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Convallaria majalis (kon-va-LAH-ree-a mah-JA-lis)


Lilies-of-the-valley are rhizomes that have nodding, bell-shaped flowers occurring in one-sided clusters on 8- to 10-inch-long stems. They are known for their mild, sweet fragrance.

Lilies-of-the-valley’s flowers are available in white and pink.

The flowers last from three to six days.

• ‘Fortin’s Giant’ - This variety has longer stems and larger flowers than others.
• ‘Rosea’ - It has light pink flowers.
• ‘Variegata’ - Gold-striped leaves are this variety’s standout feature.
• ‘Prolifica’ and ‘Plena’ - Both varieties have double blossoms.

Lilies-of-the-valley are available year-round although their peak time is from October through May. The best way to ensure availability is to order the flowers at least six weeks in advance from growers or wholesalers. The flowers tend to be expensive in the off-season.

REFRIGERATION Lilies-of-the-valley can be held in floral refrigerators at 32 F to 34 F.
WATER Check the water level daily, and add warm flower-food solution as needed. Recut stems every two to three days to ensure effective water uptake. Remove any damaged or dying florets.
ETHYLENE SENSITIVITY Lilies-of-the-valley’s delicate blossoms will deteriorate rapidly if they are exposed to ethylene gas. Check with your supplier to make sure your flowers have been treated with an anti-ethylene agent at the grower or transportation level.
HANDLE WITH CARE The flowers’ tips are elegant but brittle, so take care when handling them.
HEAT SOURCES Advise customers to display their flowers in cool locations, out of direct sunlight and away from air and heat vents.

DESIGN TIPS You can use lilies-of-the-valley individually in wired-and-taped bouquet designs. Wire each spike for support with a fine gauge, taped wire bent into a tiny shepherd’s hook, and attach it to the tip of the flower. Bring the tip down to the end of the stem. Tape the wire and flower stem together. For a more natural look, add foliage as the stems are taped.

BLOOMS Purchase lilies-of-the-valley when the stems have three or four open flower bells near the base. Look for puffy buds that show color up to the tips. The flowers will be the most fragrant when they are fresh, so be sure to smell them, too.

WHAT'S IN A NAME The genus name “Convallaria” is Latin for “valley,” referring to where the plant is found. “Majalis” means “May,” when the plant commonly flowers.
FAMILY Lilies-of-the-valley are members of the Liliaceae (lily) family. Common relatives include lilies, tulips, Fritillarias, Ornithogalums, Eremuruses and Muscaris.
HOME SWEET HOME Lilies-of-the-valley were first cultivated in 1420 and are thought to be native to Europe. They grow wild in England, where they are found in abundance in many areas.
HISTORY Legend says that the tears Mary shed at the cross turned to lilies-of-the-valley.
CAUTION Lilies-of-the-valley have berries that can be toxic to humans and pets. Also, the flowers’ scent may bother ill people, so don’t include them in hospital deliveries.

Some information provided by:
The Chain of Life Network®,
Roy Borodkin; Brannan Street Wholesale Florist Inc.; San Francisco, Calif.

You may reach “Cut Flower of the Month” writer Steven W. Brown, AIFD, at or by phone at (415) 239-3140.


Super Floral Retailing • Copyright 2008
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.