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Gardener's Notebook: A look at the lily-of-the-valley perennial

Lily-of-the-valley is a beautiful perennial.
Lily-of-the-valley is a beautiful perennial (convallaria majalis) with sword-shaped, glossy green leaves, and stems of dainty and fragrant bells-shaped flowers. (File Photo)

YORKTON - The Yorkton and District Horticultural Society recently had their directors’ meeting, and the purpose of the meeting is to start planning the programs for the 2024/2025 year.  There will be interesting presentations coming, but more details will follow!

Guess what I was doing just before I sat down with you now?  I put several stems of lily-of-the-valley in a little crystal vase…and the fragrance!  So beautiful!  If you and I tried to imagine the scent of gardening corners in Heaven, I’m sure that the fragrance of lily-of-the-valley would be one of the scents we’d pick!  I remember reading that it was one of Queen Elizabeth’s favorite flowers.

Do you have any in your garden?  Lily-of-the-valley is a beautiful perennial (convallaria majalis) with sword-shaped, glossy green leaves, and stems of dainty and fragrant bells-shaped flowers.  It is considered a shade to partial-shade plant, and enjoys moist (not wet!) soil.

You can transplant it any time, but fall is a good time because it prefers cooler temperatures to really get the root system settled in. (So if you want to add this lovely plant to your garden, make a note that our fall plant sale is in September, there may be some lily-of-the-valley on offer and that would be a great time to plant it!)

It does not really have any pest or disease problems, so it would be a find addition to any perennial patch.

Now, this has to be said because someone out there will be saying “Yes, but…” at this point.  One gardener’s “wonder-plant” might be another gardener’s “invasive” plant.  Lily-of-the-valley spreads easily with its healthy and robust root system.  This can be a good thing if you have an area where other plants may not grow, like in the shade or along a house or garage.  It will fill in nicely and choke out weeds.

But, if you have a small patch in your perennial bed, and you would like lily-of-the-valley in that spot and you think it will stay there, it’s not going to happen, my friend.  It will go its own way.  Keep in mind, though, that if you are vigilant and see it creeping where it doesn’t belong, it is easy to pull out or dig out and transplant elsewhere.

 (As a side note: we had this talk last year about plants that spread.  Yes, there are plants that spread vigorously, but when we see that happening, the time to act is early before the plant dominates a whole flower bed.  By that time, yes, it turns into a major effort to get plants under control, but the key is, don’t wait!  Act when you first see it happening!)

But you know what, another possible solution if you really want to restrict the plant in a confined area is to plant the lily-of-the-valley in a cut off pot sunk below the soil surface.  This will help to some degree.  You might be familiar with this method when planting some types of decorative grasses or mint, another brave wanderer!

We have had lily-of-the-valley in our garden for decades, a gift from my Mom’s beautiful garden, and we have never considered it a difficult plant.  It’s a tough, durable ground cover, and a lovely garden addition.  And when I smell those dainty blooms in the spring, I am transported back to Mom’s garden, and our tea parties by the lilacs, and you know me…my eyes and heart overflow with the gift of those special memories.  Fragrance does that!  So try this old-fashioned garden beauty!

Thank you to our friends at YTW for their fine work.  Visit the hort society at and have a great week!