Japanese lily of the valley, Pink lily of the valley - Ophiopogon japonicus


to the genus ten species belong, originating from Asia; these are small perennial, evergreen plants, similar to dense tufts of slightly leathery grass. The ophiopogon leaves are thin, ribbon-like, arched, from five to 25 cm long, depending on the species; they are dark green in color and have a fairly leathery consistency. They develop a stoloniferous root system, shallow, which makes the plant an excellent ground cover; generally they remain between 15 and 25 cm tall, even if there are dwarf varieties. O. planiscapus has varieties with almost black leaves; there are also many cultivars of Ophiopogon japonicus, also with variegated leaves.
In the summer between the leaves stand small racemes, which bear some tiny, pink, white or purple flowers, similar to lilies of the valley; the flowers of ophiopogon japonicus are not very decorative, especially because they are generally almost completely hidden by the leaves.


Pink or Japanese lily-of-the-valley plants are very suitable for shaded flowerbeds, as they can develop better in places where they are not directly affected by sunlight, but can withstand a few hours of direct sunlight, preferably not in the course of hours warmer than the day. The specimens of this genus do not fear the cold, for this reason these plants can be grown in the open ground even in places where the winter temperatures are rather rigid without the need to provide special protections during the winter season.


In the period from March to October-November the pink lily-of-the-valley plants water quite regularly, taking care to intervene only when the soil is dry and verifying that the soil does not allow the formation of stagnations tell us that they are poorly tolerated and they can cause the onset of radical rot. This type of plant can withstand short periods of drought. During the spring and summer period, fertilizer is supplied for green plants, every 20-30 days, dissolved in the water used to guarantee better growth and a more luxuriant development than the Japanese lily-of-the-valley plants.

How to grow Japanese lily of the valley in the open ground

The ophiopogon is an extremely resistant plant: once it is franked it will become practically autonomous and will expand slowly, but inexorably. To obtain a fast rooting it is important to eliminate weeds between one plant and another. The soil should always be kept slightly humid, especially if the position is very hot in the afternoon and if we have chosen dark varieties.
The foliage can be damaged either by the sun or by frost, with consequent widespread drying out. It is rare that these lead to a real general deterioration, but eliminating the damaged parts will help to stimulate renewal.
In mountain areas, to avoid excessive depletion of the aerial parts, it is advisable to cover the area with the appropriate non-woven fabric. In November it is good to spread a good amount of manure on the ground: in spring we will integrate it with a balanced granular product, incorporating it into the soil with a light hoe.


Japanese lily of the valley plants need a fertile and loose soil, very well drained; in general it seems they can also be adapted to the common garden soil. The ideal substrate for this variety of plants is made up of peat, sand, organic material and soil, so it is possible to get the best from perennials belonging to this genus.

How to grow lily of the valley in a vase

We supply a soil rich in organic substance and able to stay fresh for a long time, but with good drainage. We water frequently, but always waiting for the substrate to be dry for at least the first 3 cm. In the cold months we reduce doses to a minimum.
Repotting and splitting take place every 3 years or when the head has occupied all the available space.
In winter, if the temperatures drop below -5 ° C, it is good to place the vase in a sheltered area. The ideal is to place it next to a wall to the south.

Uses and combinations of lily of the valley

Ophiopogons are ideal plants to place in shaded and wet areas. They can be used alone or alternated with other essences. Those of smaller dimensions turn out to be very useful as ground cover, perhaps varying the color of the foliage: they will be of great impact, especially we use clear pebbles or bright shades as a base.
We can alternatively create a beautiful border by varying the colors and textures of the foliage. Interesting combinations are created with ferns, heuchera, tiarella, hosta, alchemilla, astilbe, carex, brunnera, dicentra, lobelia and some varieties of geranium.


The multiplication of this kind of plant usually takes place by dividing the tufts that form; the tufts of these perennial plants are divided in spring or in the autumn season; the young plants thus obtained are placed directly at home.

Pests and diseases

the ophiopogon japonicus they are not attacked by pests or diseases, but in the case where the soil in which they are planted does not have a good drainage it is possible that the formation of water stagnation occurs, which in a short time can lead to the formation of radical rots , which can be very harmful for this type of plant.

Japanese lily of the valley, Pink lily of the valley - Ophiopogon japonicus: Species and variety of lily of the valley

The genus includes approximately 65 species and innumerable varieties and cultivars. They are all from the Far East, in particular from China, Japan, the Philippines and Borneo.
Ophiopogon bodinieri
It is a tuberous plant with very thin, dark green leaves, up to 30 cm long; reaches a total height of about 20. It produces cream or red flower spikes, followed by berries. Suitable as a ground cover or in rock gardens. It grows well in pots.
Ophiopogon clarkei
Originally from India, it grows up to 25 cm expanding through horizontal stolons. The leaves are bright green, about half a centimeter wide. Very interesting for large flowers.
Ophiopogon intermedius
Endemic to India, China, Sri Lanka and the Himalayas. It grows up to 60 cm (generally no more than 30), but is extremely variable. Tufted form of very thin leaves, dark green with central rib in evidence. From the center, in summer, spikes of white or lilac, bell-shaped flowers are produced. Later they turn into bluish berries. It is an ideal essence for small borders, rock gardens and pots.
The 'Argenteomarginatus' cultivar has beautiful green and cream variegations and is the most widespread on the market.
Ophiopogon jaburan
One of the most impressive species: it can reach 60 cm and has wider and longer leaves. Unfortunately it is not completely rustic and is used as a houseplant or in aquariums. It produces white, pendulous flower stems, followed by oblong fruits in purple. The Vittatus variety is interesting for its light green leaves mottled and edged in cream.
Ophiopogon japonicus
It is the most widespread species in cultivation: it is appreciated for its vigor and for the wide range of cultivars available. It reaches 30 cm in height and spreads quickly thanks to its tuberous roots. It produces flower spikes in blue and white, followed by deep blue berries. The leaves are long, fine and leathery.
The most interesting cultivars are:
'Minor' up to 10 cm high, ideal as a ground cover, also due to its rapid development and great longevity. It flowers in the cream.
'Compactus' like the one above, but at most 8 cm.
'Gyoko-Ryu' very small, about 7 cm high
'Kigmafukiduma' or 'Silver Mist' narrow leaves, with central silver line. High up to 30 cm.
'Nippon' 10 cm high, mauve flowers.
'Variegatus' mottled leaves and white flowers.
Ophiopogon planiscapus
Characterized by tufted foliage, up to 20 cm high. Much less vigorous than the others. In summer it produces bell-shaped stems with purple or white bell-shaped flowers.
The 'Nigrescens' cultivar is very popular: its dark purple (almost black) leaves have an impact, both in purity and combined with other contrasting essences.
Also interesting is 'Little Baby' 15 cm high with cream-green leaves and white flowers.
Watch the video
  • Japanese rose

    Only the japonica species, native to Asia, belongs to the genus Kerria; it is a medium-sized shrub,

    visit: Japanese rose