Expert Tips on How to Get Rid of Lily of the Valley

See what lily of the valley looks like and why you don't want it in your yard. A garden expert reveals how to get rid of lily of the valley.

Lily of the valley is a fragrant plant that blooms in spring or early summer. Unfortunately, once you plant it, it’s very hard to get rid of lily of the valley. This plant is very adaptable and spreads quickly, which is why it isn’t recommended for most yards. The spreading ground cover fills woodland areas, behaving like a weed.

Think twice before you plant lily of the valley. It could escape the captivity of your backyard and crowd out more beneficial native plants. Consider growing a different ground cover instead.

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What Does Lily of the Valley Look Like?

how to get rid of lily of the valleyCourtesy Merrie Largmann
A sprig of small white lily of the valley flowers sticks out from a thick grouping of leaves.

Lily of the valley has delicate white or soft pink flowers that hang like little bells from the 4- to 12-inch-tall stalks.

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All About Lily of the Valley

  • Common names: Lily of the valley, May bells, Our Lady’s tears and Mary’s Tears
  • Botanical name: Convallaria majalis
  • Zones: 3 to 8
  • Light: Part to full shade

Learn how to grow and care for a gloriosa lily.

Is Lily of the Valley Invasive?

Close up of Lily of the valleyMr_Twister/Getty Images
Lily of the valley

Lily of the valley is native to central Asian and Europe, and is invasive in parts of the United States and Canada. The Missouri Botanical Garden does not recommend it for use in home gardens in the Midwest.

It’s also been labeled as invasive in Alaska and Wisconsin and has been recorded in the wild in the Northwest, Northeast, Southeast and some states in the Plains. Like bindweed or Bermuda grass, it’s difficult to get rid of once it’s introduced to an area.

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Is Lily of the Valley Poisonous?

Yes, lily of the valley is poisonous. Every part of the plant from the leaves to the roots contains cardiac glycosides and can cause harm. If it’s already in your yard, consider removing the plant and keep a close eye on children and pets around it.

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How to Get Rid of Lily of the Valley

how to get rid of lily of the valleyJohner Images/Getty Images
A patch of lily of the valley leaves, stalks and white bell-shaped flowers growing out of moss.

Reader Peggy Fitzgibbons of St. Louis, Missouri, asks, “Lily of the valley plants are taking over my garden. How do I eradicate them?”

Melinda Myers, horticulture expert says, “Cut back the leaves as soon as they appear and constantly dig up the plants—roots and all—to control these unwanted flowers. Persistence is the key to success. Another natural way to kill weeds and remove invasive plant species is to solarize the soil to kill the plants. Remove and pot any desirable plants that you want to keep. Edge the bed and cover it with clear plastic to ‘cook’ the tops and roots of the plants. Leave the plastic in place for at least six of the hottest weeks during the growing season.”

Melinda continues, “Monitor the plants you saved and watch for any lilies of the valley that may be growing among them—the last thing you want to do is reintroduce this aggressive plant to the garden. A total vegetation killer is the last option. Use one designed to knock out the tops and roots of any plant it contacts. Before choosing this strategy, shield the plants you want to keep and read the label instructions. Several applications will be needed.”

Next, check out 10 of the best daffodil bulbs to plant.

Rachel Maidl
Rachel Maidl is a former senior editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. She enjoys bird-watching in her urban backyard and local state parks, gardening for pollinators and researching new plants. Her favorite backyard visitors are the bumblebees that visit her sedums.