Daylilies have been around for thousands of years; they are documented in Asian artwork and paintings dating back to 551BC. After introduction into Europe in the sixteenth century, Daylilies eventually were taken to America, along with peonies and lilacs. Today, there are over 60,000 registered Daylily cultivars.
Daylilies bloom in almost any color imaginable, and hybridizers have increased the varieties to include everything from dwarf 1-inch bloomers to those standing 4 feet tall and measuring up to 5 inches across; ruffled tepals (petals), smooth tepals, variegated coloring, deep throats, night fragrant or day fragrant - the list goes on.
Daylilies are not true lilies, but members of the Hemerocallis genus of the family Hemerocallidaceae. Abundant information is readily available on the cultivation and breeding of these beauties, so I will only touch on the basics here. Mostly, I'd like to introduce you to my Daylily family!
- Soil: The ideal medium is well-drained, moist, rich loam. Reality? Daylilies will tolerate poor soil as long as organic matter is added and mulch applied to retain moisture.
- Light: 6-7 hours of sun a day will produce magnificent blooms. In very hot climates, plant daylilies to receive only morning sun, especially the dark-colored varieties.
- Temperature: Daylilies love very warm days, high humidity, and cloudy skies; the colors become more vibrant under these conditions.
- Water: Abundant watering is the key to luscious blooms. Provide at least 1-inch of water per week during the summer months. Mulch is very important to keep Daylilies evenly moist. Specimens grown in pots must be watered twice a day.
- Grooming: As the name implies, the bloom lasts only a day. When it is finished, it turns into a slimy, unsightly mess, marring the beauty of the plant. Removing the spent blossoms every day seems a chore, but prolongs the enjoyment of the plant. I prefer to dead-head my daylilies in the early evening; this allows time for the foliage to be perfectly dry and gives less chance for me to knock off buds that are about to open. Note: never handle your plants (any plants) while they are wet from rain or dew. The moisture easily transmits disease or even something on your fingers (such as tobacco residue from cigarettes) from plant to plant. When all blooms are finished, cut off the scapes (stems) as low on the plant as you can without damaging the leaves.
- Over-wintering: In all regions except those with the most severe winters, Daylilies will survive. When the plant has finished flowering, continue to water it through the fall. The leaves will begin to turn brown and wither. Be sure to leave them on the plant until they are completely dead, then gently tug to remove them.
For abundant summer color and a delightful experience, try your hand at Daylilies - you won't be sorry.
Grenfell, Diana. The Gardener's Guide to Growing Daylilies (Timber Press, Inc., Portland, Oregon, 1998).
"Daylily". Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daylily) viewed 7/7/08
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on July 22, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)