This post is part of a 12-month series exploring birth flowers. Start here for an introduction and for a full list of all months.
May is a time of change, a transition between spring and summer. By now the earth is in bloom here in New Jersey, and anticipation for warm weather activities is high. There’s an old British superstition that washing your blankets in May was bad luck, but nowadays May is much better known for Star Wars day and the Kentucky Derby.
If you were born in May, your birthstone in emerald, your birth sign, depending on whether you were born early or late in the month is either Taurus or Gemini, and your birth month flower is as sweet as the springtime weather. It’s the dainty, bell-shaped and beloved Lily of the Valley.
May Birth Month Flower: Lily Of The Valley
The sweetly innocent Lily of the Valley is actually a highly toxic flower! Its roots, leaves, flowers and berries can all be harmful or fatal if ingested. So while we strongly advise not eating it, we definitely recommend enjoying its beauty.
Contrary to its toxic nature, it has a delightfully fresh, floral, slightly jasmine scent, and rightfully represents the return of happiness each spring.
Although it is most commonly known for its tiny white bell-shaped flowers, it also blooms in shades of pink that represent compassion, femininity and love. You can also find less common purple flowers, representing passion, rarity, dignity and success.
If you’re lucky enough to claim Lily of the Valley as your birth flower, you’re known as a sweet and tender person. You make those around you feel safe and cared for. You may be selfless and humble, but threaten a loved one and your protective mama-bear claws come out!
You’ve also got a practical side. You’re known as the reliable one in the bunch, and can handle the most difficult situation with savvy ease.
Lily Of the Valley Through History
The scientific name of Lily of the Valley is majalis, which appropriately means “belonging to May.” It has been known by more than one common name, too, including Our Lady’s Tears, May Lily, and May Bells.
One story has it that Lily of the Valley grew from Eve’s tears when she was expelled from the Garden of Eden. Nowadays, it symbolizes purity, joy, sincerity and motherhood. That makes it an ideal addition to a Mother’s Day bouquet this month!
Another tells the tale of Saint Leonard, who battled a dragon in the woods of France. It is said that wherever Saint Leonard’s blood was spilled, Lily of the Valley grew.
Its tiny bell-shaped flowers have also been known as the drinking cups of fairies.
In various myths around the world, this delicate flower has been said to protect against evil spirits, or even guard against spells cast by witches.
It’s been turned into a perfume scent by Christian Dior, featured in the bouquet at multiple royal weddings, been painted by modernist artist Marc Chagall, was grown at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and is the subject of a popular pub song written by a group of Nashville gospel singers.
This unique little flower has shown up in everything from TV shows to novels, sometimes as a secret poison and sometimes as a symbol of profound love. However you look at it, you can’t ignore the fact that this is a flower with a reputation!
Want To Plant Them?
Lily of the Valley is a woodland flower that grows well in rock gardens, shaded beds and wooded areas. It makes excellent ground cover, but be careful because it will spread quickly in rich, moist soil. If you’d prefer to enjoy this flower in small doses, you can also plant it successfully in a container garden.
For those with a dedicated green thumb, you can even bring them indoors and let them bloom away on a sunny windowsill.
They prefer evenly moist soil in partial shade, but they’re fairly hardy plants and can adapt to dry or sunny conditions, too.
Its May blooms will last anywhere from two to four weeks, and cut flowers can grace kitchen tables, windowsills and places of honor for as long as a week.
In the fall, you can look forward to bright orange berries and golden leaves.
Add these beauties to a naturalistic wildflower garden and you’ll be rewarded with multiple seasons of beauty.
Bonus Flower: Hawthorn
Lily of the Valley may be beloved across cultures but if you’re looking for something a little different, you may want to choose Hawthorne as your birth flower.
This flower belongs to the same family as apples, cherries and pears. It blooms in small pink or white flowers on small shrubs or trees that can grow as many as 30 feet tall!
Unlike its sister birth flower, the leaves and fruit of Hawthorn plants trees edible. Its fruit is often used to make jelly or wine.
Hawthorn flowers have a long association with hope and magic. In ancient mythology, they were said to heal a broken heart, and be able to mark the entrance to fairy worlds.
It’s a highly resilient flower and can grow in the poorest of soil. The trees also provide a habitat and sanctuary for a variety of birds, frogs and other wildlife.
If you choose this as your birth flower, you are a believer in all things promising and magical. You’re passionate and dedicated, and unafraid to take risks in the pursuit of doing the right thing.
Which of May’s birth month flowers resonated most with you? And don’t feel shy about claiming them both – the most beautiful gardens are full of variety!
If you’re inspired to plant your birth month flower – or any others! – get in touch with us for a consultation. We’ll get to know you and your personality so that we can design an outdoor space that will resonate and bring you joy throughout all four seasons.
More In This Series
Birth Month Flowers Introduction: What Does Yours Mean? (A Series in 12 Parts)
January: Carnations and Snow Drops
February: Violets and Primrose
May: Lily of the Valley and Hawthorn
Stay tuned for a new flower each month throughout the year!