Lily of the Valley—as known as May Bells, Mary’s Tears, and Our Lady’s Tears—is a woodland plant with attractive green foliage and tiny, bell-shaped, white or pink flowers. Learn how to plant, grow, and care for the lily of the valley in your garden!
About Lily of the Valley
Lily of the valley is a low-growing (6 to 12 inches tall), spreading plant that comes up year after year in late spring. The genus Convallaria includes a single species, C. majalis, which is among the most useful ground covers for shade.
Warning: Lily of the valley is known to be a very aggressive spreader. Plant with caution! All parts of the plant, including the berries, are poisonous to people and animals.
Lily of the valley blooms are bell-shaped and appear as a cluster on one side of a leafless stalk and last for about three weeks. The leaves are located at the base of the plant. The delicate white or soft pink flowers are very fragrant.
Lily of the Valley can also be planted in a container and placed in a shady spot.
How to Plant Lily of the Valley
Dig a small hole.
Place the rhizome with the pip (pointed bud) in the planting hole about 1/2 inch below soil level.
Spread the roots out around the pip.
Space the rhizomes about 6 inches apart.
Cover with soil.
How to Care for Lily of the Valley
Side-dress with compost when new growth appears in the spring.
Keep the soil evenly moist.
Don’t let plants dry out.
After blooming don’t remove the foliage.
The plants will have orange inedible berries in the fall and the leaves turn golden.
Mulch with aged manure or compost in late fall.
How to Propagate Lily of the Valley
Divide Lily of the Valley when dormant in the spring or in the fall.
Dig up clumps and separate the rhizomes.
Replant the rhizomes about 6 inches apart.
How to Grow Lily of the Valley Indoors
Dig up a few plants in the fall.
Plant in a container and bring indoors.
Place the container in a bright spot.
The plants will bloom during the winter months.
Convallaria majalis var. rosea has pink flowers. The flowers are less fragrant than the white varieties. C. majalis‘Albostriata’ has white flowers and variegated leaves. The green leaves have creamy- white stripes. C. majalis‘Bordeaux’ produces large white flowers on long stalks. C. majalis‘Fernwood’s Golden Slippers’ has attractive golden-green leaves in early spring.
Lily of the Valley as Cut Flowers
Pick when 1/4 of the buds are open.
Include some leaves in the bouquet.
Use small vases or containers.
Place the vase in a cool place with medium light.
The flowers will last up to a week.
Change the water every other day.
Wit and Wisdom
Other names for lily of the Valley are May bells, Our Lady’s tears, and Mary’s tears.
Lily of the Valley is not a lily. It belongs to the asparagus family.
All parts of the plant are poisonous.
In the language of flowers, the Lily of the Valley symbolizes the return of happiness.