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Plant Profile: Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley evokes many wonderful thoughts and feelings and many brides dream of having a bridal bouquet of them (very expensive even in season). I treasure the few that have managed to survive in my garden because of a dear friend and French teacher colleague of mine, Mme. Flynn. Every May Day she gives a bouquet of Lily of the Valley to her fellow French teacher.  Such a charming tradition. But wait, there is more…

May Day in France is a big deal to workers and somewhat like our Labor Day in September. May in France is very special because there are more official national holidays than in any other month so workers look forward to combining official national holiday with other holidays to create a really nice mini vacation. As May Day approaches, vendors come forth to sell Lily of the Valley (“porte-bonheur”–literally, “bringer of happiness) in bouquets or pots and the usual tax on plants/flower sales is laid aside. What a beautiful custom.

Type: Herbaceous perennial.

Bloom: White tinged with green, bell shaped very fragrant flowers borne in racemes in mid spring.

Size: 10-12”.

Light: Shade but tolerates some sun depending on water requirements.

Soil: Moist, well drained humus. Will tolerate dryness once established.

Fertilizer: Organic mulch will provide nutrients for successful growth.

Hardiness: Zones 2-7 (struggle in zone 8).

Care: Meet temperature and light requirements.

Pests: Leaf spot and stem rot. Remove and destroy the infected parts as soon as they’re noticed. It also helps to remove the dead foliage.

Propagation: Spreads quickly by rhizomes in moist, humus; the ends of the rhizomes produce new plants, called pip. These can be pricey to buy so shop around.

Companion plants: Other woodland species such as hostas, Tiarella, and ferns; good grown under azaleas and rhododendrons.

Outstanding Selections:
‘Bordeaux’-larger flowers are borne profusely above the foliage rather than in it; foliage on red stems.
‘Fortin’s Giant-taller and with larger flowers than the species.
‘Plena’-cream colored flowers that are larger and more persistent than the species
‘Rosea’-Light pink flowers.
‘Striata’-Leaves with white stripes

Comments: Excellent grounds cover if it likes the environment.

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