Daylilies: Beauty for a Day

I’ve gardened for years, both flowers and vegetables, and am a Master Gardener. My passion, though, is selecting, growing, and enjoying cultivated daylilies. Daylilies (hemerocallis lilioasphodelus, Greek for 'beauty for a day') are so named as each bloom lasts one day, yet the plants may be loaded with blooms, opening over several days, if not a couple of weeks. Daylilies come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. They generally range from about 12” to 46” tall and have blooms from about 2” to 8” across! Colors include cream, pink, peach, wine, almost black, red, orange, yellow, and variations and combinations of those colors.

Daylilies grow best in full sun, particularly morning sun in a southern exposure. They can tolerate afternoon shade, but don’t require it. They tolerate lean soil, drought, and heat – probably one of the reasons they are so prolific in Virginia! Of course, they will accept mulch, good topsoil, light feeding to promote blooming rather than leaf production, and water. I like to weed the flowerbeds in the spring and add mulch to help keep the weeds down throughout the blooming season, which ranges from June to early August.

A plume of daylilies

The plants are fairly easy to care for and are a good choice for novice gardeners. In the initial year, you will want to insure they  get adequate water and attention, but once they are established, their care is minimal. Deadhead the blooms regularly for appearance and knock off the seed heads to avoid weakening the plant thereby diminishing future buds. Some people cut the leaves when the flowers have finished blooming, but I find the foliage is quite pleasing and remains green through the summer. I pull the flower stalks out when they are dry to better enjoy the foliage.

I like to plant my daylilies with daffodil bulbs. The bulbs are poisonous to moles and shrews and may deter those critters from eating the tasty rhizomes of the 'lilies (daylily roots and blooms are edible). The daffodils are also a good companion plant since they bloom before the 'lilies and their darker green foliage compliments the lighter green of the 'lilies.

While I’ve been told you should separate your daylilies about every two years, it was a recent experience that reinforced that advice. I dug up a clump of daylilies this spring that had wild onions growing amongst the plants. I knocked out all of the onion bulbs and split the clump in two. Both clumps prospered this summer, growing to the original grouping’s size and blooming vigorously. I will be separating all of my plants this fall and eagerly anticipating next summer’s bounty.

If you think you don’t have a green thumb, give daylilies a try. You’ll be amazed at how easy they are to grow and care for and you and your neighbors will enjoy their beauty for many days. See our Webliography for more!

In the Library

Daylilies: The Perfect Perennial by Lewis and Nancy Hill.
Garden writers Lewis and Nancy Hill share the wisdom of their 40 years of experience growing daylilies. Both beginning and experienced growers will profit from advice on selecting varieties, designing plantings, and propagation, as well as a listing of over 200 popular types.

The Evening Garden by Peter Loewer.
Includes a chapter on night-blooming daylilies. The chapter also includes general information about daylily care, hybridizing, and history of the plant.

The Gardener's Guide to Growing Daylilies by Diana Grenfell.
A good reference book for the daylily fancier. The author gives a comprehensive description of the better known cultivars, and includes both good and bad points.

Hemerocallis, the Daylily by R. W. Munson, Jr.
Munson is one of the better known cultivators of daylilies. An encyclopedia of recommended cultivars and hybrids (includes color photos) is supplemented by a brief treatment of the species, accounts of the work of daylily breeders from 1900 to the present, suggestions for landscape uses, cultural recommendations, and rules for judging daylilies in the garden and in exhibition.

A Passion for Daylilies: The Flowers and the People by Sydney Eddison.
A spirited and eloquent celebration of daylilies and the thousands of gardeners obsessed with growing them.

Local Gardens

Comorn Gardens in King George
9541 Comorn Road off Route 3 East. (540)775-9457
Hours are 9-7 Friday through Monday through July 16. Garden is open other times, but call if you need assistance. Daylilies can be ordered throughout bloom time and dug toward the end of August for local purchase or shipping. Over 300 types cultivated ranging in price from $4.00 to $20.00 a plant.

The Perennial Pickle in Doswell
(804)994-2418 Call for directions.
"Feast your eyes upon the rich yellows, reds, and purples hugging the landscaped yard. Stroll through the three acres of daylilies, hostas, and companion perennials and choose a variety to plant in your own garden. The farm is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays until the end of July or by appointment." [from an article in the Free Lance-Star, July 8, 2001]

On the Web

American Hemerocallis Society
The AHS is organized exclusively for educational and scientific purposes, and especially to promote, encourage, and foster the development and improvement of the genus Hemerocallis (daylilies) and public interest therein. Information on judging, events, publications, and more.

Bethlehem Flower Farm (retailer)
"Daylilies are the easiest perennials you'll ever grow. We always say there are only two steps to a beautiful daylily garden: 1) Plant the daylilies, 2) Have a drink." The Farm is in New Hampshire, yet another testament to the hardiness of daylilies. Site includes tips on care, but bear in mind that many of their cautions are for a severe winter.

Cyberlily Gardens (retailer)
Nicely designed Web site featuring a daylily image gallery and links to other Web sites and growing information.

Daylily Data
Nick Chase compiles a database of over 24,000 cultivars in commerce as of 1998. Very helpful for identifying or finding named plants' characteristics.

La Belle Du Jour: Lily of the Day
"The daylily in all its splendor." Ontario-based Web site with English plant names. Not a retailer. These pages are made for daylily dreamers...nearly 6,000 alphabetized photos taken from everywhere. Created to help you find daylilies quickly; click on a letter and you will see photos with names below.

Roycroft Daylily Nursery (retailer)
Roycroft's continuous goal is to grow the top 700+ daylily cultivars (from the 50,000+ registered cultivars developed by many hybridizers) and offer those of which they have adequate stock to both Nursery and world-wide mail order customers. Each year they add 40-70 new cultivars, and discontinue a like number in efforts to keep on the "cutting edge."

Starlight Daylily Gardens (retailer)
Starlight Daylily Gardens located in beautiful Starlight, Indiana, specializes in over 800 designer daylilies. Add color and beauty to your existing landscape, or start your own rainbow of colorful perennial gardens.

Swallow Tail Nursery (retailer)
See Notes and Comments for a glossary of common daylily terms, a photograph of daylily divisions, as well as information on planting and growing, and notes about the selection of cultivars, pricing, hardiness, rebloom, etc.

Thomas Daylily Farm (retailer)
The Farm grows only long blooming and low maintenance plants for people who don't have much time to garden but want their landscapes to look good. This Web site is their catalog.