How to Plant and Grow Lily of the Valley

This fragrant classic spring flower easily fills a shady space below a tree.


How can such a tiny flower give off such a tremendous scent? Tiny lily of the valley sends up its lovely little sprays of bell-like white or pale pink flowers each spring. Allow it to spread a little (which it does, so much that it can be a problem) and it will perfume the whole area with its distinctive scent. It also makes adorable, tiny bouquets. It makes a good groundcover in small areas. 

Lily of the valley is toxic to humans and pets.

Lily of the Valley Overview

Genus Name Convallaria majus
Common Name Lily of the Valley
Plant Type Perennial
Light Part Sun, Shade
Height 6 to 12 inches
Width 6 to 12 inches
Flower Color Pink, White
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Spring Bloom
Special Features Cut Flowers, Fragrance, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Division
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Groundcover, Slope/Erosion Control

Where to Plant Lily of the Valley

Lily of the valley is a shade-loving plant that should be planted in a location where the soil is naturally moist and slightly acidic to neutral.

Most gardeners plant it under trees where it will fill the space over time. But be aware that it can easily become invasive, so it’s smart to put it in an area where its spread is limited by a driveway or sidewalk.

Lily of the valley, which is native to Asia and Europe, has escaped cultivation and is considered an invasive plant in many parts of the Midwest and Northeast of the United States. It spreads by rhizomes and seeds and forms dense, large colonies, choking out native plants.

How and When to Plant Lily of the Valley

Lily of the valley can be planted in the fall or spring. Dig a hole that is large enough and deep enough to fit the rhizome. Place the rhizome with the pointed growth buds facing up in the hole. Spread the roots around the bud like a fan and cover everything with soil so that the growth bud sits about ½ inch below the soil level. Water it deeply.

Space plants about 6 inches apart.

Lily of the Valley Care Tips


Lily of the valley needs full shade to partial sun. It can tolerate morning sun but definitely needs a location where it is protected from the stronger midday and afternoon sun. At the warmer end of its zone spectrum, it is best to plant it in full shade. In too much sun, its leaves will brown.

Soil and Water

The soil should be fertile and consistently moist but well-drained, with a pH between 5.0 and 7.0.

The shadier the location, the less likely the soil dries out to the point where you need to water lily of the valley. However, in extended dry periods or droughts, water it slowly and deeply to restore soil moisture. Dry conditions, just like too much sun, will lead to browning of the leaves.

Temperature and Humidity

Lily of the valley is a hardy plant that can survive subzero winters down to zone 3 but is not suitable for dry, hot climates above zone 9. Summer heat, even in moderately hot summers, can lead to some dieback of the foliage but the plant comes back the next spring.


Broadcasting a thin layer of compost over your lily of the valley patch in the spring is optional but recommended as it adds organic matter to the soil. Other than that, lily of the valley typically doesn’t need any fertilizer unless it has been planted in poor soil, in that case, give is a complete slow-release granular fertilizer in the spring, according to product label instructions.


Lily of the valley does not require any pruning or deadheading. Leaving the dead foliage in place after the winter serves as a natural mulch layer that preserves soil moisture and suppresses weeds.

Potting and Repotting Lily of the Valley

While growing lily of the valley in containers might be a good idea to control the plant from spreading, there is a caveat. In pots, the roots are exposed to the winter chill, unlike in garden soil. So, although lily of the valley is winter-hardy, it might not survive temperatures below zero when grown in pots, unless you insulate the roots by sinking the container in the ground or winterizing by placing in it in a second, larger pot to create a planting silo. Use wide containers such as hydrangea pots with large drainage holes and fill them with a mixture of potting mix and compost. Keep in mind that potted plants need more frequent watering and fertilizer than plants in the landscape.

When the rhizomes have filled the pot, divide the plant or repot it in a larger container with fresh potting mix and compost.

Pests and Problems 

This long-lived perennial is unbothered by serious pests or diseases. Occasionally anthracnose, leaf spot, leaf blotch, and crown rot may occur. Snails and slugs also like to feed on the plants.

How to Propagate Lily of the Valley

Lily of the valley is propagated by division in the spring just as the plant breaks through the soil. This accomplishes two things at the same time: It makes more plants, and it rejuvenates an old patch that might have become too dense over time. Using a shovel, dig up the clumps. Separate the rhizomes into individual sections by gently pulling them apart, Discard any dead, diseased, or damaged rhizomes. Replant the sections in a new location at the same depth as the original plants. Water deeply and continue to water until the plants are established.

Types of Lily of the Valley

American Lily of the Valley

Convallaria majalis var. montana is the North American variety of lily of the valley. The growing conditions are very similar to the European lily of the valley, except that it is drought-tolerant once it’s established. Zone 5-8

Giant Lily of the Valley

Convallaria majalls 'Bordeaux' is a cultivar that is twice as large as the species, reaching 12 to 16 inches in height. It has larger, fragrant white flowers and tulip-like foliage. Zone 3-9

Pink Lily of the Valley

Convallaria majalis var. rosea has pink, bell-shaped flowers that appear early to late spring. Like the white species, it grows 6 to 8 inches tall. Zone 2-8

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it OK to touch lily of the valley?

    Because the plant contains toxins, it is recommended to wear gloves whenever you come into contact with the plant when gardening, as well as when cutting and handling it for floral arrangements.

  • What are the red berries on my lily of the valley?

    These are the toxic fruits of lily of the valley. They start out green and turn a deep red as the season progresses. Besides the risks of handling the toxic seeds, it takes a long time to propagate the plant from seed; therefore, propagation from rhizomes is the recommended method.

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  1. "Guide to Poisonous Plants." Colorado State University.

  2. Convallaria majalis. Missouri Botanical Garden.

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