How to Grow Lily-of-the-Valley — Convallaria

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Lily-of-the-Valley, Convallaria, is a delightfully fragrant spring bloomer with bell-shaped snowdrop flowers. Flowers are pendant and appear on one side of arching racemes.

Lily-of-valley is quick to naturalize and cover a large area with a rich green carpet of foliage. It is a good choice for a woodland or shaded garden; it will grow under the shade of large trees but may find it difficult to compete for moisture and nutrients.

A site in partial shade with evenly moist, rich soil is ideal. Convallaria will not survive in wet soil.

Keep lily-of-the valley away from small children, the plant is poisonous.

Convallaria is a genus of 3 species of rhizomatous perennials native to Northern temperate regions.

Lily of the valley, Convallaria majalis, blooming in the spring
Lily of the valley, Convallaria majalis, blooming in the spring

Get to know Convallaria

  • Plant type: Perennial bulb, rhizome
  • Growing Zones and range: Zones 3 to 9
  • Hardiness: Hardy
  • Height and width: 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm) tall; 6 inches (15cm) wide
  • Foliage: Dark green, basal, strap-shaped leaves
  • Flowers: Pendent, fragrant white bell-shaped flowers with scalloped edges; blooms last 2 to 3 weeks; double and pink-flowered forms are available
  • Bloom time: Mid-spring
  • Uses: Grow in shade; dense ground cover; grow under trees and shrubs; good cut flower; grow in a woodland garden.
  • Garden companions: Pachysandra terminalis, Vinca minor
  • Common name: Lily-of-the-Valley
  • Botanical name: Convallaria majalis
  • Family: Liliaceae
  • Origin: Woodland and alpine meadows in Northern temperate regions

Where to plant Convallaria

  • Plant Convallaria in full sun in Zones 3-5 and Pacific Northwest; needs shade in Zones 6-9.
  • Plant Convallaria in well-drained, acidic to neutral soil.
 Lily-of-the-valley, Convallaria majalis
Lily-of-the-valley, Convallaria majalis

When to plant Convallaria

  • Plant Convallaria in fall or spring; add aged compost to the soil before planting.
  • Plant single rhizomes (commonly called pips) in fall before the soil freezes.
  • Lift plants in late summer or early autumn to force indoors for winter bloom.

Planting and spacing Convallaria

  • Space Convallaria 6 inches (15cm) or more apart.
  • Set bulbs about 1 inch (2.5cm) deep.

How to water and feed Convallaria

  • Keep the soil evenly moist to grow Convallaria—can withstand drought but leaves will brown.
  • Fertilize Convallaria with a bulb food at planting time and in the spring of each year.
  • Convallaria is prone to leaf rot and stem rot in wet conditions.

Convallaria care

  • Cover Convallaria yearly with leaf mold or aged compost.
  • Dig and divide clumps when blooms become scarse.
  • For fragrant indoor display, lift and pot up rhizomes in autumn; they can be replanted outdoors after flowering.

Growing Convallaria as a houseplant

  • Rhizomes are available in garden centers in fall and winter.
  • Pot roots in an average growing medium that is kept evenly moist.
  • Roots can also be dug from the garden in early spring and potted.
  • Place pots a cool area with average humidity and bright light.
  • Fertilize every other week during growing and flowering.
  • Plants will bloom in about 4 weeks.
  • After the plant has bloomed, withhold water until the foliage has turned brown, then move it to a shady spot in the garden.

Convallaria pests and diseases

  • Anthracnose, white mold, and gray mold can occur.
  • All parts of Convallaria are poisonous if ingested.
Convallaria majalis

Convallaria propagation

  • Sow seeds in containers in a cold frame as soon as they are ripe; remove the flesh of seeds before sowing.
  • Separate rhizomes in autumn and replant them immediately.

Convallaria varieties to grow

  • Convallaria majalis: Grows 6 to 8 inches tall; arching stems of small nodding usually white flowers; right red berries appear in autumn. Cultivars include: ‘Aureo-variegata’ leaves variegated yellow; ‘Flora Plean’ and ‘Prolificans’ have double flowers; ‘Rosea’ has light pink flowers.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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