Hemerocallis, commonly known as daylilies, are undoubtedly the most versatile of all perennials, offering almost everything a gardener could want. In fact, they are often called perfect perennials. Daylilies are essentially carefree and flower for years on end, needing nothing more than well-drained soil and at least a half day of sun. Thanks to daylily breeders, we can now choose from colors that range from creamy yellows to coral pinks and fiery reds. You’ll now see many daylilies identified as being tetraploids. What that means is they have extra chromosomes, giving us richer, more intense colors, heavier petal texture, and unusual forms.
Description: Daylilies grow in clumps, sending up arching, strap-shaped leaves beginning early in the spring. These plants produce trumpet-shaped flowers in almost every color except blue. The individual blooms only last a day (hence their name) but the plants produce many buds over a period of weeks.
Culture: Daylilies can be planted any time of year, but prefer early spring and late summer. They will grow almost anywhere, performing best in average to rich, well-drained soil with full sun or light shade. Some older species can tolerate partial shade; however, most of the new ones will bloom best in full sun. Daylilies are best planted in groupings with their crowns just under the surface of the soil. If you get them too deep, they may not bloom well. To encourage spreading, feed with a balanced fertilizer in spring and again after blooming. Use bone meal or bulb fertilizer when planting to encourage the daylily to root more quickly.
Maintenance: Almost no maintenance is required for daylilies, but they will perform better if they are deadheaded while blooming. Deadheading simply means removing blooms as they fade an
d the stalks after all the buds have opened. Daylilies are seldom bothered by diseases or insects. If you have a problem with either aphids or thrips on the bloom stalks or flower buds, use insecticidal soap or a systemic insecticide. After a killing frost in the fall, remove all the dead leaves.
Uses: Plant these versatile perennials as either individual specimens or in groups and borders. Some of the older varieties are so tough they make successful mass plantings on embankments for erosion control. The species Hemerocallis fulva (also called the ditch lily) is a common sight along roadsides in much of the United States. There are some great new miniatures that make wonderful edging plants or in mixed perennial beds.
Division: Plants can go many years without division, but usually bloom better if you divide the clump every 3 or 4 years. Lift the entire clump in late summer and cut the foliage back to a few inches. Then pull or cut the thick tangle of roots apart, making sure you keep part of the crown in each division, and replant keeping the crown just below the surface. Stella d’Oro can be divided every year.
Extended Bloom and Reblooming: Breeders are constantly working to improve the daylily. “Extended bloom” means a specific flower will last up to 18 hours. A daylily designated as a “rebloomer” either continues to bloom on into fall or blooms again in late summer or fall.
Heights: When a specific type of daylily says it is 24 inches tall, that indicates the height of the foliage itself. Daylily blooms are formed on long stems called scapes. The scape will hold the blooms well above the foliage, giving the impression of a taller plant.
Hardiness: There are daylily species and varieties that are not hardy in our climate. Be sure to ask a professional at McShane’s for help on picking out a daylily that is hardy in our climate before you purchase.
Varieties: In addition to all the different species of daylilies, there are thousands of varieties from which to choose. You can make your choice based on plant size, color, flower shape, and season of bloom. Some varieties are also fragrant. Watch for the award winners. Tags or signs should provide you with lots of information. E=Early blooming. In our area, that is June. M=Mid-season blooming, July and early August. L=Late blooming, from late Augus t into the fall. They may also be marked “Re” for rebloomer. “Dwf” indicates the variety is considered a dwarf.
Dwarf Varieties: Also known as miniatures, dwarf daylilies have blooms less than 3 inches across and the plant grows less than 18 inches tall. Most dwarfs only grow about 12 inches tall, forming a neat, compact mound. As with all varieties of daylilies, the flower scapes are held above the foliage. The daylily making the biggest splash of the decade is a compact dwarf with golden yellow blooms called Stella d’ Oro. With weekly deadheading, it has been known to bloom for several months each season. There is now a version of Stella with a dark throat and a mini-Stella. Another great miniature is Eenie Weenie, growing a compact 10 inches and reblooming with pretty yellow/gold flowers. Some other dwarfs to watch for are Siloam Double Classic (pink), Little Grapette (lavender), Apricot Sparkles (apricot) and Ruby Stella (red).
With so many varieties of daylilies available, here at McShane’s Nursery and Landscape Supply, we would be happy to help you pick out the variety best suited for your needs!