Pests On Lily Of The Valley : Bugs And Animals That Eat Lily Of The Valley Plants

Pests On Lily Of The Valley : Bugs And Animals That Eat Lily Of The Valley Plants

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

A fetching spring perennial, lily of the valley is a native of temperate Europe and Asia. It thrives as a landscape plant in the cooler, moderate ranges of North America. Its sweetly fragrant small, white flowers are a harbinger of summer’s warmth. It is not a difficult plant to grow but does require some light maintenance, especially consistent water. There are few disease issues or lily of the valley pests. Learn what pests on lily of the valley might be of concern, and how to identify and combat them.

Are There Animals That Eat Lily of the Valley?

Over time, a lily of the valley patch will spread and fill in with broad, scooping leaves and the tiny, delicate blooms. There are few animals that eat lily of the valley, as the bulbs contain a toxin that even rodents find distasteful. Even deer do not browse the leaves and flowers.

The ASPCA cautions home growers against having lily of the valley in the landscape. The plant is extremely toxic to cats, dogs, and even horses. Most wild creatures avoid the plant and its rhizomes. This woodland native produces its own toxins to prevent wild animals from eating it. The toxin can cause diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, arrhythmia, and even death.

Insect lily of the valley pests are also not of much concern, although there are some crawling gastropods that find the leaves rather tasty.

Potential Lily of the Valley Pests

Due to the plant’s toxicity, it is rarely bothered by any insects. However, insect pests may have a field day on the leaves and some also snack on the flowers. In hot, dry conditions, spider mites may suck sap from leaves, causing them to turn yellow or stipple.

Some gardeners claim weevils are also snacking on their lily of the valley plants, but their appearance is usually brief and does not hurt the plant. The most common and prevalent of the pests are snails and slugs. These gastropods will do quite a bit of damage to the foliage, creating ragged holes in the leaves. This does not destroy the plant, but can reduce its vigor, since leaves are important to the photosynthesis process where plants turn solar energy into carbohydrate fuel.

Treating Pests on Lily of the Valley

Slugs and snails do the most damage to the plant. In raised beds, lay copper tape around the perimeter. The pests are repelled by the metal. You may also choose to use a prepared slug bait but some of these are toxic in the garden with children and pets. Fortunately, there are several safe products on the market.

Pull away any mulch, where the pests hide and breed. You may also set traps or containers filled with beer to drown the gastropods. Begin trapping three weeks after the last frost to catch the pests. Refill traps weekly.

Alternatively, you can go out after dark with a flashlight and pick off the ravagers. Destroy them how you like, but the process is non-toxic and completely safe in the home landscape.

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Care for Lily of the Valley Flower

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The herbaceous perennial known as lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) produces fragrant, white, bell-shaped flowers that hang off gracefully bending stems. The small, spring flowers combined with lily of the valley's verdant green, sword-shaped leaves make the plant a living contrast of textures and colors. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8, lily of the valley thrives in moist, nutrient-rich, acidic soil and full to partial shade.

Pull weeds growing around lily of the valley plants. Remove all rocks, dead plant material and other debris from the ground. Spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of mulch around the plants by using a rake. Keep the mulch 3 to 4 inches from each plant's stem to prevent the stem from rotting.

Water the lily of the valley when the top 1 to 2 inches of soil becomes dry. Apply water from a garden hose directly onto the ground around the plants, avoiding wetting the plants' foliage as much as possible. Moisten the soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. Water during morning hours. Doing so allows accidentally moistened foliage time to dry before nightfall. Never allow the soil to become overly saturated, to the point that standing water is on the ground.

Fertilize lily of the valley with 10-10-10, slow-release, granular fertilizer every three months during the active growing season. Apply the fertilizer at a rate of 1 tablespoon per 1 square foot of soil. Sprinkle the fertilizer in a band around the plants, at least 6 inches from the stems to prevent fertilizer burn. Mix the fertilizer into the top 3 inches of soil with a rake. Water the area thoroughly to activate the fertilizer granules.

Cut off lily of the valley's flower stalks with a pair of pruning shears once the individual blooms begin to dry, turn yellow or brown and drop their petals. Position each cut 1/4 inch above the point where the flower stalk joins the main plant.

Remove dead, dry, brown or yellowing leaves as soon as possible. Cut horizontally across such a leaf at 1/4-inch above its base by using pruning shears.

Check the lily of the valley's leaves each time you water for symptoms of anthracnose. Symptoms include irregularly shaped brown to black spots and dead, dry or brown patches. Spray infected plants with a fungicide, coating both surfaces of the leaves thoroughly. Repeat the fungicide application 14 days later if symptoms persist.

Look for green-bodied aphids, thin webs created by spider mites and brown-to-white scale on the leaves and stems of lily of the valley. Wash of small populations of these pests with a steady stream of water from a garden hose. Spray large infestations with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil to eradicate them.

Divide each lily of the valley plant every two to four years, or when the plant becomes crowded or outgrows its landscape area. Dig an 8- to 10-inch deep circle around each plant with a shovel, making the circle 4 to 6 inches from the plant's stems. Push the shovel's blade horizontally across the bottom of the plant's root ball to free the plant. Lift the plant from the ground, and brush off excess soil. Cut apart the plant with a knife, creating divisions that each contains a healthy rhizome and stems. Replant the divisions at the plant's previous growing depth, spacing individual divisions 24 inches apart.

Is Lily of the Valley Toxic?

Lily of the valley is highly toxic both to people and to animals when ingested. All parts of the plant, including its orange-red fruits that often tempt children and pets, contain cardiac glycosides, which impact the heart. The toxins are most concentrated in the roots. However, even ingesting a small amount of berries or another part of the plant can cause serious illness and occasionally death. Wild animals generally avoid lily of the valley.

Fortunately, if you need to work with lily of the valley in your garden, you don’t have to worry about experiencing symptoms via skin contact from handling it (unless you have an individual sensitivity to the plant). Just make sure to wash your hands well before handling any food.

Symptoms of Poisoning

The more minor symptoms of lily of the valley poisoning in both people and animals include drooling, nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, and diarrhea. More serious symptoms include seizures, a low heart rate, cardiac arrhythmias, and even cardiac arrest. Symptoms generally occur within 24 hours of ingesting the plant. Contact a medical professional immediately if you suspect poisoning, even if no symptoms are present yet.

Watch the video: The Lily of the Valley