The Q&A Archives: Start to finish Lily of the Valley

Question: I need to know how to care for this plant. I obviously did something wrong last year when I planted these because nothing grew. Once I plant them and do the initial often do I water them again? I love this flower and I need to see them come back every year. So what do I do when the snow comes? Do I do anything special?

Answer: Find a location where the soil drains well. If there are still water puddles 5-6 hours after a hard rain, scout out another site. Or amend the soil with the addition of organic material to raise the level 2"-3" to improve the drainage. Peat moss, compost, ground bark or decomposed manure all work well and are widely available. Lily of the valley plants like evenly moist areas but will not be happy in soils that are water logged.

Site your "pips" or bulbous roots where they will receive light to moderate shade.

Here's an insider's trick. Soak your pips in lukewarm water before planting. The pips will absorb water, wake up and be ready to take off. Just take the plastic bag your pips are shipped in, add enough lukewarm water so the peat in the bag is saturated and leave the bag in your sink for a couple of hours. The pips should swell a bit and become hard.

Before tucking your pips into the planting medium, snip the last inch off the roots. This will activate the roots, encourage moisture uptake and jump start the growing process. Plant your lily of the valley so the tops barely poke above the soil surface, about 1 1/2" apart. Don't wait too long, as pips can dry up if left out of the ground (and out of a humidity controlled cooler) for more than a week or ten days.

After planting, water generously, soaking the soil. Top growth will begin to form very quickly, usually in just a week, depending on the amount of available warmth and moisture.

When in bloom, feel free to cut the petite bell-shaped flowers for bouquets. This will not hurt the plants and these flowers are some of the best for small, scented bedside bouquets.

After blooming has finished for the season leave the foliage in place; don't cut it off. The leaves will gather sunlight and provide nourishment for next year's show. Water as needed. Leaves may be removed if they yellow later in the season. This depends location as lily of the valley make a nice evergreen groundcover in most areas.

Mulch over the soil surface in the fall and your plants will bloom again next spring and will gradually fill in with underground runners, creating a denser, larger fragrant patch.

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