Lily of the valley is an excellent ground cover for shady areas that get little, if any, foot traffic. The plants produce tiny, white, ultra fragrant, bell-shaped flowers in midspring each year. A bed of lily of the valley will grow more dense every year because the plants spread by underground runners. Properly planted and cared for, this ground cover will grow and thrive for many years in the same location even if it is neglected. Patches of lily of the valley are often found growing on abandoned farmsteads, still thriving after many years of neglect.
Locate your lily of the valley in partial to full shade. The soil should be rich and full of organic matter, much like the soil in a natural woodland. Do not plant lily of the valley in areas where water does not drain soon after a rainstorm.
Improve the soil. Add 2 to 4 inches of peat moss and 2 to 4 inches of compost to the surface of the soil. Incorporate these into the soil by turning it over with a shovel or rototilling. Rake the surface smooth.
Soak the pips (dormant lily of the valley plants) in warm water for about an hour prior to planting. This helps wake up the plants so they begin to grow quickly when planted.
Plant lily of the valley pips. Cut off the last inch of roots just before planting into the prepared soil bed. Plant about 2 inches apart, with the tops just poking out of the surface of the soil.
Water thoroughly. Run a lawn sprinkler on the planting bed for 60 to 90 minutes until the soil is watered to a depth of 3 to 4 inches.
Apply a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch. Use buckwheat hulls, cocoa hulls or shredded bark. The mulch will keep the soil evenly moist and discourage competing weeds from germinating.
Feed lily of the valley every spring with compost. Pull mulch away from plants and spread a 1-inch layer of compost on the ground. Replace mulch.