Lily of the Valley – Convallaria Majalis – Naturalizing

Lilies of the Valley are one of the most fragrant and memorable of spring flowers. You can see people carrying bouquets of them in Europe on May 1st to celebrate the season, brides carrying them in their bouquets, and for sale in florist’s shops for very high prices! They grow like weeds in forests in Sweden, I’ve been told and are rampant in Eastern states as they spread in an invasive manner.  But in our area, where they are on the edge of the growing zones, they should be more controllable.

Find a location where the soil drains well in shade.  Amend the soil with the addition of organic material to raise the level 2″-3″ to improve the drainage.  Peat moss, compost, ground bark or decomposed manure all work well and are widely available. Lily of the valley plants like soils that provide average amounts of moisture but will not be happy in water logged settings.

Soak your pips in lukewarm water before planting. The pips will absorb water, wake up and be ready to take off. Just take the plastic bag your pips are shipped in, add enough lukewarm water so the peat in the bag is saturated and leave the bag in your sink for a couple of hours. The pips should swell a bit and become hard.

peony planting graphic

Plant your lily of the valley so the tops of the buds barely poke above the soil surface, about 1 1/2″ apart. Don’t wait too long, as pips can dry up if left out of the ground (and out of a humidity controlled cooler) for more than a week or ten days.

After planting, water generously, soaking the soil to settle it around the roots. Top growth will begin to form quickly, usually in just a week or so, depending on the amount of available. When in bloom, feel free to cut the petite bell-shaped flowers for bouquets. This will not hurt the plants.

Provide supplemental water, as needed in the spring, summer and fall; about 1″ total (rain and irrigation) per week is a good general estimate. Keep in mind that occasional deep waterings are better than frequent lighter drinks. Your lily of the valley will rest for a few months before beginning the next growing cycle in spring.

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