Daylilies are one of the best ways to savor summer. These perennial favorites unfurl new blooms every day, so there's always a fresh face in the flower bed to enjoy.
Both its common name and botanical name—Hemerocallis, which means "beauty for a day"—correctly indicate the individual flowers last only a single day. But when mature, the plants can offer a constant outpouring of new blooms for 3 to 4 weeks at a time.
This, along with their hardy nature and graceful form, has earned them an enduring spot in the hearts of generations of gardeners.
Today there are close to 60,000 hybrids—the result of intense breeding that combines the characteristics of different varieties.
The extraordinary selection means gardeners can find a variety that truly satisfies their every whim—whether it's a specific color, flower shape, height or bloom time.
One of the great successes of extensive hybridization is the development of "rebloomers", sometimes referred to as remontant daylilies. Unlike their predecessors that flower for only several weeks, these newcomers on the garden scene offer season-long color.
Stella de Oro is one such daylily. The abundant golden flowers of this compact variety bloom from early summer until the first killing frost. Other common rebloomers are the pale yellow flowers of Happy Returns or the taller Strawberry Candy, which has large pink blooms.
In Name Only
Daylilies often are confused with traditional hardy lilies. While they belong to the same family and share enough attributes for daylilies to acquire the "lily" nickname, the two plants are quite different. Hardy lilies, such as tiger and Easter lilies, grow from bulbs, while daylilies have fleshy fibrous roots that spread year after year. Daylilies also possess bright-green grass-like leaves that arch up from the base of the plant. Some varieties retain their leaf color throughout winter. By comparison, "true" lilies have smaller leaves that whorl around the stem of the plant.
A long-lived perennial, daylilies are highly adaptable but do best in rich well-draining soil. For clay and sandy areas, condition flower beds with organic matter such as fallen leaves or compost prior to planting.
Getting a Good Start
Spring is the ideal time to plant daylilies. In the South, however, they can be planted in the garden in late autumn as well.
Space them at least 18 to 24 inches apart in groups of three to six plants of the same type. Pick a sunny spot so the plants receive 6 or more hours of direct sunlight each day. Darker flowers will do fine and hold their color better with a little afternoon shade.
Daylilies are striking whether planted alone or as part of a mixed perennial bed or border. For an ongoing display, mix repeat bloomers with a colorful combination of early summer, mid-season and late blooming varieties.
Be careful not to place them near leafy trees or large shrubs, however, which compete for water and nutrients. They will deprive your daylilies of the moisture they need.
After 3 to 5 years, the plants should be divided to prevent overcrowding.
You'll discover these carefree perennials need little more than a drink of water every now and then. Insects or disease seldom bother established plants, and they're quite drought-resistant. It's no wonder the fleeting beauties have stood the test of time.
Daylily Plant Profile
Common Name: Daylily.
Botanical Name: Hemerocallis.
Bloom Time: Varies widely—from early summer until first killing frost; individual flowers last for only 1 day.
Hardiness: Zones 3 to 10.
Flower Color: Every shade except blue and pure white.
Flower Shape: Trumpet-shaped blooms. Outer edge of petals range from triangle and circle patterns to double blooms or wispy star- and spider-like shapes.
Height: 1 to 4 feet.
Width: 1-1/2 to 4 feet.
Light Needs: Full sun to partial shade.
Soil Type: Fertile, moist and well-draining.
Planting: Dig a hole larger than the root mass and place the daylily in the center. Make sure the crown of the plant—the point where the stems and root meet—isn't more than 1 inch below the surface. Then cover with soil and water well.