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Planting Lily of the Valley in New England

By Nannette Richford ; Updated September 21, 2017
Lily of the valley is highly fragrant.

The lily of the valley emits an unexpected burst of sweet fragrance from its delicate white flowers. Blooming in early summer, lily of the valley prefers shade or partial shade and thrives in moist soil. Its miniature bell-like flowers line a 3-to-4-inch stem and curve downward creating a slight arch. According to Cornell University's Flower Growing Guides, these hardy plants survive harsh winters of New England in Zones 2 to 7, but do not fare well in warmer climates. If left to naturalize, lily of the valley spreads by underground rhizomes.

Prepare the soil for lily of the valley in an area that receives some morning light, but is protected from the afternoon sun. Under trees that provide dappled sunlight through the canopy or near structures that provide shade are good choices.

Till the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Remove and rocks, sticks or other debris in the soil. Rake the area smooth.

Amend the soil with a 2-to-3-inch layer of well-rotted manure or compost. Lily of the valley prefers well-drained, humus-rich soil that remains moist throughout the summer. Organic matter increases the water-holding capacity of soil, improves texture and drainage, and provides slow-release nutrients to growing plants.

Dig a hole twice the size of the pot the lily of the valley has been grown in. Position the plant in the soil to its original planting depth. Fill in around the root ball with fresh soil. Firm down with your hands to secure the plant.

Water thoroughly to moisten the soil to the root level. Water again when the surface of the soil feels slightly dry to the touch. Keep the soil moist, but avoid over-watering. Soggy soil prevents young roots from getting the oxygen they need to survive and invites disease.

Fertilize sparingly. Lily of the valley is a wildflower and does not require fertilizing on a regular basis. A light application of water-soluble fertilizer in early spring promotes new growth and encourages blooms.

Dig and divide the rhizomes after flowering, when plants become crowded. According to Cornell University, lily of the valley can become invasive and spread aggressively to new areas of the garden if not controlled by dividing the rhizomes.


Things You Will Need

  • Lily of the valley plants
  • Garden tiller/spade
  • Garden rake
  • Well-rotted manure/compost
  • Water-soluble fertilizer


  • Lily of the Valley flowers and plant parts are poisonous if ingested. Keep away from children and small pets.

About the Author


Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with more than four years' experience in online writing. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in teaching 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.