Convallaria majalis in bloom.
One of my favorite late spring perennial flowers is lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis). It usually blooms in May. It has charming, arching flower spikes that only reach about 10” tall but what they lack in height is made up for in fragrance – they smell wonderful! Each flower spike is made up of a dozen or more individual, tiny, pure white, bell-shaped flowers with a scalloped edge. Individual plants usually have only two or three, broad, elliptical leaves but because lily of the valley usually grows as a groundcover, there are so many overlapping leaves that you usually cannot see the soil. While the white-flowered lily of the valley is the most common, there is a cultivar that has some added appeal with foliage variegated with narrow golden stripes, usually sold as ‘Striata’. While ‘Striata’ has the same white flowers as the species, C. rosea has soft pink flowers.
Planting & Management Tips
Lily of the valley spreads as it produces short rhizomes, often referred to as pips. Often it is sold in packages of pips but you may also find it sold as a potted perennial at the nursery. The pips should be separated out and planted about 3” deep, and spaced about 8 to 12” apart. Firm the soil over each one then water thoroughly. Lily of the valley will grow best in part sun but can tolerate shade and even full sun if it gets adequate water. Plants will show signs of scorch during periods of hot dry weather, if they are grown in a sunny location or in dry shade, beneath lots of trees. However, typically lily of the valley grows thickly, making an effective ground cover that is suitable in many locations, including slight slopes.