Lily of the Valley Flower: Planting Lily of the Valleys, Care Tips, Growing Zones

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | April 1, 2024

Woman holding a bunch of lily of the valley flower plants after learning how to identify lily of the valley, how to grow and plant lily of the valley flowers as shade loving flowers and ground cover.

The Lily of the Valley flower is one of the most delightful woodland flowering plants out there.

It’s one of the most beautiful types of white flowers cherished for its sweet fragrance and delicate bell-shaped blossoms.

With proper planting and care, the Lily of the Valley flower is a hardy perennial and can provide you with stunning ground cover, and lush carpets of greenery and delicate blossoms that are exquisite in their simplistic beauty.

This comprehensive guide explains how to identify this beautiful flower, and how you can plant Lily of the Valley in your own garden.

Lily of the Valley

(Convallaria majalis)

Lily of the Valley Flower and leaves in oval frame on green background.
  • Family: Asparagaceae
  • Genus: Convallaria
  • Leaf: Lance-shaped, elliptic, dark green leaves. 4-8 inches long.
  • Seed: Small orange-red berry with 1-6 seeds inside. Rarely formed.
  • Blossoms: White, bell-shaped, fragrant flowers arranged in drooping clusters on stalks rising above the leaves.
  • Native Habitat: Cool, shaded woodlands and forests in northern temperate regions of Europe, Asia, and North America.
  • Height: 6-12 Inches
  • Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Native Growing Zone: USDA Zones 3 to 8

Image Credit: May_hokkaido15

Overview: What Is Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)?

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) is a low-growing rhizomatous perennial herb that emerges in spring with lush green leaves and arched stems bearing dangling white bell-shaped flowers.5 This easy-to-grow ground cover brightens up shady gardens and natural woodland settings.

Lily of the Valley makes charming cut flowers and is one of the few types of flowers that are a staple in wedding bouquets and high-end events. In fact, the Lily of the Valley was the favorite flower of the late Queen Elizabeth II.

The plant and its flowers are often associated with feelings of sweetness, humility, and return to happiness. Akin to these characteristics, the plant spreads easily through underground rhizomes to form extensive, dense colonies in shaded areas.

The fragrant blooms appear in late spring, each with six fused tepals forming the characteristic bell shape hanging from a tall stalk. Dark green elliptical leaves emerge at the base of the plant and may persist through winter in mild climates.

Later in summer, small inedible red berries may form if cross-pollination occurs between genetically distinct plants.

Lily of the Valley Flower plant identification chart showing images of Lily of the Valley leaves, Lily of the Valley Flower, and Lily of the Valley seed pods in circle frames with a color-coded growing zone map of the US at the bottom.

All parts of Lily of the Valley are toxic if ingested, therefore, plant with care around children and pets.

While beautiful, improper planting can lead to aggressive spreading. However, with the right placement and containment methods, Lily of the Valley makes an enchanting addition to shady gardens and woodland areas.

How To Plant Lily of the Valley

Follow these simple steps to successfully plant Lily of the Valley:

  1. Choose a shady planting site with organically rich, well-draining soil. Improve dense clay or sandy soils by mixing in compost.
  2. Dig holes 6-8 inches apart and 4 inches deep. Space plants farther apart for quicker coverage.
  3. Gently separate the root sections or pips. Place one in each hole with the growing tip just below the soil surface.
  4. Backfill the holes with soil, firming it around the roots. Water thoroughly after planting.
  5. Mulch around plants with 2-3 inches of shredded bark, leaves, or compost to conserve moisture and reduce weeds.
  6. Water weekly for the first 2 months, allowing the soil to dry slightly between watering. Gradually reduce watering as plants establish.

With the right growing conditions, Lily of the Valley will quickly establish and begin spreading via underground rhizomes and stolons.

Planting Tips for Lily of the Valley Flower

Follow these useful tips when planting Lily of the Valley:5

  • Space pips 6-12 inches apart to allow adequate room for growth. Plant farther apart for quicker spread.
  • Soak bare root pips in water for 1-2 hours before planting if they seem dry.
  • Add compost or well-aged manure to planting holes and backfill soil to enrich it.
  • Plant the rhizome pip just below soil level with the growing tip pointed up.
  • Water transplants daily for 2 weeks after planting, then weekly for 2 months to establish roots.
  • Apply 2-3 inches of organic mulch like shredded bark around plants to conserve moisture.
  • Check for self-seeding outside of dedicated Lily of the Valley beds and remove unwanted colonies.

Proper planting techniques, spacing, soil preparation, and follow-up care ensure your Lily of the Valley gets off to the healthiest start possible.

How To Care for Lily of the Valley

Caring for Lily of the Valley is easy since it’s such a hardy, low-maintenance plant when grown in its preferred conditions. Follow these simple care tips:

  • Water Lily of the Valley whenever the top few inches of soil become dry. Provide 1-2 inches of water per week.
  • Mulch plants annually with 2-3 inches of organic matter like shredded bark to retain soil moisture and nutrition.
  • Remove spent flower stalks after blooming finishes to maintain a tidy appearance.
  • Avoid excess fertilization which can cause Lily of the Valley to grow too dense. Apply a balanced organic fertilizer only if plants seem stressed.
  • Monitor for pests like slugs, snails, or aphids and treat with organic methods if populations become problematic.
  • Divide dense clumps every 2-3 years in the fall by digging up and replanting pips to rejuvenate growth.
  • Cut back foliage as it browns in late fall before the ground freezes.

With proper placement and occasional division, Lily of the Valley will thrive for decades with very little required maintenance.

Caring for Lily of the Valley Flower in Pots

Lily of the Valley can also be grown in containers for ornamental interest on patios or porches. Follow these tips for success:

  • Choose a pot at least 10-12 inches wide and deep to accommodate the spreading rhizomes.
  • Use a quality potting mix amended with peat moss or compost to improve moisture retention.
  • Site containers in a shady spot and keep soil consistently moist.
  • Move pots to a cool, dark location indoors for a 6-8 weeks winter dormancy period.
  • Repot every 2-3 years in early spring, dividing rootball to revitalize growth. Discard excess divisions.

With proper dormancy, light levels, and moisture, potted Lily of the Valley will provide enjoyment for many years.

Lily of the Valley Flower Growing Zone and Native Regions: Where Do They Grow?

Lily of the Valley grows natively throughout the cool, temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. This includes broadleaf and mixed forests across most of Europe and Asia.2

In North America, a native variety known as Convallaria majalis var. montana occurs in the northeastern and Appalachian regions.

Close up image of Lily of the Valley Bulbs hanging upside down from a stem.

(Image: zanna-769)

Some ideal climates include:

  • Northeast US: Moist woodlands in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, etc.
  • Pacific Northwest: The wet, maritime climates from Oregon to British Columbia
  • Upper Midwest: Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota’s lake-influenced climates
  • New Zealand and Tasmania: The cool, wet environments are highly favorable.
  • Japan and Korea: Lily of the Valley grows wild here, blooming best in mountain forests.
  • United Kingdom and Ireland: The mild, rainy climates suit it perfectly.

When planning your garden, note that Lily of the Valley can grow in USDA plant hardiness zones 2 through 9 but thrives in zones 3 to 8.1,5

It can tolerate even harsh winters in the coldest zones but prefers cool summers. Hot and dry climates don’t suit it well.

To ensure that it thrives, select a shaded planting site in your garden that matches its native conditions.

USDA Growing Zones

The optimal planting zones for Lily of the Valley are throughout USDA plant hardiness zones 3-8. This covers most of the continental U.S. except for the hot southern regions.

  • Zones 3 to 4

Lily of the Valley performs well in the cold winters and cool summers in the upper Midwest, New England, and northern interior states tolerating winter temperatures as low as -30 to -40°F.

That said, be sure to provide snow cover or mulch for insulation. Full shade is essential in zones 2-3 to protect from sunscald.

  • Zones 5 to 6

The cooler regions of the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and northwest in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Utah, and Washington are ideal for Lily of the Valley.

However, you still need to plant in partial to full shade. Morning sun is tolerated in zone 6. Mulch plants in fall for freeze protection and to promote early spring growth

  • Zones 7 to 8

Moderate winters and hot summers in the mid-Atlantic, Pacific Northwest, and inland California work well with Lily of the Valley. However, the hot afternoon sun can scorch the leaves of Lily of the Valley.

Close up of a group of Lily of the Valley Flower hanging upside down from their stem, surrounded by leaves and bathe in partial sunlight.

(Image: Amanda Slater10)

Therefore, make sure to provide full shade, particularly in the south. Ensure adequate moisture, as higher evaporation can dry out the soil quickly.

Use the map tool to know your USDA zone so as to determine if Lily of the Valley is likely to thrive in your area.7 Note that, although it enjoys cool weather, it can also survive warmer zones if sited appropriately.

Best Growing Conditions for Lily of the Valley Flower

Lily of the Valley thrives in the following growing conditions:5

  • Location: Dappled or partial shade is ideal. It tolerates full shade but may produce fewer flowers.
  • Hardiness Zone: Grows as a perennial in USDA zones 2-9. Prefers cool winters and mild summers.
  • Soil: Rich, humus-filled, slightly acidic soil. Loam, sandy, or clay soils with compost work well.
  • Drainage: Moist, well-draining soil is essential. Avoid soggy soil.
  • pH: Slightly acidic soil, between 6.0 and 6.5. It can also tolerate neutral pH.
  • Light: Partial sun to full shade. At least 2-3 hours of morning sun is ideal.
  • Water: Consistent moisture, especially while establishing. It generally becomes drought tolerant once mature.
  • Spacing: Plant pips 6 to 8 inches apart to allow for spreading.

Where To Plant Lily of the Valley Flower

When picking the perfect spot to grow Lily of the Valley Flowers, opt for these locations:

  • Under trees or shrubs: Lily of the Valley thrives under deciduous trees or high-branching evergreens. The shade and leaf litter create ideal conditions.
  • Along borders or fences: Use Lily of the Valley as an attractive ground cover along foundations, garden edges, or property lines.
  • On slopes: The spreading roots help control erosion on slopes or banks.
  • In woodland gardens: Mimic its natural habitat with other shade-lovers like hostas and ferns.
  • In cottage gardens: The delicate white bells seamlessly complement informal, romantic cottage garden styles.
  • In rock gardens: Plant near boulders and stone pathways surrounded by other low-growing rock garden plants.

Planting Season: When To Plant Lily of the Valley for Best Results

Lily of the Valley grows best when planted at the right time of year. As such, it is best planted in early spring or fall while dormant.5

Spring planting as the soil becomes warm allows the root system to establish before summer. Fall planting before a hard frost gives roots a head start to overwinter.

A field showing a spread of Lily of the Valley during spring.

(Image: Patty Vicknair11)

You can also plant potted Lily of the Valley anytime during the growing season.

  • Fall: The ideal planting window is between late summer and early winter. Planting in fall allows root growth before winter dormancy.
  • Spring: Early spring planting as daytime temperatures reach 50°F is also suitable. This gives roots time to develop before summer.
  • Summer: Plant potted Lily of the Valley anytime during the growing season, but water more initially.
  • Winter: Don’t attempt to plant during freezing winters or when the ground is frozen solid.

For transplants from divisions or pips, stick to fall or early spring planting times. For potted plants or containers, planting anytime during the growing season is fine.

How To Grow Lily of the Valley

This adaptable plant spreads readily on its own via underground rhizomes.5 However, you can also propagate Convallaria majalis through division or seed:8

Growing a Lily of the Valley Flower by Division

For faster results, divide established plants by digging up clumps in the fall and gently separating the root sections.5

Several young Lily of the Valley plant stalks shooting upwards from the ground.

(Image: Miika Silfverberg12)

Follow these steps:

  1. In early fall, use a garden fork to dig up a section of Lily of the Valley with its roots and soil intact.
  2. Shake off excess soil and gently separate the white rhizomes into individual plants or pips.
  3. Replant pips in their new locations spaced 6-8 inches apart and water thoroughly.
  4. Continue caring for transplants as normal. Bloom time may be reduced the first year after division.

Dividing mature plants every few years revitalizes growth. But always monitor and contain spread to prevent unwanted invasion into lawns or flower beds nearby.

Growing a Lily of the Valley Flower From a Seed

Though less common, you can also propagate Lily of the Valley from seeds.8 Here’s how:

  1. Harvest ripe red berries in late summer once the flesh is soft. Remove pulp and dry seeds on a paper towel.
  2. Sow seeds indoors in pots filled with moist potting mix. Cover lightly with 1/4 inch of soil and plastic to retain moisture and place somewhere shaded.
  3. Germination is erratic, taking from 1-12 months. Keep soil slightly moist but not saturated during this period.
  4. In spring after sprouting, transplant seedlings into individual pots with potting soil. Grow for 1-2 years before moving outdoors.
  5. Harden off young plants for a week or two before transplanting them into prepared garden beds once frost risk has passed.

Note that not all seeds grow true to the parent plant. Watch for desired traits as plants mature.

Starting from seeds is slow but allows you to propagate rare named cultivars. Excess seedlings also make great gifts for fellow gardeners.

However, the long germination time makes growing Lily of the Valley from seeds a test of patience. For quicker results, purchase pips or full plants from a garden center.

Make sure to soak roots in water for 1 to 2 hours before planting if bare root.

Transplanting Lily of the Valley Flower

The best time to transplant Lily of the Valley is in early spring or fall during its dormant period.5 Here’s how to transplant it successfully:

  • Dig up the entire plant including roots and soil with a garden fork, taking care not to damage the rhizomes.
  • Replant the clumps immediately at the new location, spacing them 6-8 inches apart.
  • Remove any dead leaves or stems, but keep the healthy rhizomes and roots intact.
  • Plant at the same depth, backfilling soil around the roots and watering well.
  • Add 2-3 inches of organic mulch like shredded bark or leaves around transplants.
  • Water consistently for the first few months allowing soil to dry slightly between watering.

Follow these steps and your transplants should re-establish quickly with minimal disruption to growth and flowering.

Companion Plants for Growing Lily of the Valley Flower

The low-growing Lily of the Valley pairs beautifully with other shade-loving plants.

Lily of the Valley plant with ferns at a nature reserve.

(Image: W.carter13)

Consider combining it with these partial to full-shade perennials:

  • Ferns: Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) or Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)
  • Hostas: Varieties like ‘Francee’ or ‘Stained Glass’ offer good color contrast.
  • Astilbe: Upright flowers like Astilbe chinensis varieties complement the bells.
  • Hellebores: Early bloomers like Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis)
  • Heuchera: Coral bells add evergreen foliage and spring flowers.
  • Wild ginger (Asarum canadense): Their glossy leaves and ground-hugging habit combine perfectly.

Planting Lily of the Valley Flower alongside other partial shade lovers of varying textures and foliage colors, textures, and forms complements the deep green leaves and delicate white bell flowers of Convallaria majalis to give you an enchanting woodland garden.

How Long It Takes To Grow Lily of the Valley Flower

Lily of the Valley typically takes 2-3 years to establish and reach maturity.5 In the first year, growth may be limited as plants focus on root development.

Flowering begins in the second year. Full size is reached by the third year.

When Do Lily of the Valley Bloom?

Lily of the Valley is one of the earliest perennials to bloom each spring and typically emerge by late April or early May in most regions.1 Bloom time varies based on local climate conditions:

  • In USDA zones 7-9, flowers appear in March and last through May.
  • In the cooler zones 3-6, expect blooms from late April to early June.
  • At higher elevations with late frosts, flowering may extend from late May into July.

Each flower stalk produces dangling blooms for about 3-4 weeks. The foliage remains attractive all season before dying back after hard frosts in late fall.

How To Stop Lily of the Valley From Spreading

The biggest challenge when growing Lily of the Valley is controlling its spread.6

High angled shot showing a spread of Lily of the Valley flowers and leaves.

(Image: AfroBrazilian14)

Here are some effective ways to contain these aggressive growers:

  • Surround plantings with a vertical plastic barrier inserted at least 6 inches deep to sever rhizomes.
  • Vigilantly dig out and remove unwanted extensions beyond the desired planting area.
  • Divide and replant sections to thin dense patches and improve flowering.
  • Grow more aggressive groundcovers like Vinca minor nearby to compete for space.

Monitor Lily of the Valley patches carefully and remove excess growth several times per year. With persistence, you can strike a balance between beauty and invasion.

Common Pests of the Lily of the Valley Flower

When grown in the right conditions, Lily of the Valley is remarkably trouble-free. However, watch out for some potential problems like pests:3

  • Slugs and snails: They eat holes in leaves. Handpick at night or use slug bait.
  • Spider mites: They cause stippling damage on leaves. Knock them off with strong water spray or use insecticidal soap.
  • Aphids: They cause distorted growth and sticky residue. Blast them off with water or apply neem oil.
  • Leaf beetles: They skeletonize leaves. Pick them off by hand or apply neem oil.
  • Thrips: They cause silvery speckled patches to form on leaves. Apply spinosad or neem oil treatment.

Promptly identifying and addressing any pests will prevent major damage. Maintaining optimal growing conditions also keeps Lily of the Valley healthy and resistant to infestations.

How To Stop Lily of the Valley Flower Disease

Watch out for the following Lily of the Valley diseases:3

  • Leaf spots
  • Southern blight
  • Anthracnose
  • Botrytis blight

You can prevent most problems by providing optimal growing conditions and avoiding wet foliage. Promptly remove and destroy any infected plants to prevent spreading. With proper care, Lily of the Valley Flower is relatively resistant to diseases.

Lily of the Valley Varieties

Most available types of Lily of the Valley are forms of the classic Convallaria majalis species. However, you may also come across some of these charming cultivars:

  • Convallaria majalis ‘Rosea’: Delicate soft pink flowers
  • Convallaria majalis ‘Albostriata’: Leaves edged in creamy white
  • Convallaria majalis ‘Bordeaux’: Taller flower stalks, large blooms
  • Convallaria majalis ‘Prolificans’: Double flowers for a fuller floral display
  • Convallaria majalis ‘Fortin’s Giant’: Larger size overall reaching 8-10 inches tall

There are also some hybrid Lily of the Valley varieties like Convallaria x maximowicziana, a cross between the Asian and European species. Explore different selections to find your perfect fit.

Is Lily of the Valley Poisonous or Toxic?

Yes, Lily of the Valley is considered poisonous. All parts of the Convallaria majalis plant contain cardiac glycosides that can cause unpleasant and even dangerous symptoms if ingested including:5,1

  • Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Headache, blurred vision, confusion, weakness
  • Irregular heartbeat; lowered blood pressure
  • Reduced kidney function
  • Respiratory paralysis in severe cases

While beautiful, the Lily of the Valley should always be planted and handled with caution. Seek medical help immediately if any part of the plant is swallowed.

Keep away from children and pets. Also, make sure you wash your hands after handling.

With proper planting and care, Lily of the Valley can create an absolutely delightful ground cover or garden accent. Just be cautious of its spreading habit and toxicity.

Also, locate it wisely in shady beds and woodland settings and watch as the enchanting Lily of the Valley flower thrives.

Frequently Asked Questions About Lily of the Valley Flower

When Is the Best Time To Plant Lily of the Valley Flower?

The ideal times are early fall or early spring;5 fall planting allows roots to develop before winter dormancy. Spring planting works as long as you wait until after the last expected frost.

What Is the Best Fertilizer for Lily of the Valley Flower?

Apply an organic balanced fertilizer or compost in early spring each year.5 Look for options labeled for acid-loving plants ad follow package instructions to determine the amount.

Should I Cut Back Lily of the Valley Flower After Blooming?

No, avoid cutting back the foliage after flowering. Allow the leaves to remain over the winter to nourish the plant before dying back naturally in winter; trim off any dead leaves or stems.

Read More About Lily of the Valley Flower


1Banyas, J. (2021, May 5). May Birth Flower: Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis). Penn State Extension. Retrieved October 4, 2023, from <>

2Colorado State University. (2022). Detail: Lily of the Valley. Colorado State University Guide to Poisonous Plant. Retrieved October 4, 2023, from <>

3Moorman, G. W. (2016, July 31). Lily of the Valley (Convallaria) Diseases. Penn State Extension. Retrieved October 4, 2023, from <>

4National Library of Medicine. (2021, November 13). Lily of the Valley. MedlinePlus. Retrieved October 4, 2023, from <>

5North Carolina State University. (2023). Convallaria majalis. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Retrieved October 4, 2023, from <>

6Stoner, N. (2023). Lily-of-the-Valley. University of Neraska-Lincoln Horticulture, Landscape & Environmental Systems. Retrieved October 4, 2023, from <>

7U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2023). USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. USDA Agricultural Research Service. Retrieved October 4, 2023, from <>

8Webster, M. (2011). Methods of Lily Propagation. North Dakota State University, Department of Plant Sciences. Retrieved October 4, 2023, from <>

9Photo by zanna-76. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

10Lily-of-the-Valley Photo by Amanda Slater / Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0). Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <>

11Lily of the Valley Photo by Patty Vicknair / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) . Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <>

12Young Lilies of the Valley Photo by Miika Silfverberg / Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0). Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <>

13Ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris) and lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) in Gullmarsskogen nature reserve Photo by W.carter / CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication. Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <>

14Convallaria majalis. The Botanical Garden of the University of Latvia Photo by AfroBrazilian / Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0). Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <>

15Lily of the Valley White Green May Photo by May_hokkaido. (2020, May 24) / Pixabay Content License. Cropped and added text, shape, and background elements. Pixabay. Retrieved February 26, 2024, from <>