How Invasive Is Lily Of the Valley: Should I Plant Lily Of The Valley Ground Cover

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Is lily of the valley invasive? Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is a perennial plant that grows from stem-like underground rhizomes that spread horizontally, often with amazing speed. Exactly how invasive is lily of the valley anyway?

Should I Plant Lily of the Valley?

The plant has escaped cultivation and has been placed on invasive plant lists in some states, primarily for its tendency to form large colonies that threaten native plants. It is especially happy in shady, wooded areas and doesn’t always do well in poor, dry soil or intense sunlight. In less suitable areas, it may not be invasive in the strictest sense of the word, but lily of the valley certainly has aggressive tendencies that may prompt you to think twice before planting this lovely, innocent-looking little plant.

Let’s consider the pros and cons:

  • If you have a tidy, well-ordered garden, you may want to pass on lily of the valley and choose a more well-behaved plant. If, on the other hand, you have plenty of space for the plant to spread, you may get along just fine. After all, the plant provides lovely springtime color, along with a powerful fragrance that you may either love or hate.
  • The blooms are short-lived, but the clusters of grassy, sword-shaped leaves make an attractive groundcover. Just don’t expect the clumps to remain within the boundaries of a flower bed or border. Once established, lily of the valley is an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. Even if you plant lily of the valley in a contained area, the rhizomes are likely to tunnel under and make a break for freedom.

Controlling Lily of the Valley

While there are no guarantees with the control of this plant, the following tips may help you reign in lily of the valley’s rampant growth.

Dig the rhizomes with a shovel or spade. Sift the soil carefully with your hands, as even a tiny piece of rhizome will generate a new plant and eventually, a new colony.

If possible, cover the area with cardboard to block growth of any new rhizomes. Leave the cover in place for at least six months. Cover the area with mulch if you want to camouflage the cardboard.

Mow the plants frequently to prevent development of seeds. This is a good way to deal with lily of the valley in your lawn.

As a last resort, spray the plants with a product containing glyphosate. Keep in mind the chemical will kill any plant it touches.

Additionally, you could consider growing the plant in containers.

Note: All parts of lily of the valley are toxic and may irritate the skin. Always wear gloves when handling the rhizomes – or any part of the plant.

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Read more about Lily Of The Valley

Follow the steps below when planting bare-roots / pips:

  • Soak the roots / pips in water for half an hour before planting
  • Dig a hole which just a little larger than the roots to be planted. Choose a shady, slightly moist site
  • Place the roots in the hole so that the top of the roots are half a centimetre below the soil surface. There is no top or bottom, just place them in the hole
  • Sprinkle loose earth over the roots gently working it in to fill the root mass with soil. Cover the top so that the roots / pips are just below the surface.
  • Sprinkle in a handful of blood, fish and bone and work into the ground. Water well.

  • A perennial that grows from pips, lily of the valley is hardy in zones 2-7
  • Before planting pips, soak them in lukewarm water until they swell, and then trim the root slightly.
  • Easy to grow indoors or in window boxes

The quietly assertive lily of the valley thrives in a variety of soil and moisture conditions. Use this innate determination to your advantage and coax your lilies of the valley to grow indoors on a windowsill, even in a very small, decorative pot.

Above: Celebrating the beginning of May is of national importance in France, and each year, traditionally, it is greeted with a bunch of muguet du bois, or lilies of the valley. Flower shops in Paris will be brimming with these simple white flowers, and farmers will decamp from the countryside to sell their posies out of carts. Why not start a May festival of lilies here on our own soil?

N.B.: To learn more about other early bloomers, our Garden Design 101 guides can help:

  • Searching for the perfect compliment to your lilies of the valley? Consider Daffodil 101.
  • Interested in another of Kate Middleton’s bouquet selections? See Ivy 101.

Plant Finder

Note: Plant Finder listings do not represent current inventory and are meant to give customers an idea of the variety and selection that TLC Garden Centers carries throughout the year.

Other Names: Lily Of The Valley

Lily-Of-The-Valley features subtle spikes of lightly-scented white bell-shaped flowers rising above the foliage from mid to late spring. Its pointy leaves remain green in color throughout the season. The fruit is not ornamentally significant.

Lily-Of-The-Valley is an herbaceous perennial with a ground-hugging habit of growth. Its medium texture blends into the garden, but can always be balanced by a couple of finer or coarser plants for an effective composition.

This is a high maintenance plant that will require regular care and upkeep, and is best cleaned up in early spring before it resumes active growth for the season. Deer don't particularly care for this plant and will usually leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. Gardeners should be aware of the following characteristic(s) that may warrant special consideration

Lily-Of-The-Valley is recommended for the following landscape applications

  • Groundcover
  • Naturalizing And Woodland Gardens

Lily-Of-The-Valley will grow to be about 8 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 24 inches. Its foliage tends to remain low and dense right to the ground. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 10 years.

This plant does best in partial shade to shade. It prefers to grow in average to moist conditions, and shouldn't be allowed to dry out. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments, and will benefit from being planted in a relatively sheltered location. This species is not originally from North America, and parts of it are known to be toxic to humans and animals, so care should be exercised in planting it around children and pets. It can be propagated by division.

Watch the video: Drought - tolerant ground cover garden

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