How to Plant and Grow Lily-of-the-Valley Shrub

Give your landscape the perfect backdrop through the seasons with this shrub's evergreen leaves.

This broadleaf, evergreen shrub is a plant with many names. Commonly known as lily-of-the-valley shrub, it is also occasionally called andromeda or Japanese pieris. Its common name comes from the pendulous chains of puckered flowers it produces, which closely resemble the perennial lily of the valley. Though it may not be as fragrant as its groundcover lookalike, the lily-of-the-valley bush has a sweet, light scent. It’s also an early bloomer, often producing big clusters of flowers in late winter or early spring.

Although primarily grown for showy clusters of spring flowers, the lily-of-the-valley shrub's glossy foliage is evergreen, which makes it a good backdrop for fall and winter plants. Some cultivars of this multi-season beauty produce coppery-red leaves in the spring which will mature over the summer to bright green.

The flowers, leaves, and sap of the lily-of-the-valley shrub are considered highly toxic to humans and pets . So, use caution when planting this pretty shrub around children and pets.

Lily-of-the-Valley Bush Overview

Genus Name Pieris
Common Name Lily-of-the-Valley Bush
Plant Type Shrub
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 3 to 8 feet
Width 3 to 10 feet
Flower Color Pink, Red, White
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Spring Bloom, Winter Interest
Special Features Fragrance, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Propagation Seed, Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant

Where to Plant Lily-of-the-Valley Shrub

Native to China, Taiwan, and Japan, the lily-of-the-valley shrub likes full sun to partial shade. It makes an excellent foundation plant and a welcome addition to any country garden, cottage garden, or Japanese-inspired landscape design. It typically grows taller than it does wide, so it works especially well for tight spaces, borders, and landscape groupings where it can serve as a showy backdrop.

If you are planting your lily-of-the-valley shrub in a container, choose a large (5-gallon at least) pot with excellent drainage and plan to place it in an area that receives full to partial sun. In warmer climates especially, lily-of-the-valley shrubs may want the shade of a patio or large tree to protect them from the harsh sun of western or southern exposure.

How and When to Plant Lily-of-the-Valley Shrub

Plant your lily-of-the-valley shrub in early spring to allow your shrub to get well established during the growing season. You can also plant in the fall to encourage your shrub to develop strong roots before the next growing season. Early fall planting may be especially beneficial if your region is prone to unpredictable spring weather with late snowfall or excess rain.  

To plant a nursery-grown shrub (your best bet), dig a hole as deep as your plant’s root ball and at least twice as wide. Mix in soil amendments or some acidic compost before planting if you need to raise the acidity of the soil. Gently rake the roots apart with your fingers and place the plant in the center of the hole. Fill in the soil around the roots, firmly tamping the soil down as you work to remove any air pockets. Water thoroughly and add a thin layer of mulch (about 1 to 2 inches) over the planting area. To prevent rot, keep the mulch several inches away from the trunk of your lily-of-the-valley shrub.

If you would like to grow your lily-of-the-valley shrub in a container, make sure to choose a pot large enough to accommodate its growth. When grown alone, a 12 to 15-inch diameter pot may be adequate for a single shrub, but if you will be growing other plants around the base, choose a container that is at least 18 to 20 inches in diameter or larger. Fill your container partially with potting soil designed for acid-loving plants (like azaleas, camellias, or rhododendrons) then place the shrub in the center and tamp down the soil to secure it. Water thoroughly until the excess moisture drains from the container, allow it to rest for a few moments, and then water again.

Lily-of-the-Valley Shrub Care Tips

The lily-of-the-valley shrub is fairly low-maintenance when planted in acidic, fertile, well-drained soil, but it needs fairly consistent moisture and will not tolerate soggy roots. It requires little pruning except to cut back dead branches in mid spring or to change the growth habit or shape of the shrub.


Full sun provides the best emerging foliage color and better blooms, but it can be too stressful in warmer climates. In areas where the summer sun is relentless, give the plant afternoon shade to relieve stress and encourage a healthier plant.

Soil and Water

Lily-of-the-valley bush requires well-drained, acidic soil (5.0 to 6.0 pH) to thrive. In areas with alkaline soil, this bush is in for a tough time and, in many cases, may decline each year. If you have lousy soil but love lily-of-the-valley bush, consider a dwarf variety that performs well in containers.

These somewhat persnickety plants won't tolerate getting too wet but don't like consistently dry soil. Newly planted and young shrubs may need weekly (or more) watering during the initial growing season, especially during very hot weather. Deep, slow watering (at a trickle for an hour or so) will encourage stronger roots and help the shrub build drought tolerance—especially when done early in the plant’s life.

Container-grown lily-of-the-valley shrubs may require more watering than those grown in the ground—particularly in hot, dry weather.

Temperature and Humidity

Lily-of-the-valley shrubs are hardy in zones 4-8 and should be tolerant of all seasons, but they thrive best when protected from harsh winds and the high afternoon sun.  

Lily-of-the-valley shrubs don’t mind high humidity, but they can develop fungal diseases if kept too moist. If you live in a region prone to such climates, be sure to plant your shrub with lots of space for air circulation.

If your garden gets a lot of winter rain, monitor your container-grown shrub to make sure it is draining properly. Your potted lily-of-the-valley shrubs will thank you if you shelter them from harsh winter sun and wind, but don’t bring them inside. Lily-of-the-valley shrubs need the dormancy of winter to produce spring blooms.


Fertilize your lily-of-the-valley shrub with a fertilizer designed for acid-loving plants in late winter or early spring. You can fertilize it again after it finishes blooming in the summer. Follow the package instructions for proper application and avoid getting the fertilizer on the foliage and blooms.

Potted lily-of-the-valley shrubs may need more frequent fertilization. Feed yours with a diluted liquid fertilizer designed for acid-loving plants by adding it to a watering can once a month during the growing season (and use care not to spill the mix on the foliage). 


Lily-of-the-valley shrubs need little (if any) pruning except to remove dead branches or to maintain a specific size or shape. In fact, many gardeners choose not to prune at all and instead let their lily-of-the-valley shrubs develop a natural shape. If you want to prune, be sure to do it after the last blooms have faded. You can also deadhead spent blooms throughout the growing season to promote more flowers and encourage continued blooming.

To encourage bushier growth (or to rejuvenate an older lily-of-the-valley shrub that has grown woody and leggy), cut back the shrub to about one-third of its size to stimulate new growth. If you cut the shrub back this hard, it may take more than one growing season to begin blooming again.

Potting and Repotting

If you need to repot your potted lily-of-the-valley shrub, the best time to do so is in the spring or after it has finished flowering. Water your shrub thoroughly for a day or two before transplanting it. Prepare a new container by filling it partially with fresh potting soil designed for acid-loving plants. When you are ready, dig carefully around the root ball and lift the shrub carefully from its old pot. Place the shrub in its new pot and fill it in with more fresh soil. Be sure to keep your shrub at a depth similar to its previous planting. If you bury the plant lower, its growth may be stunted or stopped. Water deeply and continue to provide about an inch of water per week throughout the growing season or until it seems like it has established itself in its new pot.

Pests and Problems

Lily-of-the-valley shrub resists most pests, but you might find annoying lace bugs, which pierce the leaf cells and drink the contents. If you notice stippling or speckles of dead spots, check the bottom of the leaves for lace bugs. The damage they cause isn't usually substantial, so if you can bear it, just leave the pests be.

Lily-of-the-valley shrubs are also prone to fungal diseases like leaf spot and root rot. To prevent it, make sure your shrub has ample space between it and other plants for air circulation and water with a trickle system from the base of the plant instead of watering from above.

How to Propagate Lily-of-the-Valley Shrub

The easiest way to propagate lily-of-the-valley shrubs is in the spring with seeds from the previous summer or in the fall with seeds from the most recent blooming. Before you begin, test the viability of your seeds by soaking them in water for 12 to 24 hours. The seeds that float to the top can be thrown out. Prepare several small seed pots with a moist mixture of one part compost and three parts perlite. Sow one seed in each pot, by gently pressing it into the surface of the potting mix. Do not completely bury your seed. Mist each pot and place the pots in a plastic bag or under plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out. Place your pots in a cold frame or an indoor spot with lots of indirect sunlight and mist them regularly. Germination should begin in about 30 days. Once your seedlings have grown to about 3 to 4 inches in height, they can be transplanted into the garden or a
more permanent pot.   

You can also propagate lily-of-the-valley shrubs via softwood cuttings. To do so, prepare a small container with moist potting soil that is one part compost and three parts perlite. After the shrub has finished blooming, cut a 4 to 5-inch-long piece from a healthy stem that has young leaves but no flowers. Remove all but the topmost leaves, dip the cut tip of the stem in rooting hormone, and stick it into the prepared pot. You’ll want most of the stem to be in the pot, but none of the leaves under the soil. Tamp down the soil to keep the stem in place. Place your cutting in a cold frame or an indoor spot with lots of indirect sunlight.  Keep the soil warm (65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit) and moist for about 8 to 10 weeks and the cutting should begin to take root. After the plant is well-established, it can be transplanted to the ground.

Types of Lily-of-the Valley Shrub

'Bert Chandler' Lily-of-the-valley shrub

Pieris japonica 'Bert Chandler'
Jerry Pavia

This variety of Pieris japonica is a slightly hardier selection that offers white flowers in early spring and pink new growth. It grows 5 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-9

'Christmas Cheer' Lily-of-the-valley shrub

Pieris japonica 'Christmas Cheer'
Marilyn Ott

Pieris japonica 'Christmas Cheer' bears pink flowers that fade to white in early spring. It grows 10 feet tall and wide. Zones 6-9

'Debutante' Lily-of-the-valley shrub

Pieris japonica 'Debutante'
Marty Baldwin

This Pieris japonica selection shows off white flowers in early spring. It's very compact, growing only 3 feet tall and wide. Zones 6-9

'Forest Flame' Lily-of-the-valley shrub

Pieris japonica 'Forest Flame'
Denny Schrock

Pieris japonica 'Forest Flame' features new growth that emerges a bold red in early spring. It produces clusters of white flowers in March and April and grows 12 feet tall and wide. Zones 6-9

Companion Plants for Lily-of-the-Valley Shrub

Rhododendrons and Azaleas

Capistrano Rhododendron
Jerry Pavia

Rhododendrons and their closely related azaleas make great companion plants for the lily-of-the-valley shrub because they also thrive in acidic soil. They are hardy in zones 4-10 and provide year-round interest with glossy, evergreen leaves.


Camellia japonica 'Alexander Hunter',camellia, Camellia spp., Camellia japonica, Camellia sasanqua

Camellias are also fond of acidic, well-draining soil. They are especially hardy in warmer climates (zones 6-10) and can be staggered with other cultivars to provide nearly year-round blooms.  


blue bonnet hydrangea blooms
Mary Carolyn Pindar

Hydrangeas are another shrub notorious for loving acidic, well-draining soil. In fact, if you plant some types of blue hydrangea in alkaline soil, the shrub will slowly change new blooms from blue to purple or pink. Hydrangeas are hardy in zones 3-9 and can flourish in the sun or shade.


Nickola Beck / Getty Images

Snowdrops are early bloomers like the lily-of-the-valley shrub. They are often among the first spring flowers to bloom, popping up in February or March in some regions while snow is still on the ground. They also enjoy fairly acidic soil (with a pH of 5.5 to 7.0) and full sun to partial shade.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long do lily-of-the-valley shrubs live?

    Lily-of-the-valley shrubs are slow-growing and may take as long as 10 years to grow 5 feet tall. If well cared for, they have been known to live for 40 years or more.

  • Are lily-of-the-valley shrubs deer-resistant?

    Yes. Deer avoid munching on lily-of-the-valley shrubs because of the toxic compounds contained in the leaves and blooms. They also tend to be repelled by the sweet fragrance of the blooms.

  • Why are the leaves of my lily-of-the-valley shrub turning yellow?

    Yellowing leaves are often a sign of soil that contains too much alkalinity. Try feeding your shrub with a fertilizer designed for acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, azaleas, and camellias or adding soil amendments (like sphagnum peat) that will increase the acidity of the soil.

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  1. Pieris japonica. Pieris japonica (Andromeda Japonica, Fetterbush, Japanese Andromeda, Japanese Pieris, Lily-of-the-Valley Shrub, Pieris) | North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox.

  2. Andromeda Japonica. ASPCA.

  3. Pieris. ASPCA.

    1. Andromeda Japonica. ASPCA.
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