Do Lily Of The Valley Like Sun Or Shade?

Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is a sweetly fragrant flowering plant that is native to Asia, Europe, and North America. This low-growing perennial has bell-shaped, nodding white flowers that bloom in the spring. In this article, we will explore lily of the valley’s preferred sunlight exposure and how that impacts its growth and flowering. Understanding its ideal lighting conditions can help gardeners provide the right environment for this cherished shade plant. We will examine whether lily of the valley thrives better in full sun or partial shade, and provide tips for maximizing growth and blooms.

Native Habitat

Lily of the valley is native to cool, shady forests in the Northern Hemisphere, including Asia, Europe, and North America. Its natural habitat ranges from England and Ireland in the west, to Japan in the east, and south to the mountains of Spain and Italy. It is also native to some parts of the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern United States.

The plant thrives in the cool, moist climate of boreal forests, preferring shady locations and humus-rich soil. Lily of the valley grows wild beneath dense tree canopies, often near streams or wetlands. Its native range experiences cold winters and mild summers, with moderate rainfall spread throughout the growing season.

Sun Exposure

In their native woodland habitat, lily of the valley naturally grow in dappled shade under larger trees and shrubs. They thrive best with partial shade and cool conditions. According to Longfield Gardens, lily of the valley blooms most prolifically in partial shade, but can also grow in full shade. However, plants grown in too much shade may produce fewer flowers.

BHG recommends morning sun with afternoon shade as ideal for lily of the valley. A few hours of morning sunlight allows the plants to photosynthesize and produce energy, followed by protection from the harsher afternoon rays. Afternoon shade prevents foliage scorching and drying out.

Overall, lily of the valley prefer part sun, part shade conditions. They do best with 2-6 hours of cool morning sunlight and bright shade for the remainder of the day. This provides the right balance of light exposure to maximize growth and flowering.

Ideal Sunlight Conditions

Lily of the valley thrives best in dappled or partial sunlight, meaning it should receive 2-6 hours of sun exposure with filtered light for the remainder of the day (Longfield-Gardens). This bright but indirect light allows the lily of the valley to photosynthesize and grow effectively, while shielding it from the intense heat and sunlight that causes scorching (Easytogrowbulbs).

Specifically, lily of the valley prefers morning sun with afternoon shade, or late day sun with morning shade (Longfield-Gardens). East or west facing exposures often provide this mix of sun and shade. While lily of the valley can tolerate short periods of direct sun, especially in cooler climates, hot afternoon sun should be avoided as much as possible.

If grown in too much shade, lily of the valley may become leggy and produce fewer flowers. But too much direct sun will cause leaf scorch, so finding the right balance is key (Easytogrowbulbs). Overall, bright indirect light from a north, east or west exposure is ideal for robust lily of the valley growth and blooming.

Too Much Sun

Lily of the valley can suffer when exposed to too much direct sunlight. As noted by Picture This, the leaves may start to turn yellow, dry out, or even burn if the plant gets too much sun. This is because lily of the valley thrives in partial to full shade conditions, and the intense sunlight can scorch the leaves.

Signs of stress from excessive sunlight include:

  • Yellowing leaves – The leaves will start to turn yellow and appear washed out.
  • Dry, brittle foliage – The leaves will dry out and start to feel crisp or brittle.
  • Leaf scorch – Brown or black burn marks will show up around the edges or tips of leaves.
  • Stunted growth – Exposure to too much light can inhibit growth and prevent new leaves from unfurling properly.
  • Wilting – Leaves may start to wilt or droop downwards if suffering from too much sunlight.

To summarize, lily of the valley does best in partial to full shade. Too much direct sun will stress the plant, causing yellowing, burnt leaves and other issues. Monitoring for signs of leaf scorch and dryness allows gardeners to move their lilies or provide shade as needed.

Too Little Sun

Lily of the valley require at least 4 hours of sunlight per day to thrive, according to gardeners at Picture This AI (source). When they don’t get enough sunlight, you may notice signs of stress in the plants. The most common signs of too little sunlight include:

  • Smaller leaf size – The leaves may be significantly smaller than normal.
  • Leggy growth – The stems become tall and spindly as the plant reaches for sunlight.
  • Failure to bloom – Without adequate sunlight, lily of the valley likely won’t produce any flowers.
  • Wilting – Constantly drooping or wilting leaves indicate the plant is stressed and weakened.
  • Chlorosis – Yellowing of the leaves (chlorosis) as nutrients cannot be processed properly without sufficient sunlight.

According to gardening experts, lily of the valley relegated to heavy shade may survive, but they will look unhealthy and weak (source). Make sure to provide at least 4-6 hours of sunlight if you want your lily of the valley to thrive and bloom.

Maximizing Growth

Lily of the valley grows best in dappled sunlight or partial shade. According to the Lily of the Valley Planting Guide on Easy to Grow Bulbs, lily of the valley “does best in partial shade but can also be adapted to full sun or full shade.” However, too much direct sunlight, especially in hot afternoon sun, can scorch the leaves and inhibit flowering. For maximum growth and the most prolific blooms, plant lily of the valley where they will get morning sunlight but be shaded in the hottest afternoon hours.

If planting in containers, Southern Living recommends placing the pots “in a partly shaded spot that receives no more than 2 to 3 hours of morning sun.” Again, avoiding the harsh midday and afternoon sun will allow the lily of the valley to thrive. Monitor the amount of sunlight as the seasons change and adjust the placement as needed. A little afternoon shade in summer can make a big difference.

Overall, look for areas in partial shade or dappled sunlight to encourage lush, healthy foliage and the greatest quantity of delicate, fragrant blooms from your lily of the valley.

Container Growing

Growing lily of the valley in containers requires some special considerations when it comes to sunlight exposure. Lily of the valley prefers shady conditions, but container plants can dry out more quickly than in-ground plantings. Containers in full sun may need watering twice per day during hot, dry periods according to gardening experts.

The ideal location for lily of the valley containers is a spot that receives morning sun but afternoon shade. East-facing locations are perfect to provide a few hours of sun then shade for the hottest part of the day. Dappled sunlight that shines through trees is also an excellent option.

lily of the valley plants grown in containers require morning sun and afternoon shade

Make sure the container itself does not heat up too much in direct sun. Use a light-colored container or place a saucer underneath terra cotta pots to help reflect heat. Adding mulch on top of the soil will also help keep container plants cool.

Monitor soil moisture closely, especially for containers in sunny areas. Add water when the top 1-2 inches of soil become dry. Self-watering containers or drip irrigation systems can help simplify watering.

With the right sunlight conditions, lily of the valley can thrive in patio containers, window boxes, and potted plantings.

Regional Differences

Lily of the valley grows best in cool, moist climates. Its native habitat is the woodlands and forests of Europe, northern Asia, and North America. The climate in these regions is generally more temperate with lower summer temperatures.

In warmer regions or areas with hot, dry summers, lily of the valley may require more shade and moisture. For example, in the southern United States, it’s best grown in areas with eastern or northern exposure that provide shade from the intense afternoon sun. Mulching around the plants can also help retain soil moisture. In hot climates, afternoon shade is especially important.

In cooler northern regions, lily of the valley may tolerate more sunlight. Morning sun is generally fine as long as the plants have some protection from the midday and afternoon sun. Dappled sunlight filtering through trees is ideal.

Regardless of climate, lily of the valley thrives in organically rich, humusy soils that retain moisture. Amending native soils with compost or leaf mold will help replicate its preferred growing conditions.


In summary, lily of the valley are woodland perennials that do best in dappled sunlight or light shade. They thrive with around 3-6 hours of filtered sunlight per day. Too much direct sun can cause foliage burn, while too little light leads to reduced flowering. For the healthiest growth, plant lily of the valley in a partially shaded spot in the garden that receives morning sun but afternoon shade. This protects the plants while still allowing sufficient light for robust blooming. With the right balance of sun and shade, these sweet spring-blooming flowers will flourish.

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