Have you ever experienced the irresistible charm of the lily of the valley? This attractive groundcover is a hard match for its elusive scent and scallop-edged bell-shaped flowers that dangle atop emerald-green foliage. Although tough to beat, several plants effectively mimic the delicate and charming nature of the lily of the valley.
Lily of the valley isn’t a true lily but actually belongs to the asparagus family. Convallaria majalis gets its common name from two Latin words Vallis, meaning ‘valley,’ and majalis, meaning ‘May-blooming.’ It is native to Eurasia, where it thrives amongst shady nooks.
In spring, petite, intensely fragrant, snow-white blooms line the stems of the lily of the valley for several weeks. The dainty flowers mature into bright orange-red berries in the fall.
At her tallest, the lily of the valley grows to be 10 inches tall. However, don’t let her dainty stature fool you. These low-lying plants often become invasive, spreading persistently across vast forestland areas.
There are several lily of the valley cultivars, including:
- ‘Rosea’ produces rosy pink flowers.
- ‘Flore Pleno’ is valued for its larger, double-bell flowers.
- ‘Fortin’s Giant’ boasts larger flowers.
- ‘Hardwick Hall’ is a vigorous grower with yellow chartreuse edges on the foliage.
- ‘Albostriata’ has an open habit and white-streaked leaves.
- ‘Albomarginata’ has broad, dark green foliage edged with a white line.
- ‘Fernwood’s Golden Slippers’ emerges yellow-green foliage that never quite turns green.
- ‘Crema da Mint’ boasts yellow and bright light green striped leaves.
- ‘Bordeaux’ grows up to a foot tall with larger flowers.
1. Japanese Pieris
Japanese Pieris (Pieris Japonica) is a broadleaf evergreen shrub also known as the lily-of-the-valley shrub; hence its strikingly similar blooms. It boasts year-round interest with oblong leaves that change color throughout the season. The plant’s foliage opens with a reddish-bronze hue that matures into a glossy green.
The Japanese Pieris is an early bloomer. It features purplish-red flower buds in late winter that transform into dangling clusters of creamy white or pale pink blooms during late winter and early spring.
The Japanese Pieris have a slow growth habit. Use it for year-round interest and minimal care for shrub borders, hedges, or foundation planting. The plant is a sun to part shade lover and thrives in moist, well-draining, and organically rich soil.
Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are cheerful bulbous perennial often appears during late winter between blankets of snow. As their name suggests, snowdrops are amongst the first flowers to bloom in spring.
Like the lily of the valley, snowdrops only mature to 10 inches tall. The purest of white, bell-shaped flowers dangle off the ends of leafless stalks amongst grayish-green foliage. Once established, these plants will lift your spirits on a late winter’s day with their early blooms.
Snowdrops require minimal fuss and are mostly pest and disease resistant. They are easily grown in full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. Snowdrops are best planted in masses in sweeping drifts, patios, rock gardens, or under shrubs and deciduous trees.
3. Spring Snowflake
The spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum) is a bulbous perennial native to Asia and Europe. In early spring, the plant features nodding bell-shaped flowers with snow-white petals with yellow-tipped tepals.
Like the lily of the valley, spring snowflake flowers only grow to 10 inches tall and up to 3 inches wide. Despite its small size, the spring snowflake is an easy grower. Spring snowflake thrives in areas with full sun to part shade and rich, moist, and well-drained soil.
The elongated, glossy green foliage and delicate flowers are an excellent addition to beds, borders, sweeping drifts, and rock gardens. Ensure you plant them in large groups to create an enchanting effect.
4. Swamp Doghobble
Swamp Doghobble (Eubotrys racemosus), also known as Swamp Sweetbells, is a deciduous shrub with attractive, glossy foliage. From spring to early fall, the plant’s branches bear drooping clusters of white, bell-shaped flowers that weigh the stems down and create a weeping effect.
As the name suggests, Swamp Sweetbells thrive in wetlands, swamps, and shady woodlands. Although a full-shade lover, it tolerates full sun if given consistent moisture.
Swamp Doghobble shrubs are ideal for shrub borders, cottage gardens, and woodland gardens. Be cautious if you have children or animals; most parts are poisonous when ingested.
Ladybells (Adenophora bulleyana) are deciduous perennials closely related to the Campanula family. In late spring, these plants sport spikes of showy, bell-shaped blooms in pleasing periwinkle blue hues.
Common Ladybells reach heights of 24 to 36 inches, while other varieties, like Lilyleaf and purple Ladybells, only reach 18 to 24 inches tall. Adenophora Ladybells thrive in full sunlight and moist, well-drained soil.
Ladybells are the epitome of charm in a garden setting. Consider planting them in a cottage, prairie, or woodland garden setting.
6. Peach-Leaved Bellflower
Peach-leaved bellflower (Campanula persicifolia) is a fast-growing perennial with an abundance of white, lilac, or blue bell-shaped flowers that dance atop upright stalks and vibrant green foliage during the summer.
These perennials reach up to 24 inches tall. Peach-leaved bellflowers thrive in full sun to partial shade and consistently moist, well-draining soil. Bellflowers dislike intense summer heat. They prefer temperate regions with cool summers and remain evergreen in mild winters.
Plant peach-leaved bellflowers in groups to add an exciting splash of color to perennial borders, cottage gardens, and mixed containers. The long-lived blooms attract butterflies and other pollinators.
Fetterbush (Lyonia lucida) is a graceful evergreen shrub prized for its arching branches adorned with sweetly fragrant bell-shaped blooms in shades from white to blush pink. The flowers last throughout spring into the early simmer.
Fetterbush naturally occurs in bogs, swamps, wet woodlands, and along stream banks. They can grow to 3 to 6 feet tall and wide. Plant fetterbush shrubs in partial shade and consistently moist, well-draining soil.
Fetterbush is perfect for shrub borders, along ponds and streams, or woodland and cottage gardens. The fragrant flowers attract bees and other pollinators. However, the plant is toxic to humans and animals.
Twinflower (Linnaea borealis) is a creeping, lightly mat-forming perennial that gets its common name from its twin-like nature. The tiny bell-like flowers are dressed in hues of white and pink blooms and come in pairs, nodding atop thin Y-shaped stalks. The round, leathery leaves are also twin-like, paired on either side of the stem.
The highly scented flowers appear during the warmer summer months and only last around seven days. It matures to 10 inches tall and requires minimal care. The sweet blooms attract a variety of pollinators.
While the twinflower naturally grows in dark forests, heaths, and mountainous slopes, it is exceptionally adaptable to home gardens. Its fast-spreading nature makes it beautiful in a wildflower garden. Plant them densely for a full, evergreen ground cover.
9. Squirrel Corn
Squirrel corn (Dicentra canadensis) is a tuberous, clump-forming plant with ravishing lacy, blue-green foliage. The arching stems are adorned with dangling white, heart-shaped flowers from mid to late spring.
Squirrel corn is a spring-flowering ephemeral that only blooms for a brief period. It does not die after blooming but gives way to summer by turning dormant. The foliage disappears shortly after the flowers die and reappears in early spring.
Use squirrel corn as a delightful addition to a shade or woodland garden. Plant it in partial shade and moist, humus-rich soil that drains well. As a member of the poppy family, all parts of the squirrel corn plant are toxic to humans and animals.