May Birth Flowers: A Look at Lily of the Valley & Hawthorn

Published April 14, 2021
Woman with a bouquet of lilies of the valley

The May birth flower choices are lily of the valley and hawthorn. Hawthorn is actually the blossom of a tree, and lily of the valley is a garden flower. When you understand the differences in the May flower choices, you can decide which one you wish to use. After all, it's far simpler to plant flowers than to accommodate a large tree that can grow between 15' and 30' tall.

Lily of the Valley as the May Birth Flower

Lily of the valley features bell-shaped, bright white flowers. The stems arch over with a cluster of small white bell blossoms dangling underneath as though they are actually bells ringing. Also called May Bells, and Mary's Tears, the lily of the valley is a perennial that loves partial shade.

Lily of the Valley Flower

Known in French as muguet, the lily of the valley is a common perfume fragrance because it has an unmistakable aroma. You'll find lily of the valley as the predominant aromatic note in a number of fragrances from famous design houses such as Dior, Kate Spade, and Yves Saint Laurent. Therefore, a muguet-based fragrance is an ideal gift for someone with a May birthday. Once you smell lily of the valley, you never forget it.


Along with its fragrance, lily of the valley has associated symbolism that makes it an especially meaningful gift for May birthdays.

  • The lily of the valley is the symbol of rebirth.
  • Other meanings of this delicate, almost fairy-like flower include purity, humility, and motherhood.
  • Ancient folklore holds lily of the valley in high esteem. It is believed that once planted in your garden, the lily of the valley will protect against evil spirits coming into your garden and into your home.
  • It is also a long-held symbol of the qualities found in femininity. These include love, purity, chaste, motherhood, faith, and trust. It is often used in bridal bouquets and floral wedding decorations.
  • Lily of the valley is said to be a good lucky charm for reuniting with a loved one. It is a symbol of happiness and joy.
  • Over the centuries, the lily of the valley has become a Christian symbol. This flower represents the second coming of Christ.

How to Grow

Lilies of the valley are easy to grow. You can grow them from a rhizome and propagate through division after about three years. Choose a rhizome pip (pointed bud) to plant no more than ½" deep. This plant should be set out in the early fall so it can enjoy the dormancy of winter.

Sun, Soil, and Water

Lily of the valley will grow in almost any type of terrain and climate. However, this woodland flower is happiest in a cool, shady, and moist environment. Lily of the valley loves the shade and moist soil, although it can survive in drier conditions. The plant can adapt to partial shade and, in some instances, full sun as long as the temperature remains cool.

Grow as a Groundcover

Since lily of the valley grows around 6" to 12" tall, it is a favorite groundcover among gardeners. Red seed pods emerge once the plant blooms, giving it an added splash of color.

Invasive if Not Controlled

Lily of the valley can quickly get out of control and become invasive to other plants in your garden. Some gardeners plant this mystical looking plant in containers to control it from spreading.

Lily of Valley Is Poisonous

You need to keep children and pets away from lily of the valley since it is poisonous. The red seed pods are especially intriguing, but cautions should be taken to protect children and pets from this highly poisonous plant.

Very Few Pests and Diseases

Lily of the valley has very few pests. Its leaves can be damaged by weevils, but this isn't a regular problem. Fungal infections, such as leaf spotting, can happen occasionally, but this is easily remedied by removing the diseased leaves.

Hawthorn as a May Flower

The hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) isn't a cut flower. It's a blooming small tree that is part of the rose family. The hawthorn can be trained to grow as a shrub, specifically as a blooming hedge. This tree is also known as the May tree. The blooms are pink, red, and white. You may choose to grow an ornamental hedge or plant a single tree. The trees grow between 15'-25' tall.

White Hawthorn blossom

Hawthorns With Thorns

Some hawthorns have sharp thorns that conceal several pathogenic bacteria as part of its defense arsenal. You should decide if you wish a hawthorn with thorns.

Stench From Blossoms

Unfortunately, the hawthorn blossoms have an offensive odor, which is why historically they were only used for outdoor celebration with garlands and decorations. The odor has been compared to that of death. It's not surprising, then, that it is associated with death. The culprit for the foul smell is the same chemical that decaying tissue releases.

Saving Grace for Including Hawthorn in Your Garden

While the hawthorn blossoms may be attractive, their odor is more than offputting. The saving grace for this tree is the fruit it produces. Known as haws, the fruit is used to make jams and jellies, as well as flavoring for brandy, wines, and syrups. Hawthorn extract has long been used in homeopathy for cardiovascular health.

Meaning and Symbolism

Hawthorne has many interesting meanings and symbolic traditions.

  • Traditionally, gifting someone with this flower is considered a message of best wishes for their well-being.
  • It's a symbol of happiness, hope, and faith.
  • Hawthorn flowers have long been symbols of all types of love.
  • In Celtic traditions, the hawthorn is sacred as a symbol of protection and love. Brides would gather hawthorn sprigs with flowers to adorn their hair or carry as a bridal bouquet.
  • Hawthorn plays an important role in the Celtic holiday Beltane, festival of spring, also known as May Day. The blossoms are used to decorate in celebration of this time of renewal and awakening.
  • Hawthorn is the sixth tree in the Celtic Tree Ogham (20 trees total), serving as a symbol of love, protection, fertility, and spiritual growth. The Ogham Trees are believed to hold certain powerful energies that bestow wisdom and assist in magical rituals.

Choose May Flowers for Gardens or Gifts

The mystique and history behind the lily of the valley and hawthorn blossoms gives you exciting ice breakers for flower conversations. Both are beautiful to look at, but with one beautifully fragranced and the other stinky, you have a dichotomy of May flowers for planting and gifting.

May Birth Flowers: A Look at Lily of the Valley & Hawthorn