains of North America. There are also some variegated species of Convallaria as well.
Lily-of-the-valley requires little maintenance and will live for many years. Divide lily-of-the-valley in the fall once its leaves have faded and yellowed. Be aware, however, that if this plant becomes too dry, the leaves will turn yellow earlier. Although lily-of-the-valley is usually not affected by pests, stem rot or leaf spot can be a problem.