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Lily of the Valley Planting Instructions

Lily of the Valley

This dainty blossom has an appearance and fragrance that match; both are clean, sweet and loved by all. Like paperwhites, lily of the valley can be forced in just 3 to 4 weeks indoors for much-needed middle of the winter fragrance.

Common Names
Lily of the Valley, Our Lady’s Tears, Mary’s Tears, May lily, May bells.

In the wild, lilies of the valley can be found throughout much of temperate Europe. A Christian legend states that Mary’s tears turned to lily of the valley when she cried at the crucifixion of Jesus.

A perennial plant that grows in the shade and has a single pair of basal, oblong-ovate leaves entire (not toothed); veins parallel; connecting veins obvious when held to the light and a single leafless raceme of very fragrant, small, white, bell-shaped flowers. Spreading by root runners; 4-8 inches. A slender, creeping rootstock produces 2 oblong-elliptic, pointed, basal leaves up to 1 foot long. Their bases sheathe the bottom of the flower stalk, which bears at the top a one-sided raceme of white, bell-shaped flowers. Flowering time is from early spring to June. Seed is ripe in September.


Lily of the Valley contains glycosides that act somewhat like digitalis (foxglove) and can produce irregular heartbeat and upset stomach.  Potentially toxic. Leaves can be a mild skin irritant.

Overdose or large doses can cause strong stomach and intestinal irritation. Improper administration could result in toxic effects; nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Plant Convallaria in part to full shade in average to humus-rich, moist but well-draining soil. Add compost or peat humus to enrich and loosen the soil if needed, but they are fairly adaptable to almost any shady location. In heavy soil or really dry soil they won't spread as much, but in loose, rich, moist conditions they will form a very dense colony. Convallaria is tolerant of a wide range of conditions so long as they are not extremely wet. Average moisture is fine and they are relatively drought tolerant once established. Allow the soil to dry out a little between watering.

Spacing:  15 to 18Plant your lily of the valley with the horizontal roots about 1 to 2" below soil level and then mulch lightly after planting. They spread underground, so none of the roots or pips should be showing above the soil after planting." apart or more.

Bloom Time:  Spring

Light:  Part shade to full shade

Soil:  Average to humus-rich, moist but well-drained

Moisture:  Average to moist but also drought tolerant

Planting Depth:  1 to 2" deep, mulch lightly

Spacing: 15 - 18" or more, will spread to form a dense colony