Though each flower lasts but a day, daylilies light up the garden with blooms for many weeks. The common orange and yellow stalwarts have given way to color combinations too numerous to list, and browsing a catalog is enough to make a gardener swoon.
With flowers that are single or double, ruffled or smooth, large or diminutive, there are daylilies for every taste. Best of all, daylilies ask very little of us – just a partially sunny spot and average soil.
These plants are categorized in several different ways. Deciduous kinds go dormant in frosty weather, evergreens can tolerate frost and grow all winter in mild regions, and there is an intermediate group called semi-evergreen. The rule of thumb is to avoid deciduous daylilies south of Zone 8 and avoid evergreens north of Zone 7.
The height provided in nursery descriptions doesn't refer to the foliage but to the height of the flower stalk. Flower stalks on the shorter varieties grow as high as 12 inches, while stalks of the tallest reach more than six feet high.
Single daylilies have six petals. Double varieties have a second set of petals, often ruffled. Flower size ranges from 11/2 inches – miniature varieties – to eight or nine inches across. Some modern daylilies, called "tetraploids," have twice as many chromosomes as the normal varieties, which gives them larger leaves and larger flowers. The color range of daylilies has expanded to include everything but blue and pure white, and many blossoms are bi- or tri-colored.
Daylilies are stalwarts of the perennial border, but they shine in other spots, too. Vigorous daylilies make weed- and erosion-proof ground covers. Plant them on banks and roadsides or along waterways. Use dwarf daylilies in rock gardens, in containers, or as edging for flowerbeds.
When planting several daylily varieties, arrange drifts of a single variety. A random mix almost always looks spotty from spring through fall. Group at least three clumps of one variety together to get both a more natural look and a stronger impact at show time.
Daylilies grow best in full sun, ideally six hours or more daily. However, in hot and dry climates, they benefit from some afternoon shade, as well as irrigation during bloom. Also, many of the deep reds and the paler shades hold their colors better in partial shade. In any zone, daylilies will perform reasonably well with half a day's shade; they just won't bloom as vigorously.
Daylilies grow well in a wide range of soils. You can plant daylilies successfully almost any time the ground can be worked. The ideal time to transplant and divide is in spring as the shoots begin to emerge, or immediately after bloom. In Zones 9 and 10, plant in early spring (February or March) or fall; avoid planting in mid-summer. Likewise in the Southeast, don't plant during midsummer because the high temperatures and humidity may cause new plants to rot. When planting in fall in cold regions, move the plants at least a month before hard frosts to allow new roots to take hold against frost heaving.
Space plants 18 to 24 inches apart. Plant at the same depth plants grew previously or slightly higher to allow for settling. Firm soil, then water.
Some cultivars can grow for 20 years without requiring division, but others may need division every second or third season. You'll know it's time when you notice flower production declining.
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– Courtesy of Family Features