Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
Lily of the valley, Convallaria majalis /Pronunciation:ˌkon-va-lair'ee-uh
Perennial Rhizome Hardiness: Zones 3 through 7, Partial shade. Evenly moist soil. Flowers early spring
Sweetly scented, highly poisonous woodland flowering plant that is native throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere in Asia, and Europe. If ingested—even in small amounts—the plant can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, reduced heart rate, blurred vision, drowsiness and red skin rashes. Although deadly, the plant has been used as a folk remedy in moderate amounts, and is currently used by herbalists as a restricted herbal remedy.
Easily grown, these small plants take a couple of years to establish and may not flower the first year. But their creeping rhizomes will soon spread rapidly, making an ideal ground cover even under large trees. . Plants will keep spreading, so you may want to locate them in a contained area.
Light/Watering: Lily-of-the-Valley relishes well-drained but moist soil and does best in partial shade. It will grow in the sun if soil moisture is consistent, but the foliage may not look its best.
Fertilizer/Soil and pH: These easy-going plants are not particular as to soil conditions, but grow best with a soil rich in humus that is slightly acidic. Feed lightly in spring, and mulch with compost or well-rotted manure in early fall.
Pests/Diseases: These plants are generally quite healthy and vigorous. Fungal leaf spotting may occur but is usually minor. Remove any affected foliage and destroy. Occasionally weevils will feed on the leaves, making small notches along the edges, but damage is usually insignificant.
Pruning: Leaves may become tattered and unattractive toward the end of the growing season; simply cut back to ground level. If left intact, the deciduous leaves turn a lovely golden hue in the fall, accompanied by colorful (but inedible) orange berries.
Dividing/Transplanting: Lily-of-the-Valley is easily divided when dormant in spring or fall. Dig up the small rhizomes (called pips), gently separate, and replant 4 in apart; plants will fill in quite quickly. Water well after transplanting.
End-of-Season Care: Rake up fallen foliage and mulch lightly with well-rotted manure or compost. Water thoroughly if the season is dry.
Early Spring: Apply a light application of 10-10-10 fertilizer or side-dress with compost and organic matter when new growth appears. Supplement nitrogen during periods of prolonged rain to counter natural leaching. Water well if it is unseasonably dry, as plants prefer an evenly moist soil. Divide or transplant if desired.
Mid-Spring: Mulch plants as soil warms to buffer soil moisture and temperature.
Summer: Water during dry periods.
Fall: Rake up fallen foliage and mulch lightly with compost or well-rotted manure.
Lily of the valley in the Northern Hemisphere flowers in early spring, in mild winters as early as March. Convallaria majalis is a plant of partial shade, and mesophile type that prefers warm summers. It likes soils that are silty or sandy and acid to moderately alkaline, with preferably a plentiful amount of humus. The Royal Horticultural Society states that slightly alkaine soils are the most favored. It is an Euroasiatic and suboceanic species that lives in mountains up to 1,500 m altitude.
It is a herbaceous perennial plant that forms extensive colonies by spreading underground stems called rhizomes. New upright shoots are formed at the ends of stolons in summer, these upright dormant stems are called pips. These grow in the spring into new leafy shoots that still remain connected to the other shoots under ground, often forming extensive colonies. The stems grow to 15–30 cm tall, with one or two leaves 10–25 cm long, flowering stems have two leaves and a raceme of 5–15 flowers on the stem apex. The flowers have six white tepals (rarely pink), fused at the base to form a bell-shape, 5–10 mm diameter. The fruit is a small orange-red berry 5–7 mm diameter that contains a few large whitish to brownish colored seeds that dry to a clear translucent round bead 1–3 mm wide. Plants are self-sterile, and colonies consisting of a single clone do not set seed.
Convallaria majalis is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including the grey chi. Adults and larvae of the leaf beetle Lilioceris merdigera are also able to tolerate the cardenolides and thus feed on the leaves.
It is possibly the only species in the genus Convallaria. It was formerly placed in its own family Convallariaceae, and, like many lilioid monocots, before that in the lily family Liliaceae.
Other names include May lily, May bells, and muguet (French). Its scientific name, majalis or maialis, means "of or belonging to May", and old astrological books place the plant under the dominion of Mercury, since Maia, the daughter of Atlas, was the mother of Mercury or Hermes. In the "language of flowers", the lily of the valley signifies the return of happiness. Legend tells of the affection of a lily of the valley for a nightingale that did not come back to the woods until the flower bloomed in May.
The name "lily of the valley" is used in some English translations of the Bible in Song of Songs 2:1, but the Hebrew phrase "shoshannat-ha-amaqim" in the original text (literally "lily of the valleys") does not refer to this plant. It is possible, though, that the biblical phrase may have had something to do with the origin or development of the modern plant-name. It is also known as Our Lady's tears or Mary's tears from Christian legends that it sprang from the weeping of the Virgin Mary during the crucifixion of Jesus. Other etiologies have its coming into being from Eve's tears after she was driven with Adam from the Garden of Eden or from the blood shed by Saint Leonard of Noblac during his battles with a dragon. Lily of the Valley is a symbol of humility in religious painting, considered the sign of Christ's second coming. The power of men to envision a better world was also attributed to the lily of the valley.
At the beginning of the 20th century, it became tradition in France to sell lily of the valley on international labor day, 1 May (also called La Fête du Muguet (Lily of the Valley Day) by labor organizations and private persons without paying sales tax (on that day only) as a symbol of spring. The Norwegian municipality Lunner has a lily of the valley on its coat-of-arms. Lily of the valley was the floral emblem of Yugoslavia, and it also became the national flower of Finland in 1967.
Thank you Wikipedia!