Daylilies give many years of pleasure
What looks pretty all summer but blooms for just one day?
The answer: the daylily. While each bloom lasts only one day, the plant develops numerous buds for a succession of blooms.
Some varieties bloom in late summer, others rebloom, while still other varieties bloom over a long period.
The daylily is hearty enough to withstand our heat and humidity and, unless you have problem deer, you will enjoy daylilies year after year.
“Beautiful for a day” is the English translation of the Greek word Hemerocallis, the scientific name of the daylily. These flowers arrived in North America by the 17th century, coming from Europe after originating in China, Japan, Korea and Eastern Siberia.
Many varieties and colors
Their original colors were yellow, orange and orange-red. However, hybridizers have expanded the color palette to include pale lemon, bright gold, scarlet, maroon, wine-reds, pale pink, rose, lavender, lilac, grape and melon.
Daylilies have a variety of color patterns as well, including polychrome, which is the intermingling of three or more colors; edged or picoted, which means that the edges are either lighter or darker than the segment color; and diamond dusting, which means the flower has a sparkling appearance as if sprinkled with gold, silver or tiny diamonds.
The blooms have an array of forms as well, including circular, triangular, star and ruffled. Flowers can be as small as two inches, or as large as eight inches across. In fact, there are nearly 89,000 different registered cultivars.
Early and late bloomers
Individual flowers last only one day. However, because each plant produces many buds, the total blooming time of a well-established clump may be four to five weeks.
You can enjoy daylily blossoms for months by combining early summer bloomers with midseason bloomers and late bloomers.
Those blooming in August include “August Ruby,” “Buttered Popcorn,” “Gold Bullion” and “Orange Float.” Rebloomers and everbloomers include “Barbara Mitchell,” “Bitsy,” “Frankly Scarlet,” “Happy Returns,” “Lemon Lollipop,” “Pardon Me,” “Ruby Stella” and “Stella de Oro.”
Blooms grow on a scape, a leafless stalk. Scapes can range in height from eight inches to five feet. Daylilies have grass-like leaves that are arranged opposite each other, giving the appearance of a fan.
The crown, or the stem of the daylily plant, is a solid white core between the leaves and scapes on the upper surface and the roots.
How and when to plant
Although early fall or early spring are the best times to plant, daylilies may be planted most any time of year. Just a caution: when humidity and temperatures are extremely high (over 90°F), newly planted daylilies may rot.
While they prefer well-drained soil rich in organic matter with a slightly acidic pH, they are extremely tolerant of most soils. However, they should not be planted where there is poor drainage.
They typically bloom best in full sun or light shade. The color of a darker-colored cultivar may fade in direct sun and would be better suited in a place with afternoon shade.
To plant daylilies in your own garden, set the plant so that its crown is no more than one inch below the surface of the soil. Water thoroughly when you first plant and weekly until the plants are established. Then they will become drought-tolerant, especially if they are mulched.
Daylilies reach mature size in about three years and are long-lived plants.
For best care, remove spent blooms and seedpods after they finish flowering to encourage rebloom. When all the flowers on a scape are spent, you can cut the scape to ground level. Remove dead foliage from daylilies when they die back in the fall.
Easy to divide plants
To increase and revitalize daylilies, divide them. The ideal time to divide is after flowering, but the plants are very tolerant of division throughout the growing season.
To divide, use a garden fork to lift the entire clump from the soil. Separate the clump into individual fans by shaking the clump to remove extra soil and then manually dividing the roots of individual fans.
Except for pesky deer who devour daylilies, the plants are relatively free of pests.
The threat of daylily streak and daylily rust, fungal diseases, can be reduced by good sanitation practices: minimizing overhead and overnight watering, keeping plants from being overcrowded, destroying infected leaves, removing all foliage in the fall, and not working among wet plants. Check for cultivars that are resistant to fungal diseases.
Enjoy daylilies for a daily dose of beauty.
Lela Martin is a Master Gardener with the Chesterfield County office of the Virginia Cooperative Extension.