Lily of the valley – Convallaria majalis

Scenting a shady corner. The flowers of lily of the valley are the most sweetly scented of any garden plant. Their powerful fragrance is often imitated in cosmetics and soap, but few rival the real thing. This is a plant for a partly shaded spot in the garden.

ANNUAL CALENDAR

SPRING

March:

This is a good time to plant. Also lift and divide plants if you want to propagate them.

SUMMER

June-August:

Water plants if soil starts to dry out.

August:

Remove leaves once they have died down. Then cover with a layer of bulky organic matter.

AUTUMN

October:

Begin planting, lifting and dividing.

WINTER

December-February:

You can plant, lift and divide, provided the ground is not very wet or frozen.

Easy to care for

Provided that it takes to its planting spot, there is little you need to do. You can remove the dead leaves in the summer to stop flower-beds becoming untidy. Water the plants well in dry spells and never let them dry out in summer.

POPULAR VARIETIES

Apart from the, species, there are several good cultivars: Variety, Description ‘Albostriata’, leaves are striped green and gold ‘Fortin’s Giant’, taller, and with larger flowers and leaves than , the species, produced slightly earlier ‘Prolificans’, double flowers

C. rosea, pink flowers

AN ANNUAL COVER

In the summer each year, when the leaves have died down, give a mulch of leaf-mould, garden compost or composted bark. Spread a layer about 2.5cm deep over the soil. This keeps the plants cool and helps prevent the soil from drying out.

This hardy perennial plant is grown mainly for its flowers. They are bell shaped, with a waxy texture, and are usually pure white. Its leaves are also attractive.

Lily of the valley is dwarf and grows no more than 20cm high, although its spread is at least 60cm. It carries up to eight flowers, 6mm in length, on each arching stem.

If it is grown in the correct conditions, lily of the valley can spread rapidly by means of its creeping underground stems (rhizomes). It makes good ground cover, and if it begins to overwhelm a bed simply pull up the unwanted plants. To increase lily of the valley, lift plants and split them up from mid-autumn to spring.

Where to grow the plant

Lily of the valley looks good planted on its own in a fairly shady part of the garden, or as ground cover near shrubs and trees.

Alternatively, you can grow it with various other dwarf, ground covering, hardy perennials.

Ornamental bugle, coloured primroses, wood anemone, miniature daffodils, snowdrops, lesser periwinkle and small ferns all like similar conditions to the lily of the valley.

IMPORTANT

If you want to increase your plants, use a garden fork to lift the mat of lily of the valley rhizomes. Pull them apart into single crowns (a piece of stem which contains a growth bud at its end).

Set them 8-10cm apart with the bud facing upwards. Plant shallowly, just below the surface of the soil.

Space small clumps, as bought from a garden centre or nursery, about 15-20cm apart.

Lily of the valley

SITUATION

A position in partial shade is ideal, or in dappled shade cast by trees and larger shrubs. Do not plant in very deep shade where it will not flower well and may even die.

SOIL

Any soil, lime free or chalky, provided it contains plenty of humus and stays cool and moist during dry periods.

CARE

Cover with a layer of bulky organic matter each year when the leaves have died down. Remove dead leaves. Otherwise, it does not need much care — just leave it alone to spread.

PLANT HEALTH

Lily of the valley is not troubled by many pests and diseases although grey mould fungus (botrytis) may be a problem in wet weather.

A greyish mould develops on leaves and stems. The stems may rot at their base.

Remove and burn any infected parts of the plants.

It is generally an easy plant to grow, given suitable conditions. Make sure it has enough light to thrive. It can survive temperatures down to -39X so you can grow it anywhere in Britain.

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