Controlling Lily-of-the-Valley Plants

Located in my front yard, covering up the electrical box for the septic system, is a bed of peonies.  I have collected these gorgeous flowers from various places, including saving some from an old farmstead that were doomed due to a road expansion project.

Some of the plants even descend from a plant that I divided from the farm that I grew up on. My obsession with gardening escalated when we purchased our first home in the city in 1991.  As a young married couple, we had absolutely no money and, as any gardener will tell you, gardening ain’t cheap.  So, I went home to my parents one weekend and took a division of some peonies to start my own perennial garden.

About four years later, when we moved back to our home town, I took some of those same peonies with to our new home as a foundation for my perennial gardens.  A few more years passed and we purchased the farm.  Once again, I got out the spade shovel and dug up those peonies to bring them along to my new home.

The roadside peonies that I rescued brought with them another beautiful flower, lily-of-the-valley.  These plants were a cute addition to the flower bed the first few years, with their delicate and fragrant bell-shaped white blossoms appearing in the spring.

If you have ever had lily-of-the-valley, however, you know that they quickly go from “cute” to downright obnoxious.  Each year the plants grew stronger and started spreading throughout the bed of peonies.

After noticing this spring the stunted growth of one peony plant surrounded by the over-powering lily-of-the-valley plants, I finally decided to take action.

I worked my way through the bed of peonies, digging up the plants, dividing them, and moving them to a new home under a big oak tree where they have space to spread.  Lily-of-the-valley plants tolerate shade and are useful as a ground cover in locations where other plants have trouble growing.

In their new location, I am hoping the plants will thrive and spread quickly, helping to fill in the area, stabilizing the slope, and choking out the unwanted weeds that typically inhabit this space.

Although I was able to remove many of the lily-of-the-valley plants from my peony bed, the ones growing at the base of the plants were impossible to dig up without harming the root systems of the peony plants.  So, I just plucked those plants, breaking them off at the soil level.  Because of their rhizome root system, I am certain these plants will reappear either later this summer or next spring.

Short of digging up my peonies and removing all visible rhizomes, any ideas on how to permanently remove these plants from my peony bed when they reappear?

In the meantime, I hope these lovely plants do well in their new location.  Like any plant with the potential to become invasive, the best method to control lily-of-the-valley is isolating them to an area where they can grow freely without disturbing other plants.



Filed under Flower, Gardens

6 responses to “Controlling Lily-of-the-Valley Plants

  1. Anna


    I love your site!!!

    I was hoping for an update about how your lily-of-the-valley turned out under the oak tree? I want to do something similar, but someone told me that the acid from the oak tree leaves would kill the lily-of-the-valley????

    • Hi Anna,
      I guess I won’t know how it turns out until next spring when/if they come back up. They naturally die back during the summer, so I wasn’t really concerned about them. I haven’t heard that about the oak tree acidity, but it makes sense. On the other hand, with how tough and invasive they seem, I would think they could survive anything! I will be sure to provide an update in the spring. Hopefully I won’t have to find another home for them. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. bradfordfamily1994

    I have Lily of the valley spreading into my lawn. Trying to figure out a ground barrier that I could insert to control the spreading. Bamboo barriers are a bit to intense to put in. Any other ideas?

  3. anita

    the photo details are nice – thanks

  4. Stella

    Curious as to how your peony do now? I am having the same problem and finally explained why my peony has not been blossoming for the last few years. I pulled them right at the ground level and I know they will come back next spring. But my plan is to keep pulling the leaves next spring as soon as they emerge. Hopefully my peony will flower again…

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