Lily of the valley is a perennial, a flower that will grow for many years. Lily of the valley looks delicate, but it can survive where other plants cannot and is resistant to insects and diseases. Lily of the valley belongs to the ruscaceae family, which has more than 300 species—including Solomon's seal, snake plant, cast iron plant, black mondo grass, dragon tree and monkey grass.
Lily of the valley has tiny white, fragrant bell-shaped flowers that grow on top of thin stems. The glossy green leaves that grow from the base of the plant are as tall as the flower stem, about 6 inches. The leaves will die back after the flowers bloom—and when the flowers are gone, they'll be replaced by shiny red berries.
Lily of the valley can grow in complete shade or full sun and can fill in a small place in a garden where other plants will not fit. It is hardy and has a zone range between 2, the coldest zone in the continental United States, and 7, the mid South and parts of the Pacific Coast.
Lily of the valley can be grown from sprouts, called pips, that grow from rhizomes, and should be planted in the spring. They can also be bought as growing plants that can be planted at any time during the growing season.The pips should be planted 3 to 4 inches apart and the container plants 6 to 8 inches apart. Lily of the valley spreads fast. It has to be planted so that an edging—brick or metal for instance—can be put around it to keep it in place.
Rhizomes, an underground stem that both the flower and the roots come from, send out underground shoots to form new plants. Keeping the plants moist will keep them green. In the fall, add compost to the soil. After the flowers are done in the autumn, dig up the plants and remove any offshoots. This will give you new plants to use elsewhere and keep the bed uncrowded. They can then be planted in containers and kept as houseplants for the winter and replanted outside in the spring.
Lily of the valley makes a good ground cover because of the rapid way it spreads. It can be used under a large shade tree where it is too shady for other plants. Lily of the valley is also small enough to fit in the tight places in a rock garden. They are small, but can be used as cut flowers for small vessels such as bud vases.