Gardeners have a special place in their hearts and gardens for the lily of the valley. This elegant flower comes into bloom every year in May, producing beautiful blooms with delicious scents. Each of the plants is small, but they grow together in the flowerbed to form an organic carpet of bell-shaped, white flowers amidst an ocean of green leaves.
The lily of the valley will flower for around 3-weeks in the late spring, providing the garden with a point of interest. Lily of the valley enjoys blooming in shady areas of the yard, such as under shrubs and trees.
This plat offers the gardener a low-maintenance flower that returns each year, with the first signs of leaves appearing in late March or the first few weeks of April.
Characteristics of the Lily of the Valley
Gardeners can find lily of the valley readily available from garden centers and nurseries around the United States. You can find the plant available in a potted format, or as bare root versions. If you select the root type, you’ll see “pips” on the roots, which are tiny swellings on the roots, providing the plant with new growth.
However, inexperienced gardeners might find it challenging to grow lily of the valley form root. It’s challenging to get the roots to establish themselves unless you know what you’re doing in the garden. Therefore, the best option for novice gardeners is to choose a potted variety.
Most garden centers sell potted varieties, but you’ll still need to give the lily of the valley sometime in the pot to establish its roots before you send it to the garden. It’s important to note that all parts of the lily of the valley are toxic to people and pets.
Lily of the valley will spread through the garden if they have enough space and the right growing conditions. For gardeners that have plenty of bare ground, the spreading action can be a huge benefit to provide ground cover to these bland and lifeless areas of the yard.
However, those gardeners with small yards will need to cut back the plants a few times throughout the growing season to keep them under control.
Lily of the Valley Lighting
Lily of the valley likes growing in moist environments. Exposure to the direct sunlight, or prolonged periods of dry soil results in the death of the plant.
For best results, plant your lily of the valley in a region of the garden that provides shade throughout the warmest parts of the day, but allows for afternoon sunlight to reach the plant.
Lily of the Valley Watering and Soil Requirements
Gardeners must ensure that their lily of the valley receives adequate water to keep the roots moist throughout the growing season. Leaving the plant to dry out will cause it to die back. When these plants die back, they rarely recover, even with daily care.
However, it’s also important to note that lily of the valley doesn’t like growing in waterlogged conditions where the roots are always in wet soil. These soil conditions may cause the onset of root rot in the plant. Therefore, keep your watering schedule consistent.
Lily of the valley grows well in a variety of soil conditions, from clay to sand, to loamy soils. If you’re growing in soil mixes that drain well, you’ll need to ensure you water the plant frequently to prevent it from drying out.
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Fertilizing Lily of the Valley
In most cases, the lily of the valley won’t require any soil amendments to enhance growth or flowering. The lily of the valley is effective at drawing nutrients from the soil, replenished by organic matter rotting in the environment around them. The matter decays and releases what the plant needs into the soil around the roots.
If you do want to add fertilizer to boost growth, then do so in the early summertime, using a product containing no nitrogen. Dilute the fertilizer product to half of the recommended dosage on the label, and feed the plant once a week for two to three weeks for best results.
Fertilizing with a nitrogen-based formula at this time stimulates the growth of the foliage and stems, instead of the flowers. Lily of the valley growing in pots will require the addition of nutrient amendments to the soil. Using a handful of blood and bone meal in late March and once again in early August will suffice.
Preparing the Planting Site for Lily of the Valley
Select an area of your garden that meets the light, soil, and water requirements mentioned above. If the soil is poor, then you can add a few organic amendments such as rotted compost after digging out the planting hole. Lily of the valley will do well in most soil types, but there’s nothing wrong with some additional compost to help things along.
When handling the plants during the planting process, make sure you’re wearing gardening gloves or some rubber kitchen gloves. The toxins on the surface of the plant may cause irritation and inflammation in people with sensitive skin.
Plant the lily of the valley in the garden two or three weeks after the last frosts fall. Check your local listings for the final frost dates in your area. When the soil warms up, it’s time to plant your lily of the valley.
Optimal planting times are between mid-March to early April or mid-September to early October. However, gardeners can plant any time of the year where climate conditions are moderate.
Planting Lily of the Valley
Start by digging a hole in the flowerbed that’s as deep as the root ball and twice the width. After excavating the earth, add a handful of blood, bone, and fish meal to the soil, along with some organic compost, and fork it into the ground. Cover that layer with an inch of normal soil, and then place the lily of the valley into the hole.
Backfill the hole with excavated soil and a few handfuls of compost, ensuring that the base of the plant is at soil level. Covering the base of the plant with soil encourages the growth of rot, which kills the plant.
If your potting or planting bare-rooted lily of the valley, ensure that you soak the roots of the plant in water for thirty minutes before planting.
After filing in the hole, press down lightly on the soil to remove any air pockets. Water well after planting to reduce transplant shock and allow the roots to recover. Continue watering daily and ensure the ground is moist, but don’t soak it.
The lily of the valley doesn’t require any pruning during the growing season, so leave the plant alone to grow. There’s very little maintenance involved with growing the plant, apart from ensuring that you keep the soil moist at all times.
The lily of the valley will readily spread around the garden in ideal growing conditions, but it’s easy to move the plant around the garden when it starts getting unruly.
If you’re growing lily of the valley in pots, then you’ll eventually have to repot them when they start to get big. When the roots get too big for the container, it can cause the pot to crack or split. Therefore, moving it to a bigger, growing space is the only option.
If the plant is too big to repot, then your only other option is to send it to the garden. However, if it’s still small enough for repotting, make sure you have adequate drainage in the bottom of the pot to keep the soil from waterlogging.
Pests and Diseases affecting Lily of the Valley
Due to the toxicity of the lily of the valley, it usually doesn’t experience any issues with pests. The plant has reasonably good resistance to disease as well.
However, there are a few pests, and disease gardeners should look out for when growing conditions turn to cold and humid for extended periods during the growing season.
If it rains for periods of longer than two to three days in your area, check your plants for signs of any of the following pests and diseases after the rain stops.
Pests Affecting Lily of the Valley
- Slugs and snails
Diseases affecting Lily of the Valley
- Leaf Spot
Propagating Lily of the Valley
After establishing its root system, the lily of the valley will start to spread readily in optimal growing conditions. It’s an ideal plant to fill the gaps in the sparse areas of your garden, such as the bare areas under trees and shrubs.
Gardeners will also love the fact that you can propagate lily of the valley through dividing the plant. Dividing the plant is also an excellent way to stimulate new growth in mature or aged lily of the valley.
Dig the plant up in the early fall, and separate the root clumps. When separating the roots, ensure that you don’t damage the “pips.” Replant the clumps, and then water thoroughly the reduce transplant shock.