Lily of the valley has the botanical name of Convallaria majalis, which is a natural-growing plant common in the northern hemisphere. Its other names include Our Lady’s tears, Mary’s tears, May bells, and May lily. This plant grows typically in forested and woodland environments with cold and temperate climates. Beginners may have difficulties in growing this plant. Continue reading below to know more about lily of the valley and how to grow it successfully.

Lily of the Valley: A Brief Overview

It’s essential to learn more about growing lily of the valley before attempting to cultivate it. Before that, you should feed your mind with as much information about the plant as possible. Gaining knowledge about this particular plant helps prevent errors while aiding you in its proper maintenance.

First, the lily of the valley isn’t a true lily as opposed to what its name indicates. It’s part of the asparagus family, and its name may create confusion among beginner gardeners. However, it’s one of the landscape’s most robust plants. Its durability helps the plant withstand environmental challenges that would otherwise kill other timid ground covers.

Lily of the valley blooms in either the spring season or early summer. Its flowers tend to bloom in May, which explains its other names. The plant has tiny, white stems with bell-shaped flowers that look like they’re nodding or looking at the ground. It can mature to about four to eight inches in height and three to five inches in width.

Despite it being great for a religious-themed garden, bear in mind that the lily of the valley is an incredibly toxic plant. Each segment is poisonous. Make sure to keep it away from children and animals as eating this plant may lead to health complications.

The Right Time to Start Planting Lily of the Valley

Understanding the right time to plant lily of the valley will help ensure its survival. It’s best to wait for late fall before planting. Cold temperatures like those in the winter season allow the right period for dormancy.

November or December should be suitable months to divide the pips after flowering. Make sure to exercise care when handling the plant because of its poisonous nature. Always wear protective gear, and don’t cultivate these lilies if you have an open wound.

Growing Lily of the Valley

You can grow lily of the valley in outdoor soil beds, barrels, pots, urns, and tubs. However, the cultivation process is different when deciding to plant it in outdoor beds or containers.

Planting Lily of the Valley in Outdoor Soil Beds

  • Searching for a Location

The first step to cultivating lilies of the valley in outdoor soil beds is to find suitable locations. Search for an area where the soil drains well. Five to six hours after a hard, pouring rain, check if there are water puddles on earthy ground. If puddles still exist, then look for another area. Otherwise, you may choose to amend the soil.

To amend the soil and improve the drainage, raise its level. Combine the soil with organic material like ground bark, peat moss, decomposed manure, or compost. These items are available in various gardening stores.

Remember, lilies of the valley like soils with average amounts of moisture. It may be difficult to cultivate this plant on land with too much moisture.

Aside from searching for soil with average moisture, you should also search for areas with light to moderate shade.

  • Soaking

Soak the “pips” or bulbous roots in lukewarm water. Do this step right before planting. The roots absorb water but make sure to remove the plastic bags accompanying the plants. Add the right amount of lukewarm water. The water should saturate the pips enough but not leave them drowning. Leave the bag for about two hours. You’ll know when the pips are ready if they swell and become hard.

  • Snipping

Snip the last inch off of the roots before tucking the pips in the soil (or soil with organic material). In doing so, it’ll activate the roots to help jump-start the growing process. Snipping the roots will also help encourage moisture uptake. The buds should barely peek above the soil surface. Also, each bud should be about one-and-a-half inches apart.

Don;t wait too long to do this process. Pips soaked in water can dry out after left above ground for about a week.

  • Watering

Water the lilies of the valley generously after planting. Soak the soil in water to help the roots settle. It’ll only take about seven to ten days for the top portion of the plant to form. However, it still depends on the temperature or warmth of the area. If you plant in a location with a cold climate, the lilies may take longer to sprout.

  • Blooming

When the lilies of the valley start to bloom, you can choose to cut off the bell-shaped flowers if you wish to turn them into bouquets. Cutting the flowers won’t hurt the plants.

  • Post-Blooming and Maintenance

Support the plant’s health by giving it adequate amounts of water as needed per season. About an inch of water is enough per week. Remember, regular deep watering is better than frequent light showers.

Also, don’t cut off the foliage after the plant blooms for the season. If you do, the plant won’t gather enough sunlight to sustain health. The leaves of the lilies play a critical role in collecting sunlight as it gathers food via photosynthesis. As a result, it strengthens the plant for a long life.

You can cut off the leaves if they turn yellow in the late season. Still, it depends on the location and your preference if you want to do this step. The leaves of lilies of the valley create a beautiful evergreen bed that can look appealing in places where you experience warm to moderately cold weather.

After blooming, the lilies will rest for a few months. Then, it starts the growing cycle once more in spring.

Planting Lily of the Valley in Containers

  • Filling Containers

If you plan on using containers for your lilies of the valley, start by filling your pots, barrels, or urns with good quality soil. Make sure to drain the water from the earth, if there’s any. Also, many commercially available potting medium works well with lilies of the valley. However, make sure your organic medium has adequate drainage holes. If it doesn’t, the plant may become waterlogged, which may inhibit good health.

  • Transferring and Picking the Right Location

Like planting lilies of the valley in outdoor soil beds, make sure to place your pots or urns with the plant in an area with light to moderate shade.

  • Soaking to Post-Maintenance

The steps for soaking to blooming lilies of the valley in containers is the same with cultivating it in outdoor soil. Maintain the potted lilies the same way as you would take care of these plants in outdoor land.

 Lily of the Valley Propagation

The lily of the valley is a small yet sturdy plant. Even beginners won’t experience a lot of difficulty in dividing and transplanting it. When following a proper schedule, the plant’s sprigs will start propagating in either September or October. Also, it’ll reward you with a fast-growing regrowth period as soon as spring comes into view. When May arrives, these plants will greet you with their sweet scent.

However, lilies of the valley are an invasive plant species. Hence, it can double in number for each year. It uses the underground network of earth and soil to spread throughout gardens and containers.

Divide the lilies every two to four years to avoid the plants from taking over your yard. Otherwise, you may be looking at an overcrowded garden filled with nothing but lilies of the valley. Create divisions during transplanting to maintain the health of its rhizome and stems.

Soon enough, the plant will establish a colony. If you think it starts to spread uncontrollably across your garden, remove any excess lily that you see. Failure to control the situation may lead to overgrowth, and it becomes challenging to eradicate the lilies from your garden or lawn. Remember, remove all the excess roots. The smallest root you leave will produce even more lilies.

One option you could do is to dig out every lily in your garden or container first. Then, cover the area with a tarp for about a year. Take out any leftovers in your yard before deciding to plant another batch of lilies of the valley.

Forcing the Lily of the Valley

If you want to grow lilies of the valley at any time of the year, you can force its growth. Buy the plant in October. Otherwise, take fully-matured lilies from your garden after two or three year;s worth of growth. Next, put the plants in healthy, outdoor soil immediately after purchase. Once the leaves begin to show, don’t let the leaves dry out. Water these areas frequently, but make sure not to overwater.

Forcing the lilies to grow is also possible when using organic mediums in pots and urns. However, make sure to use containers with proper drains. Furthermore, trim the roots of the lilies by three to four inches.

Next, move fully-bloomed lilies of the valley indoors in December or later. Give the flowers lukewarm water of about 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29.4 degrees Celsius). Also, put the containers in a dark and humid spot for 12 days. The stems should grow to about four inches after this period. Lower the temperature gradually until it reaches about 66 degrees Fahrenheit (18.89 degrees Celsius). Introduce the plants to light slowly afterward.

This entire process of forcing the growth of lilies of the valley will take about four to five weeks to complete.

Possible Challenges to Encounter When Growing Lily of the Valley


Beginners and sometimes even expert gardeners may encounter challenges when trying to grow lilies of the valley. For instance, you may see spotted leaves on your plants. If so, it’s a sign of fungus infection. Use a fungicide the moment you see brown or gray spots.

Another problem that may arise are pests. The lily beetle’s larvae can eat the leaves of your lilies. Pick any visible worms off of your leaves. You may also use a systemic insecticide. Take note, these larvae are brownish green in color, but the adult lily beetle is bright red. You’ll know if you have an infestation to control if the leaves of your plants have holes at the leaf centers or edges.

Other pests to watch out for include:

  • Foliar nematode
  • Weevils
  • Snails
  • Slugs

Also, if you notice that the roots are starting to show gray mold, it’s a sign that the plant is dry. Water the plants more when this incident happens.

You can also use precautionary measures to help minimize the occurrence of these concerns. For example, you can lay out insect traps around your lily bed to help ensure pests can’t get close to your plants. Furthermore, making sure that your plants stay hydrated will help prevent molds from appearing on the roots.

Last, make sure to wear protective gear whenever you’re handling this plant. For instance, wear gardening shoes and gloves to help ensure the poisonous nature of these lilies do not land on your skin. If it does, wash and clean it off with soap. Don’t rub your eyes or open wounds while you’re handling lilies of the valley.

Many retailers in the gardening industry sell lilies of the valley in groups of pips. You can also search online for suppliers of this plant. Otherwise, you may also search for small flats for sale, but that may not be an option for beginners as the costs may skyrocket depending on the size of the area. Your best option is to buy a few pips and plant a small amount of these lilies first. In doing so, you can test if the location you pick is suitable for the plant’s growth.