Plant Now: Lily of the Valley

Lily-of-the-valley flowers on whitelily of the valleyFamed for its sweet perfume, lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) grows in clumps in fertile, humus-rich, moist soil in shade. Its pure white bells are produced on 20cm high stems in spring. Occasionally you’ll find pink varieties too. These plants grow best in cold climates, naturalising well under trees.

You can plant the pips (rhizomes) now (autumn). Soak the pips in lukewarm water for several hours before planting, until they swell and become hard. Choose different areas to grow; a little more sun in one area and dappled shade in another will give you slightly different flowering times, extending your picking season.

When growth appears, apply liquid fertiliser to promote further good growth. Flower and leaf can be cut together for the vase, the flowers lasting about five days.


  1. Jane Millington says:

    Hi Jane
    Where can I get pips in NZ? 🙂

  2. Rose Ormsby says:

    Hi Jane

    I have just heard that Lily of the Valley is poisonous???? Rose

    • Hi Rose. Yes, it is a poisonous plant but only if you eat it. There are, in fact, quite a few poisonous plants about, including daffodils, lilies, foxgloves, daphnes, delphiniums, hellebores, iceland poppies, larkspurs, monkshood, oleander – and more. I hope that doesn’t put you off though! They’re only a problem if you eat them.

  3. Gillian Wood says:

    I have some lily of the valley planted 6″ apart in semi shade well watered, they are all h
    Showing brown tips to leaves what have I done wrong?

    • Hi Gillian. Brown tips at the end of the season is normal, but during the growing season it may indicate a disease or cultural problems, like too much or too little watering. Rust can be a problem – check for that on the leaves. However, as it’s autumn in NZ (I’m assuming you’re in NZ) it could be that the leaves are just dying down naturally for the winter.

  4. Do you know of Lilly of the valley growers or florists that stock it?

  5. I dug out mine for someone and somehow cleared it all out. I’m trying to get more for me and my church. I live rurally near Napier on a 150 year old family property. . Do you know of somewhere I can get several plants? My nursery got me one on order. That was all they had.
    Also, what is the visual difference between soloman seal and lily if the valley?

    How is the easiest way to spread lily of the valley?

    • Hi Margaret
      It’s quite hard to find Lily of the Valley in NZ, but you could try Wake Robin Nursery:
      Most nurseries don’t sell them at this time of year – you usually have to wait until February or so next year.
      The flowers of Solomon’s seal are similar, but they are elongated. Also, lily of the valley has separate flower stalks, with just flowers on it; Solomon’s seal has flowers and leaves on the stem. Its flowers are also grouped in twos or threes. Lily of the valley are much prettier in the vase because they do not have the leaves, though Solomon’s seal can be nice too.

  6. Julie Thorne says:

    I would like to transplant Mum’s Lily of the Valley in my garden. When do I do that? I am in New Zealand, Tauranga. Thanks in advance, Julie

  7. Hi can you plant Lilly of the valley in big pots or container

  8. Good afternoon. Four years ago, I moved to New Zealand. I’m trying to find Lily-of-the-Valley because I want it endlessly in my garden (reminds me of the father who died) Please help me find me. I’m in Hamilton

    • Hi Nena
      Unfortunately you won’t find it at this time of year. You need to wait until around February or March next year when the bulb suppliers put out their catalogues. This plant is in high demand and it’s quite hard to find. Look for online suppliers like nzbulbs.

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