Scientific Classification:

Kingdom Plantae
Unranked Angiosperms
Unranked Monocots
Order Asparagales
Family Ruscaceae
Genus Convallaria
Species C. majalis
Binomial name Convallaria majalis

Other Common Names:

The other common names for the Lily of the valley Ladder-to-heaven, Lily Convalle, May Lily and Our-Lady's-tears.


Lily is the common name for a family comprising more than 250 genera and about 4,000 species of mostly herbaceous flowering plants. Some are cultivated as food crops: onions, garlic and leeks. The lily flowers may be trumpet, cup, bell and bowl shaped. Many are fragrant while some have an unpleasant odour.


In 1989, The Republic of Guinea-Bissau issued a set of stamps portraying six different lily species belonging to Genera lilium.The bell shaped flowers of the plant are very familiar to floral enthusiasts and while they are certainly small and unspectacular, they are very sweetly perfumed and are a universally well liked flowers. The lily of the valley is a very hardy plant and it can very readily adapt to a wide range of growing conditions in the wild, the plant is quite common now in the north American country side and even though the sturdy little herb thrives is not a native it thrives on neglected waste grounds and has escaped from many gardens to become a common plant in North America.


May lily is 15 to 30 or 40 cm high has two 10 cm long and 4-10 cm wide leaves and small fragrant white blossoms. It grows in places, having an altitude of up to 1400 m. The fruit is a bright-red strawberry. As the shoots lengthen and uncoil, they are seen to consist of two leaves, their stalks sheathing one within the other, rising directly from the rhizome on long, narrowing foot-stalks, one leaf often larger than the other. The plain, oval blades, with somewhat concave surfaces, are deeply ribbed and slant a little backwards, thus catching the rain and conducting it by means of the curling-in base of the leaf, as though in a spout, straight down the foot-stalk to the root.


At the back of the leaves, lightly enclosed at the base in the same scaly sheath, is the flower-stalk, quite bare of leaves itself and bearing at its summit a number of buds, greenish when young, each on a very short stalk, which become of the purest white, and as they open turn downwards, the flowers hanging, like a pearl of fairy bells, each bell with the edges turned back with six small scallops. The six little stamens are fastened inside the top of the bell, and in the centre hangs the ovary.

Lilies of the Valley don't actually have bulbs. They have a rhizome (which is like a long, thin, sideways-growing, carrot-like root). The rhizome has large buds, called pips, which produce new stalks and leaves. Its glycosides were used in the past as a source of medical products for cardiology but they have already been replaced by more effective medicines. The plants often grow closely together, forming a dense mat.


ALilies of the Valley are easy to grow under most conditions, though they do best in partial shade. Once they are well rooted they will spread indefinitely by means of the underground rhizomes. Houseplant or interiorscape; landscape in flower garden as cultivated herbaceous perennial. It is generally found in heathland and open land, but will also grow in a shady spot in the garden.


Convallaria majalis is one of the very few flowers that are happiest in partial to full shade. They will not grow well in full sun. Also, top dress with compost/fertilizer in Autumn, not Spring. Can be planted in early spring, better to do so in autumn. Seeds are best sown as soon as it is ripe, otherwise in late winter, in a cold frame. Germination, particularly of stored seed can be very slow, taking 2 - 12 months or more at 15°c.Sow the seed thinly so that the seedlings can be allowed to grow on undisturbed in the pot for their first year. Apply a liquid feed during the growing season to ensure that the seedlings are well fed. Divide the young plants into individual pots when they die down in late summer and grow them on in pots in a shady position in a cold frame for at least another year before planting them out into their permanent positions when they are dormant. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring. The flowers and the leaves of the lily of the valley are harvested in May or June of the growing season for preparation of the various remedies. Once planted it is very difficult to eliminate so be sure to select the right place with natural barriers, like the side of the house. Purchase pips and plant 4" apart. Small nonflowering pips are often sold and these take a year or two to produce blooms. Pips are also sold that are guaranteed to bloom the first year. Or plant 6- to 8-inch sods with their centres about 1 foot apart at any time the ground can be worked.

Parts Used


The leaves and the flowers are the most commonly used parts of the plant for its commercial and medicinal purposes.

Flowering Season

Lily of the valley is one of the most beautiful flowers that appear in wet forests in Europe, Asia, and North America from April till June.

Pests and Diseases

Lilies seem to be more vulnerable to pests and diseases than many other garden plants. Lily bulbs attacked by virus, the worst disease, display a number of symptoms, to a greater or lesser degree. They are mainly cucumber mosaic virus, tulip breaking virus, and brown ring virus and lily symptom less virus. Lilies are prone to attack by several animal and insect predators, ranging in size from deer and elk to microscopic mites. The pests include aphids, bulb mites, and lily beetle and lily thrips.

Medicinal Applications

• The plant is helpful if the condition is due to long term cardio vascular problems or a result of a chronic lung problem like emphysema in the patients.


• A decoction of the flowers is said to be useful in removing obstructions in the urinary canal, and it has been also recommended as a substitute for aloes, on account of its purgative quality.

• The lily of the valley is also capable of reducing blood volume and blood pressure due to its strong diuretic effects on the body.

• The flowers would be steeped in hot water as a remedy to being ease from the symptoms of gout and added to wine as it was believed to strengthen the memory.

• It was also used to soothe inflammation in the eyes of patients.

• It is also of service in disorders of the head and nerves, such as epilepsy, vertigo and convulsions of all kinds and swimming in the head.

• An ointment made from the roots is used in the treatment of burns and to prevent scar tissue.

Commercial Applications


• An essential oil is obtained from the flowers.

• It is used in perfumery and for snuff.

• Essential oil is used in the perfume industry.

• A green dye is obtained from the leaves in spring.

• A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves in autumn.

• Plants can be grown as a ground cover in woodland shade or in a shrubbery.


According to the astro reports the lily of the valley is under the dominion of the planet, Mercury.

Folklores and Myths

Signifies a "return to happiness". Lily of the valley is much used in bridal arrangements for their sweet perfume. Traditionally associated with May 1st, especially in France where the "muguet" is handed out at special events. The lily of the valley is a native flower of the European continent, where it has been the subject of many traditional legends and herbal superstitions.

The flowers of the lily of the valley become symbolic of the Virgin Mary, the white flowers suggestive of chastity and purity, the flowers are commonly called Our Lady's tears, and they are a common theme in many paintings of the Virgin done in Europe during the renaissance and later. The name ladder to heaven was given to the plant by medieval monks who saw the even step like arrangement of the flowers along the stalk as symbolic of steps to heaven. Birds like the nightingales are said to be attracted to the fragrance of the flowers.