Planting Lily of the Valley

The Right Place
Lily-of-the-valley grows throughout the middle and northern parts of the United States (zone 3), even where winter temperatures dip to -20° F or lower. Because these plants require a chilling period, they do not thrive in areas with mild winters, such as those south of Tennessee and North Carolina (zone 7) and similar regions.

Lilies-of-the-valley do best in partial shade, or shade. While they prefer moist fertile soil with plenty of organic matter, they will grow well in ordinary soil as long as it is well drained and slightly acidic (pH 5.5 to 6.5). They are not happy in sites where the soil tends to dry out.

Planting Nursery Stock
Plant lilies of the valley in the spring. Set the pips 1 to 2 inches deep and space them 8 to 12 inches apart. For a "naturalized" planting, scatter plants randomly over the planting area. Plant each lily-of-the-valley plant where it falls, adjusting spacing where two or three may have fallen on top of one another.

Container Gardening: Lily-of-the-valley adapt well to containers such as window boxes and patio planters. They can also be "forced" to bloom prematurely indoors. The simplest way is to buy plants specially prepared for forcing (they have already had a chill period). Plant them in an attractive container and water. Allow three weeks for them to develop buds.

An alternative is to dig plants from the yard in the early fall when they are dormant. Plant about 10 plants in a 6-inch pot or other attractive container in soil less potting mix. Water them and place them in a dark, cool, but frost free area such as the refrigerator or unheated garage for 8 weeks so they can grow roots. When the leaves sprout, move them to a light, warm place 60° F or above. Keep them moist as they grow and bloom. Lilies-of-the-valley taken from the garden for forcing can be returned to the garden, but they are weak and will probably not flower for another year.

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