How To Get Rid Of Lily Of The Valley If It Takes Over Your Garden

With such a pretty name, you might be surprised to learn that lily of the valley is highly invasive, and also poisonous. Though it's pretty and sweet-smelling, if you see this plant in your garden, you may want to get rid of it.

Many people grow lily of the valley intentionally. However, it can quickly spread beyond where you intended to grow it. For others, lily of the valley is an unwelcome invader from the beginning. Either way, this is a plant you won't want to leave unchecked.

Lily of the valley has rhizomes: horizontal stems that allow the plant to spread underground. This makes it an effective invader, with a tendency to steal space from other plants. 

Not only can it take over your garden, but it can also pose a threat to children and pets. Though it's poisonous, it has edible-looking red berries, which create a dangerous temptation. 

Luckily, there are ways to remove this tricky plant from your garden. Removing the whole plant (including underground stems), or blocking it from growing, are the best and most sustainable options. If all else fails, you can also try herbicides.

Natural methods for removal

First, you can try digging up the unwanted plants. Digging up lily of the valley can be very effective — if it's done correctly. If you leave pieces of the plant underground, though, it'll continue to grow. 

You'll want to dig deep and carefully. This method works best for relatively small invasions. Remember to put on gloves before you touch any part of the plant, since it can irritate your skin. 

If the problem's too significant to pull by hand, grab a spade to help you get under the whole plant. However, make sure to also use your fingers to comb through the soil and get any leftover pieces out. You might need to repeat this process two to three times to get all the plants.

Another option is to create a barrier that blocks lily of the valley from growing. Pull up all the plants you can, then add several layers of damp newspaper or flat cardboard over the area. Put mulch on top. Leave this barrier on until the growing season ends, and the remaining plants should get smothered. 

Using herbicides on lily of the valley

Common gardening advice holds that herbicides can be toxic and harm other plants in your yard, so they're often best avoided. However, as a last resort, they can work against lily of the valley.

You'll need a glyphosate herbicide like Roundup to control the invasion chemically. Because this herbicide is toxic, remember to wear gloves, just like you would when handling the plant itself. Keep in mind that this herbicide will kill every plant in its path, not just lily of the valley, so you should be careful where you apply it. 

Follow the directions on the herbicide container for application. After the initial application, repeat the process in about two weeks to ensure success. If this still hasn't worked, consider adding a third dose.

Lily of the valley can be a benefit to some gardens, but it's not for everyone. With one or a combination of these strategies, you can get rid of your lily of the valley invasion for good.