100 of the very best garden articles for your reading pleasure

Daylily: A Perennial Favorite

Daylily: A Perennial Favorite

Whenever a beginning flower gardener asks me what to plant, my answer is always the same -- daylilies. Without a doubt, daylilies rank high among the easiest, most adaptable plants for the flower garden. Daylilies will stand up to all but the most severe abuse and neglect, repeating their colorful show year after year.

Growing Habit:
Like their name Hemerocallis (`beauty for a day`) indicates, the individual daylily flower lasts only one day. A single plant may produce over 50 flowers, however, extending the blooming period of a plant for several weeks.

Daylilies produce a wide array of blooms. Some varieties provide single trumpet-shaped flowers. Others are double, ruffled, fringed or spiderlily-like. Bloom sizes among varieties range from 2 - 8 inches. Gardeners especially value daylilies for their wide range of colors, as there are varieties available in every color except blue. Some daylily blooms are a single color, but many are multi-colored.

Most daylilies have arching foliage that grows 18 to 24 inches tall. Some varieties have erect foliage, however. Some grow as low as 12 inches and others reach 3 feet. Leaf color ranges from pale green to dark green with a bluish cast.

Daylilies are perennial plants, with deciduous, semi-evergreen and evergreen varieties available.

You can find daylily varieties for all U.S. zones, however, daylilies thrive in zones 4 - 9.

Although they are adaptable to most soils, daylilies do best in slightly acidic, moist soil that is high in organic matter and well drained. Excessively rich soils may result in increased foliage growth and decreased blooming.

Daylilies prefer full sun, but will tolerate light shade. In the hotter regions, some light afternoon shade will protect the blooms of some daylily varieties from fading.

Although daylilies are drought-tolerant once established, consistent watering while they are budding and flowering will produce better-quality flowers. During hot weather, they should be watered at least weekly with 1/2 to 1 inch of water to encourage the best and longest-lasting show.

Propagation and Planting:
When planting daylilies, whether divisions or newly-purchased plants, you should dig a hole slightly larger than the roots to be sure the roots are allowed to spread out. Make a small cone of soil in the center of the hole and place the plant on top, fanning the roots outward and downward. Carefully work the soil in around the roots. The crown should be set not more than an inch or so below the soil surface. Tall cultivars should be spaced 24 to 30 inches apart with smaller types 18 to 24 inches apart.

Daylilies are very easily propagated by the division of old clumps. You should divide clumps when they become overcrowded, usually every 4 to 6 years. For very vigorous cultivars, you may need to divide them more often. The best time for dividing old clumps and resetting divisions or new plants is from late summer to late autumn. You may also plant them in the very early spring, however this may result in decreased blooming the first season.

To divide a daylily clump, cut into the soil around the plant with a spade and then lift the entire clump out of the soil with a garden fork. To separate the plant into individual fans (a grouping of leaves with roots attached), shake it to remove as much soil as possible. If necessary, use a hose to wash away excess soil, then work the roots apart into good-sized clumps of 3 - 4 fans each. You should replant the new divisions as soon as possible, however, they should be able to survive for several days if protected from the heat and sun.

Pest and Disease Prevention:
Daylilies are usually free from pests and diseases. Aphids and thrips sometimes feed on the flower buds. These pests can be easily controlled with insecticidal soaps, dishwashing liquid mixed with water in a spray bottle or simply a strong spray of water.

Landscape Uses:
Daylilies are most effective when planted in sweeping drifts or masses. They are attractive in the perennial flower border when 3 plants or more of the same variety are planted together. They can add great amounts of color to a landscape naturalization project.

Daylilies are also perfect for tough gardening situations. They are salt tolerant, so they do well near the coast. When planted on slopes and steep hills, they form a dense mat that helps prevent erosion. Daylilies are even useful in areas prone to brush fires, as their roots are engorged with water and, when planted in mass, can stop a brush fire in its tracks.

Culinary Uses:
While most flower gardeners are familiar with daylilies, few know that practically every part of the daylily is edible. Daylilies are actually higher in protein and Vitamin C than most of the vegetables we eat. Some common ways of eating daylilies include adding fresh buds and blossoms to salads, as well as battering and frying them like squash blossoms. Dried daylily petals, called `golden needles` by the Chinese, are an ingredient in many Chinese recipes, including hot-and-sour soup.

Daylilies are adaptable, vigorous perennials that thrive in the garden, even when neglected. They are easy to establish and multiply quickly. They are virtually pest- and disease-free. They even taste good. Go out and find a sunny spot in your garden to add a new daylily. You will quickly discover why daylilies are one of the flower gardener`s favorite plants.

Garden articles © 2021