Lily of the valley - Convallaria majalis


Small perennial rhizomatous, native to Europe and Asia, where it is widespread in lowland and mid-hill forests. The fleshy rhizomes develop, widening slightly, each of which produces two lance-shaped leaves, broad and erect, slightly fleshy, green in color, furrowed with shallow veins; thin stolons depart from each rhizome, giving rise to small colonies of plants, quite thick. In late spring between the two leaves develops a thin erect stem, which carries some white flowers, bell-shaped, intensely scented; they present six small lobes, folded towards the outside of the flower; in summer the flowers are followed by small roundish red fruits, which contain some dark seeds. THE lilies of the valley they are widespread in gardens due to their flowering, which lasts for several weeks; widely used in cosmetics, i lilies of the valley but they are poisonous in every part.


There convallaria majalis it belongs to the Convallariaceae family and is a herbaceous perennial. Such convallaria there are about 4 species of which only the majalis and the japonica (which we will explore in other articles) are cultivated on a horticultural level. The majalis can reach 20 cm in height. It is native to Europe. It has broad, oval-oblong, always paired leaves, at the center of which, in spring, rises from the ground the short stem, slightly curved, which brings the flowers into groups, very fragrant, pure white, similar to hanging bells. On the market today there are also cultivars with a delicate pink flower and some characterized by striped leaves, particularly decorative.
The flowering period lasts a maximum of one month. In late summer the seeds will appear, about half a centimeter in diameter, the color of which can go from red to bright orange.

Family, genus and species
Convallariaceae, convallaria majalis
Type of plant Perennial herb with rhizomatous roots
Exposure Half shade and shadow. Full sun in the mountains
Rustic Very rustic
Ground Rich, soft, neutral, moist, but well drained. The topsoil is excellent
colors White flowers (there are cultivars in pink)
Irrigation Not needed in full ground
Flowering May
Height 20 cm
Composting Soil improver in autumn, granular in spring, phosphorus in summer
Use in the garden Mulching in shaded areas, cultivation of cut flowers


They prefer the shady or semi-shady, fresh and quite bright positions. Lilies of the valley do not fear the cold, but can suffer in the summer, especially in the hottest areas of the peninsula; so let's put these small plants in a shady place for most of the day, especially in summer.
In general, we can say that the exposure that he prefers is the half-shade-shadow. Thus positioned it succeeds in prospering and spreading in almost the entire peninsula. Moreover it will need very little attention becoming in a short time an autonomous plant.
It is however possible to position it even in full sun, but only in the alpine areas where the rains and atmospheric humidity are always high even between spring and summer.


The name Convallaria derives from the Latin "convallis" and probably refers to the habitat of origin of these herbaceous plants. In fact, they grow wild in the alpine valleys and wherever there are cool temperatures and shady exposures at the end of spring. It is widespread throughout the Alps and the Apennines. To tell the truth, up until the 1950s it was very common. However, the habit of gathering the flowers without criteria and above all by stripping the root directly, however, made its way. This completely destroys the plant, preventing it from growing back and continuing to spread.
If we find plants in the spontaneous state, let's think about it before taking them and damaging them! Observing them year after year in their habitat is a greater satisfaction than the ephemeral one of bringing home a bunch of them.
If we really like this flower we can decide to grow it in the garden, so we can enjoy its fragrance for a long time.


Water regularly, avoiding excesses; before watering we check that the soil dries perfectly; lilies of the valley love the slightly humid places, but they easily bear short periods of drought, so we avoid overdoing them, and we renounce watering if the season is rainy. During the winter months lily of the valley plants lose their leaves, and enter a period of vegetative rest, during which they do not need watering.
If placed in the open ground they rarely need human intervention, especially if properly exposed.
If the position is too sunny, it will be difficult to remedy the problem by irrigating because it often causes the roots to rot.
However, if the vintage was particularly dry, you can intervene once every 15 days, until the beginning of summer. After flowering it is good to let the plant follow its natural course without forcing it.
To alleviate excessive heat, light vaporisations are often appreciated more than irrigations, especially in the morning.


They prefer calcareous, fairly soft and humus-rich soils; they also develop in stony places and in the common garden soil. Lily of the valley requires fresh and rich soils, but without water stagnation. In general it can live well with both sub-acid and slightly alkaline soils. The ideal is to provide a very aerated and rich soil, such as that of woods and leaves.
If it is too compact for a massive presence of clay, you should mix a good amount of mature manure and a little sand.


It occurs by seed, in spring, or by offshoot: the plants produce numerous lateral stolons, they can be detached from the mother plant and planted as single plants.

Pests and diseases

They are generally not attacked by pests or diseases. They are rarely attacked by insects. It can happen that they become prey to snails or slugs in spring, when they emerge from the ground (especially during particularly wet nights). In that case we can set up traps with beer or sprinkle some special snails.


Lily of the valley is not a simple plant. This is because it is particularly difficult to find a location that fits perfectly. At times we seem to have given all the right conditions to see it thrive at its best and instead we see it suffer and shrink from year to year.
At other times, in locations that should have been totally wrong, we see it grow and expand.
The positive side, however, is that, thanks to its ability to self-disseminate and expand through the roots, it can find spaces and locations that are congenial to it on its own.
In any case, we give indications that can guide us in their planting.


They are very rustic plants and rarely suffer from the cold. We can, however, especially if we live above 1000 meters above sea level, cover them with a good mulch of leaves and straw. Furthermore, the first ones, decomposing, will make the soil rich and airy, just the ideal substrate for these herbaceous plants.


In the middle of the earth it is not always necessary to intervene.
If you want before winter you can spread an abundant dose of organic soil conditioner which, in addition to providing nutrients, will make the soil more vital and airy. At the beginning of spring we can spread a handful of slow release granular fertilizer for flowering plains.
It can be useful, to keep the plants beautiful and to stimulate their diffusion, to spread, after the flowering and in anticipation of the desiccation of the leaves, some handfuls of fertilizer with a good phosphorus content.


They are usually found commercially in autumn or early spring at bulb dealers. The ideal would be to place the rhizomes in October-November so that they have all winter available to recover from the trauma of the transplant. The lily of the valley in fact, from this point of view, is rather delicate. Once positioned, it is then left undisturbed for as long as possible.
The individual roots must be planted at a depth of 2.5 cm and covered with light soil.
If instead we have a forced potted specimen, it is advisable to wait for the leaves to dry completely, always keeping the plant in a protected area and in partial shade. In autumn the earth bread can be extracted (trying to keep it as compact as possible so as not to disturb the root system) and transfer it to the ground.

Pot cultivation

Sometimes at the end of the winter they sell pots of lilies of the valley, perhaps already in bloom after a forcing process. If it's still too cold outside, we can keep them in a slightly heated but bright room. We stir without exaggerating, leaving the substratum always damp, but not too full of water. We avoid the use of saucers.
We enjoy their scent up to the withering and we keep the jar until autumn. We can then decide whether to put them in our garden or give them to those who own one. Rarely indeed do lilies of the valley come back to bloom (and above all to bloom) because they need a lot of space and rich soil.

Crop care

Once it is set in our garden it will soon become very autonomous and there will be practically no need for treatment.
After flowering it still remains decorative for several months, acting as a graceful ground cover with its bright green leaves. Towards mid-summer these will begin to wither turning red and brown. It is good not to intervene at all by letting the plant recover all the nutrients and then re-use them in the coming year.
When only the flower stems are left, you can then notice some red-orange roundish capsules. If we want we can collect them, open them and experiment with sowing.


Propagation can be carried out mainly in two ways: by seed or by division of the rhizome.
The first works only for species. The cultivars in fact do not always give satisfactory results.
You must bury the seeds in the spring, directly outdoors and keeping them moist. Germination takes place within a month, but the development of the plant will be rather slow: you will have to wait three years before seeing a flower.
The division is preferably carried out in the autumn. The best solution, if you want to divide a bush too large, is to divide it neatly with a spade and thus move a whole sod. In this way the roots will be disturbed as little as possible and the recovery will be faster.


Numerous cultivars exist. The breeders have tried to widen the range of colors of the flowers and to make the leaves more decorative, given that, even in the absence of corollas, they act as a ground cover for a long period.
Var. Rosea with pink flowers
Albostriata leaves with longitudinal white-cream streaks. The floral jets also have noticeable streaks.
Dorien large flowers on long stems and ample foliage
Flore pleno with double flowers
Fortin's giant with large leaves and very large flowers
Hadwick Hall broad leaves with narrow light green margins, large flowers
prolificans branched inflorescences, sometimes slightly deformed flowers
Variegata leaves with gold streaks along the entire length
Vic Pawlowski's Gold dark green leaves with gold stripes, low plant

Lily of the valley bulbs

If you are interested in growing lily of the valley starting directly from the bulbs you will find it useful to see in this photo the size and shape of the lily of the valley bulbs. These are small, thin and slightly elongated bulbs. In the photo the bulbs have already sprouted and those filaments that are seen white that come out from the bulbs are just the shoots.
The bulbs in this case will be completely buried even with the shoots. You can buy them online or in some garden centers and sometimes even in super markets.
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