Creamy white star-shaped flowers, red berry decoration and a harmonious growth pattern make the robust feathery false lily of the valley an elegant appearance in the bed.
Profile of feathery false lily of the valley:
Scientific name: Maianthemum racemosum; syn. Smilacina racemosa, Vagnera racemosa
Plant family: asparagus family (Asparagaceae)
Other names: treacleberry, false Solomon’s seal, Solomon’s plume, false spikenard
Sowing time: autumn
Planting time: spring or autumn
Flowering period: May to June
Location: partially shady to shady
Soil quality: loamy, humus rich
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: group planting, planters, underplanting, inner courtyard, potted garden, forest garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 4 (-32 °C / -25 °F)
Bee and insect friendly: Yes
Plant characteristics and classification of feathery false lily of the valley
Plant order, origin and occurrence of feathery false lily of the valley
The feathery false lily of the valley (Maianthemum racemosa) is a knee-high, herbaceous perennial that grows in large parts of North America and in southern Canada up to an altitude of 2,700 meters (8,850 ft). It prefers forests on moist and soft soils, where it usually forms lush stands. At first sight it resembles lily of the valley and Solomon’s seal, but according to the botanical systematics it belongs to a separate genus, whose correct botanical name is Maianthemum and according to which the feathery false lily of the valley is called Maianthemum racemosum. In trade, however, the old name Smilacina racemosa is still used.
The North American perennial is subordinate to the asparagus family (Asparagaceae). Sometimes it is also found under the name false Solomon’s seal, which is derived from its similarity to the Solomon’s seal and the light scent of its flowers. The young shoots of the false Solomon’s seal can, freed from their leaves, be cooked in water and eaten, the resulting smell is similar to that of asparagus. Later, however, the shoots become too fibrous and bitter and the berries are considered highly poisonous.
Characteristics of feathery false lily of the valley
The perennial herbaceous feathery false lily of the valley forms a cylindrical rhizome that can grow up to 30 centimeters (12 in) long. Initially, upright stems shoot out of this rhizome, which, with the beginning of flowering, tilt down more and more, resulting in a very elegant growth pattern. The height of growth is given as 50 to 90 centimeters (20 to 36 in).
The parallel-veined leaves of the feathery false lily of the valley sit alternately on the stems, are elongated-lanceolate and grow up to 15 centimeters (6 in) long and 6 centimeters (2.4 in) wide. Their fresh green coloration forms a pretty background to the light-colored flowers. In autumn, when the perennial begins to wilt, the leaves turn yellow.
At the end of the stems the creamy white flowers of the feathery false lily of the valley open from May to June. The single star-shaped flower has six petals and grows only a few millimeters in size. The delicate individual flowers form a raceme about 5 centimeters (2 in) long. The scent of the flowers is reminiscent of lily of the valley, but is not as intense.
From June onwards, the false Solomon’s seal first forms green, roundish fruits that ripen in late summer and then take on a bright red coloration. Attention, the berries are poisonous!
Feathery false lily of the valley – cultivation and care
The feathery false lily of the valley feels most comfortable in partially shady to shady areas. Wind exposed areas should be avoided, as the perennial can suffer from frost in winter without leaves as a protective layer.
As in its natural habitat, the plant appreciates a fresh to moist, humusy loamy soil. The pH value should be in the neutral to slightly acidic range. Good permeability is important, because it does not tolerate waterlogging.
The best planting time for the shrub is spring or autumn. When used in a flat area, six plants per square meter (10 sq ft) and 40 centimeters (16 in) as planting distance are recommended for the false Solomon’s seal.
Care / Watering / Fertilization / Pruning
Especially during the growing phase, one should pay attention to an even water supply of the feathery false lily of the valley. Already established stands survive short dry periods without problems. In general: water less often, but thoroughly and penetratingly. The layer of foliage left under the woody plants in autumn usually provides sufficient nutrients, but a layer of compost in spring will not do any harm. The withered above-ground shoots of the plant are cut back to the ground either in autumn or early spring.
When the plants become lazy in flower and begin to age, one should dig out their rhizomes in spring or autumn, divides them and then replants them.
The feathery false lily of the valley can be grown from seed, but it sometimes takes a long time for the seed to emerge, as they need cold to germ. More promising is a vegetative propagation by division of the rhizome. However, newly planted plants should be allowed to grow undisturbed for several years before digging up and dividing them for the first time. The best time to do this is in spring before budding starts or in autumn.
Diseases and pests
In the right location, thefalse Solomon’s seal proves to be a very robust perennial that shows no susceptibility to diseases and pests.
The plant is hardy down to -32 °C / -25 °F. Some cover with leaves or brushwoood is recommended.
Use in the garden
The feathery false lily of the valley feels most comfortable under deciduous shrubs or on the edge of a wood, so that it is always slightly shaded. In its natural habitat it is associated with ferns and Pacific trillium (Trillium ovatum), but also astilbes, ornamental grasses and the blue flowering aconite are harmonious partners. It has a clear architectural effect when it is used as an extensive planting in forest garden areas. But the plant also knows how to hold its own in the shadow of walls near buildings and it also feels at home in the undergrowth that accompanies the water. Thanks to its longevity and resistance, it is also a good choice for larger planting pots, making it an enrichment for partially shady balconies and terraces as well as shaded patios.