Daylilies are wonderful flowers, but, oh, their names

About 1,000 new daylilies are registered every year. It's obviously not easy to come up with names for all of them. You could have a garden growing 142 daylies with some variation of the name 'plum' or 314 with 'peach.'

Courtesy of Karan Davis Cutler
'My Reggae Tiger', a two-foot-tall tetraploid daylily, was released in 2006. Tetraploids have extra sets of chromosomes, which result in plants with larger, more intensely colored flowers, stronger scapes (flower stems), and greater overall plant vigor.
Courtesy of Karan Davis Cutler
erocallis 'Bonanza', which is mildly fragrant, is a flashy addition to any garden. Like most daylilies, each bloom lasts only one day. Daylilies are easy to grow almost everywhere and are generally untroubled by diseases and pests.

Lake Champlain, on whose bank we live, is almost three feet above flood stage, it’s still raining, and the 40-foot by 6-foot border I dug last fall is a morass. It will be weeks before I can plant.

“Half the interest of a garden,” wrote Mrs. C.W. Earle in 1897, “is in the constant exercise of the imagination.” So as my shoreline erodes and my yard floods, I’ve been a virtual gardener, nudging my imagination with visits to the website of the American Hemerocallis Society (AHS).

A perfect perannial for all areas

Daylilies, Hemerocallis cultivars [PDF] are near-perfect plants; hardy, rugged, undemanding flowers that grow in USDA Zones 2 through 10. They’re my favorite perennial and where I begin when filling a garden.

Like potato chips, you can’t stop with one daylily.

I don’t want to limit myself to the most popular daylilies, such as ‘Stella de Oro’, the first true repeat bloomer that’s now as ubiquitous as the dandelion.

Or limit myself to bicolored daylilies or to “spider” daylilies. (Officially the longest petal of a “spider” has a 4:1 ratio, four times longer than wide. But you don’t have to measure unless you’re entering a flower show. Pretty much any daylily with long skinny petals is a “spider.”)

But after several hours looking at the AHS website, I’ve stumbled on an approach: cultivar names. Ignore height and color, ignore form and culture and habit, and plant by name.

Odd, unusual, and funny daylily names

The possibilities not only challenge my imagination but tickle my funny bone.

What about a daylily love-in? ‘Big Honking French Kisses’ alongside ‘Gaudy Kisses’, ‘Kiss My Buds’, ‘Kissy Face’, ‘Auntie’s Lipstick Kisses’, ‘Bullfrog Kisses’, ‘Vampire’s Kiss’, and ‘Kissiepoo.’

I could plant a daylily library of American classics, beginning with ‘Little Women’, ‘Look Homeward Angel,’ ‘Moby Dick’, ‘Tobacco Road’, and ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’. Movie titles also are popular: ‘Star Wars’, ‘White Christmas’, ‘Gone With the Wind’, ‘Lion King’, ‘Singing in the Rain’, ‘Wizard of Oz’, even ‘Silence of the Lambs’.

Fruit names are even more popular. I could grow a plum garden: ‘Plum Crazy’, ‘Plum Cute’, ‘Plum Dandy’, ‘Plum Perfect’, and even ‘Plum Plum’. (If I had space, there are another 137 daylilies with “plum” in their name.)

There also are 314 daylilies with “peach” in their names, 148 daylilies use “cherry’, and 84 use “apple,” beginning with ‘Adam’s Apple’. Whether the name refers to the forbiden fruit or the prominentia laryngea is unclear.

I could plant a daylily garden for my dessert-loving husband, beginning with ‘Parfait Delight’, ‘Hot Fudge’, ‘Chocolate Cupcake’, ‘Figgy Pudding,’ ‘Apricot Custard’, ‘Cotton Candy Cupcake’, ‘Ice Cream Dream’, ‘Cool Cookie’, ‘Scoop of Vanilla’, and ‘Raspberry Whip’.

No one ever claimed that cultivars names are always tasteful, and it’s crazy to expect that the gifted breeder who produced a new daylily also will have the talent to name it. We don’t expect the composer to write the lyrics.

Some breeders are appellatively inspired, however — for example, ‘A Bloom With a View’.

Daylilies probably have so many most outrageous cultivar names because there are so many to name. About 1,000 new cultivars are registered with the AHS each year, bringing the 2010 total to 69,137. (Fittingly there is a daylily named ‘A2Z’.)

Even numbers on that scope can’t absolve names like ‘Fruit Loops’, ‘A Babbling Baboon’s Bouncing Babies’, ‘Pygmy Paramour’, ‘A Bulldog’s Face Chewing a Thistle’, ‘Stupidville USA’, and ‘Scooter Pooper.’

If these were kids, they’d disown their parents.

Editor's Note: Readers may also be interested in an article about How to have a 'Star Trek' garden planted with daylilies and hostas that have names like Borg Technology and Captain Kirk.


Karan Davis Cutler blogs regularly at Diggin’ It. To read more, click here. She's a former magazine editor and newspaper columnist and the author of scores of garden articles and more than a dozen books, including “Burpee - The Complete Flower Gardener” and “Herb Gardening for Dummies.” Karan now struggles to garden in the unyieldingly dense clay of Addison County, Vt., on the shore of Lake Champlain, where she is working on a book about gardening to attract birds and other wildlife.

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