Dividing Lily Of The Valley: When To Split Lily Of The Valley Plants

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Lily of the valley is a spring-flowering bulb that produces dainty little bell-shaped flowers with a heady, sweet fragrance. Although lily of the valley is extremely easy to grow (and may even become aggressive), occasional division is necessary to prevent the plant from becoming unhealthy and overcrowded. Dividing lily of the valley is simple, doesn’t take a lot of time, and the payoff is a more attractive plant with large, healthy blooms. Read on to learn how to divide a lily of the valley.

When to Split Lily of the Valley

The optimum time for lily of the valley division is when the plant is dormant in spring or fall. Separating lily of the valleys after flowering ensures the plant’s energy is available for creation of roots and leaves.

Divide lily of the valley four to six weeks before the first average hard freeze date in your area. This way, there is ample time for healthy root development before the ground freezes.

How to Divide a Lily of the Valley

Water the plants a day or two ahead of time. Trim taller leaves and stalks down to about 5 or 6 inches (12-15 cm.). Then, dig the rhizomes (also known as pips) with a trowel, spade or garden fork. Dig carefully about 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm.) around the clump to avoid cutting into the bulbs. Lift the bulbs carefully from the ground.

Pull the pips apart gently with your hands, or divide them with a trowel or other sharp garden tool. If necessary, snip through tangled roots with garden shears. Discard any pips that appear soft, rotten or unhealthy.

Plant the divided pips immediately into a shady spot where the soil has been amended with compost or well-rotted manure. Allow 4 or 5 inches (10-13 cm.) between each pip. If you are planting an entire clump, allow 1 to 2 feet (30-60 cm.). Water well until the area is evenly moist but not saturated.

This article was last updated on

Read more about Lily Of The Valley


Article by David Marks
Lily of the Valley are low growing plants which come up year after year in May time for about three weeks. They are grown for their delicate white flowers which are beautifully scented. Their Latin name is Convallaria majalis. Pink flowered varieties have been bred but their inferior scent has made them a poor second choice to the original.

Use the checklist below to decide if Lily of the Valley is suited to your preferences and garden conditions:

  • They grow to roughly 30cm / 1ft high, the leaves first appearing in late March to early April
  • Masses of small white flowers appear throughout May. Each individual flower is small but overall they provide a carpet of white flowers for three weeks or so. They are highly scented.
  • The leaves die down in October November time.
  • Lily of the Valley require ground which is moist throughout their growing season. They grow in all types of ground from clay to sandy soils.
  • They prefer shade or semi-shade and thrive under the canopy of trees and large shrubs which provide dappled shade.
  • Left to their own devices they will spread easily although they can be kept in check by removing plants which have spread too far.
  • They are low maintenance if the soil is naturally kept moist.
  • All parts of the plant are poisonous when eaten, deer know this and generally keep well away from them.
  • They make good cut flowers but only last for two to three days.
  • They can successfully be grown in containers.
  • They are fully hardy in all parts of the UK down to -22°C / -11°F.

Lily Of The Valley Division - How To Divide A Lily Of The Valley Plant - garden

Convallaria majalis
Liliaceae Family

Lily-of-the-Valley bears dainty white flowers with a strong, sweet perfume in spring. It can be an aggressive groundcover given the right conditions of part shade and rich, moist soil, but it may struggle in warmer conditions of Zones 6 and 7. Deer resistant.

  • requires well-drained soil
  • tolerates damp soil
Prefers rich, moist but well-drained soil.

  • outdoor containers
  • indoors as a houseplant - If desired, dig some plants in fall, pot and enjoy their perfume when they flower overwinter.

Height: 0.25 to 0.75 feet

'Fortin's Giant' may grow 1 foot or more.

Spread: 0.25 to 0.5 feet

Can continue spreading indefinitely.

Bloom time: late spring

Foliage color: medium green

Foliage texture: medium

  • cushion, mound or clump
  • spreading mass

Shape in flower: flower stalks with flowers hanging downward

Bell-like blooms hang from semi-pendulous stems.

Propagate by division or separation - Divide plants right after flowering or in the fall.

Keep soil moist but not soggy. With rich soil, moist conditions and part shade, plants may spread aggressively and need to be contained or dug out to prevent them from taking over-running less aggressive plants.

More growing information: How to Grow Bulbs

'Albostriata' has white-striped leaves.

'Flore Pleno' has double flowers.

'Fortin Giant' ('Fortin's Variety') grows 12 to 15 inches tall.

'Rosea' has pink flowers.

©2006 Cornell University. All rights reserved.

How to Transplant Lilies of the Valley Sprigs

Related Articles

Despite their delicate appearance, highly fragrant lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is a tough little plant that loves being divided and transplanted. Sprigs propagated in September and October reward you with eager regrowth the following spring and the sweetest smelling blooms in your garden in May. They cheerfully double their numbers each year, and planting lily of the valley in spring is recommended by Clemson Cooperative Extension Home & Garden Information Center.

Delightful and easy to grow, lily of the valley does well in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 through 9, though it thrives best in zones 3 through 8. Divide them every three to five years for best performance. Once lily of the valley is established, it’s hard to get rid of it. Even a tiny piece of root left in the soil can resurrect this plant, and it may overtake less aggressive plants, notes Cornell University.

Amend your new planting area with well-aged manure and organic compost. Lily of the valley can adapt to nearly any type of soil but prefers fertile growing conditions. While it can be grown in partial sun in cool regions, it performs best in shady spots away from structures in the warmer climates of USDA zones 7 to 9. This plant doesn’t like wet "feet," so choose a well-draining location.

Lily of the valley produces pretty red berries that kids might easily mistake for candy, but all parts of this plant are poisonous, and ingesting even a tiny bit of it causes vomiting and intense abdominal pain. Consider this when transplanting lily of the valley, and move it only to areas where you will be able to supervise small children and pets that may be able to access the plants.

Water your established lily of the valley clump thoroughly a day or two before you plan to divide it. Use sharp, clean shears to trim taller stems and leaves back to 5 or 6 inches above the soil surface to make digging and dividing easier.

Dig the clump up with a clean garden spade early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Rinse excess soil from the rhizomes and roots. Separate the lily of the valley plants gently. You may have to use shears to snip through tangled roots. Trim out damaged, diseased or rotting roots and rhizomes. Prune off any dead or damaged foliage and stems to prepare for planting lily of the valley roots.

Transplant the lily of the valley sprigs immediately. Keep roots and rhizomes moist, and avoid exposing them to direct sun during their move. Space them about 6 to 12 inches apart, and position them at the same soil depth they originally occupied. Once they’re established, your sprigs will form large spreading clumps that will flourish for many years with little care from you.

Mulch the transplanted sprigs with about 1/2 inch of organic compost to conserve moisture and discourage weeds.

Water the lilies of the valley thoroughly to evenly moisten the soil but not enough to make it soggy or wet. Keep the bed moist until the transplants are well established, and then reduce watering as needed to avoid soggy soil.

Water the lilies of the valley thoroughly when growth resumes in the spring. Keep them evenly moist throughout the growing season in USDA zones 7 to 9. As they grow taller, mulch the bed with leaf mold to keep their roots cool during the summer months. Gradually add 1/2 inch of material every week or two until it’s about 2 to 4 inches deep.

Feed lily of the valley transplants an all-purpose fertilizer for blooming plants in late spring. Repeat the application in mid- or late summer. Following the manufacturer’s recommendations for the specific formulation you purchase.


Previous Article

Plum Oak Root Fungus – Treating A Plum Tree With Armillaria Rot

Next Article

Basic principles of preserving vegetables in the cellar