Delightful Daylilies

Easy, beautiful, and prolific

Emily Clay

Daylilies absolutely live up to their name! The Greek word hemero means “beautiful,” and the Greek word callis means “day,” so the scientific name for daylily, Hemerocallus fulva, means “beautiful for a day,” which is exactly what a daylily is.

Luckily, the plant is usually covered with buds that open at different times so that it can be in bloom for two to three weeks on average. Daylily blossoms open, mature, and wither in a 24-hour period. Not many flowering plants share this fleeting characteristic. Daylilies first reached England in 1575. They were originally brought over through the trade routes from China. While some people consider daylilies as being a mainly Southern plant, they actually thrive all the way to the coast of Maine. They do not, however, flourish as well in the lower, tropical South.

Many of the first Colonial settlers to America brought these hardy plants with them as memories of home to beautify their Colonial gardens. To this day, we can see clumps of daylilies by the roadside that have no rhyme or reason for being there, usually marking the location of an old homestead. If you are ever lucky enough to retrieve some of these daylilies, you should do so because these are the toughest varieties in existence. However, this variety of daylily can be extremely invasive, so plant these rescued beauties in a space all their own. That way they do not crowd out the fancier hybrids. Today more than 30,000 different varieties are available to add to your garden.

Daylilies are truly easy to care for because they are highly adaptable. Daylilies have relatively no insect enemies or diseases. Every now and then during a particularly hot and dry summer, aphids will appear on the leaves. The easiest way to take care of this problem is to spray the plants with a strong spray of water. This usually takes care of the problem, and the aphids will die or move on. All they require is well-drained fertile soil in full sun. They do not like to be planted too deeply. If they are protected from the broiling afternoon sun, the foliage will look fresh and green all season long. Daylilies can be planted anytime of the gardening year when the soil is not frozen. To ensure a strong bloom the following season, do not cut down the foliage until it has completely died back.

Remove the seed pods that appear after the blooms die back. Leaving the seed pods on can inhibit the blooms for next year; when you see the seed pods begin to develop, snip them off. This also makes the plant look neater and tidier for the rest of the growing season. The energy from the foliage helps to feed the blooms for next year.

Daylilies will benefit from a light fertilization once or twice during the growing season. Use a balanced granular fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or a liquid fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro. When buying new varieties at the nursery, purchase when they are blooming so that you know exactly what the bloom looks like and which variety you are buying. Many times in plant nurseries, the plant tags will get misplaced, so if you think you are buying a yellow daylily you may actually be buying an orange variety.

It is fun to go to local plant swaps and plant sales and talk to other gardeners. Since daylilies are so easy to divide, many are usually available for sale or to swap. Daylilies are prolific growers and do need to be divided every few years, so provide plenty of room for them to spread. Daylilies are easy to divide in the early spring or fall. Simply dig up the plant. Shake off the excess soil and pull the plant apart, providing you with many more daylilies to plant in your garden or to share with lucky gardening friends.

Daylilies are extremely versatile in the garden. They can be fillers in the perennial border, provide color and texture in an evergreen foundation garden, and serve as showpieces in the garden. Many entire gardens are completely dedicated to growing daylilies, including in the Midlands. Daylilies, planted in large clumps, are an effective way to control erosion on a slope. If you choose to add daylilies to your foundation planting, plant large groups of the same variety so that they really make a statement when they all burst into bloom.

If you decide to use them in an existing perennial garden, choose three or four varieties that you really like. Try to stagger the bloom time. Think about the texture of the foliage and place them in a complementary spot. For example, don’t plant next to an Asiatic lily with the same texture. Plant them near a more rounded plant, such as caryopteris, to provide contrast in the shape of the flower and the texture of the foliage. Try using dark blue and orange together. One great combination would be salvia ‘Black and Blue’ planted with an orange hybrid daylily.

I enjoy incorporating daylilies in the garden by adding them to a formal border. Daylilies look wonderful when planted in a bed outlined with a dwarf boxwood hedge. The boxwood hedge provides structure and contrast to the taller, strappy-leafed daylily and keeps the planting bed neat and tidy during the dormant season of the daylily. Peak blooming season for daylilies in Zone 8 is June.

However, some varieties start blooming as early as late April or May. New hybridized varieties can re-bloom as late as September. Try the well-known and reliable tried and true varieties that traditionally bloom in June. Daylilies are available in a myriad of colors and color combinations with endless choices. Varieties come in all the different sizes and shapes of blooms, and some new varieties are slightly fragrant. The color choices are impressive from tones of red, mahogany, orange, pink, yellow, melon, gold, and greenish yellows to many combinations of those colors. Hence, buy the plants in person while they are blooming. That way, you know exactly what appeals to you and exactly what you are buying.

Daylilies are gorgeous to use as cut flowers to bring the garden into your house; however, be warned that the blossoms can “bleed” as they wither and can leave a damaging stain. Make sure you put them in a location where they will not damage any upholstered furniture or rugs. If you are a new gardener, daylilies are a great perennial to cut your teeth on because you will probably have great success growing them. They are an excellent choice for a seasoned gardener as well because so many interesting and varied hybrids are available to slowly add to the garden. So find a sunny spot in your garden, a blank space in your foundation planting, or a brand new area for your new collection of hybrid daylilies.


Varieties to Consider

Because daylilies are fairly easy to hybridize, many choices are available. Daylilies, like roses, are often named in honor of someone or an event when they were hybridized.

‘Bertie Ferris’ is a mid-season bloomer with persimmon-colored ruffled blossoms on strong 15-inch stems.

‘Catherine Woodbery’ is a taller variety, maturing at 30 inches with pale, orchid-pink delicate blossoms.

‘Chicago Fire’ has a very descriptive name. It is a brilliant red hybrid with 6-inch blossoms on 24-inch stems, which bloom in mid-season.

‘Evergold’ is a popular deep gold hybrid that grows to a mature height of 40 inches and blooms much later than most daylilies. It blooms in August.

‘Ed Murray’ is a dramatic deep-red, almost black, variety that grows to 28 inches and blooms in mid-season.

‘Hyperion’ is a favorite hybrid of mine. It is a fragrant lemon-colored variety that blooms in mid-season and reaches a mature height of 42 inches. This is a sturdy, prolific variety.

‘Stella de Oro’ was one of the first repeat-blooming hybrids. It has 3-inch golden, yellow flowers that bloom from late June into September. It is a shorter variety, reaching a mature height of 14 to16 inches. This variety is easy to find in our local garden centers.


Chores for the April Gardener

April is one of the best months for gardening and being outside. Cool mornings give way to warm afternoons that draw us outside. The first hosta crowns poking up through the soil give a sure sign that spring has sprung and that it is time for gardeners to get   busy outside in their favorite place.

• Now is the perfect time to put out early summer annuals. Wait until right after Easter, and then get those annuals in the ground.

• Sow zinnia seeds for mid-summer bloom.

• Plant any new perennials that you would like to add to the garden. Planting them now will give them time to acclimate before the blazing hot temperatures of summer arrive.

• Check your irrigation system. If you don’t have an irrigation system, add one, if possible, or begin water regularly whenever the garden and grass get dry.

• Why not add some hanging baskets to your house to enhance your porch or deck?

• If you dug up and stored dahlias for the winter, now is the time to get them back into the ground for late-summer blooms.

• Add caladiums to your shady areas for brightening texture and variegation.

• Prune any shrubbery that has already bloomed, such as azaleas, spirea, quince, and others.

• Do not prune flowering shrubs that have not bloomed yet.

• Fertilize azaleas, rhododendron, gardenias, and any other acid-loving plants with Plant-tone. Make sure to wash it off the leaves after applying and to water it in.

• Begin bringing your indoor plants outside during the warmer times of the day. Keep them in the shade so that leaves do not get burned. Spray them down with the hose to get any dust off and give them a fresh start.

• Some indoor plants may need to be re-potted if they have become root-bound.

• Fertilize your indoor plants, while they are enjoying a sunny day outside, with a light dose of liquid fertilizer, such as Miracle-Gro.

• Redefine all your planting beds.

• Check outdoor lighting for burned-out bulbs or fixtures that need to be moved or adjusted. Or if you don’t have outdoor lighting, install it now.

• Prune any limbs that are shading out sun-loving shrubbery or perennials.


What’s blooming in the Midlands?

Azalea, banana shrub, deutzia, dogwood, Lady Banks’ rose, oakleaf hydrangea, pomegranate, rose, spirea, tea olive, coreopsis, dianthus, geranium, Gerbera daisy, iris, lantana, pansy, petunia, phlox, poppy, snapdragon, stokesia, viola.