The Midseason Stalwart

As we end June and begin heading into the Fourth of July holiday, it is time for  Hemerocallis, or “daylilies”to bloom. They really come into their glory at this time, bridging the rose and the Lilium (true lily) bulbs.

Not really a lily, it has the trumpet flowers that bring it this name.

From the simple “roadside lily” with its beacon of orange flowers, this plant has become a major landscape component and the Midwestern gardener’s most dependable flowering friend.

I can remember my Dad’s excitement when “Stella D’Oro” was introduced, with its promise of all summer flowers (he was a great fan of daylilies). Since then, this variety has become ubiquitous, spawning others with its same qualities, and helping to make the Hemerocallis much more than the sidenote it once was.

Heights, Colors, Recipes!

For the modern gardener, the varied heights, bloom times, delicious colors, and flower forms help make this one of the top perennials to include in our yards. They have so many uses from color in the border to slope holding plants, to features throughout the landscape, including service as a groundcover.

Plus, you can eat the budswarning: some people are allergic to them! The taste? A little like squash blossoms, a little like radish. Just sauté in some butter. The flowers and tubers are edible, as well.


The Look

Hemerocallidaceae Hemerocallis

A large mound of arching, lush green straps that last attractively throughout the season. In the Midwest, this stays good looking until hard frost, and arrives each spring just late enough to make cover for bulbs.

  • Early bloomer : June
  • Midseason – July
  • Late: – August-September

The flowers are the highlight of this major landscape perennial. They arrive in midseason, according to whether they are early, mid, or late bloomers. Open lily forms have been bred to achieve different looks from spidery to full round and ruffled cups.

Their variety in heights, bloom times, and colors gives them a central place in the garden, allowing for a very long season of bloom. They are garden stalwarts. Beautiful, healthy, tolerant, with attractive foliage.

Quick facts

Depending on Variety

  • flower size from 3-14 inches across
  • heights from 8-40 inches tall
  • trumpet shaped flowers

The colors are usually warm -Swansdown yellows, peaches, luscious melons, reds and maroons, oranges in all their glory; with whites among the colors many breeders aim for, and “blues” being the Holy Grail (so far, only a lavender hue has been achieved).

But the old fashioned orange and yellow set the stage for many of the myriad hybrids, hues of red, pinks, purples, gold, yellows, and whites are common. There are so many, in fact, that categories of type and color describe the blooms:

    Color zones:

  • watermarked
  • halo
  • eyezoned

Forms and features:

  • double
  • fringed
  • ruffled
  • diamond dusted

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How To Grow Daylilies

Orange daylilies

Orange daylilies by normanack, on Flickr

One of the reasons they are so popular is that they are easy to grow and require no special efforts. You will have better results if you give them what they like, however.
What is that, you ask?

  • Best in full sun (6 hours), but a recommended planting for partly shady areas, too.
  • Multiply with division, divide for best bloom about every four years.
  • Likes moisture, with good drainage
  • Average soil of any type, but added humus gives best results

Planting Directions

When planting bare root, get in the ground as soon as possible, otherwise, if container grown, try to plant in spring so it settles in well. Be careful of the tubers, and plant the crown no more than an inch below soil surface.

You can also plant in late summer or early fall- the plants do okay with early frosts and put in root growth. The following season should yield some flowers, and burst into bloom in following years.

Increase by division

In The Garden

Grown en masse they are wonderful all by themselves… on a slope, as a bed of color, within a berm beside the road or driveway.

They look at home in cottage gardens, and provide flowers for the house from cutting gardens. Midway in the border, edging a wooded clearing, in front of a porch, or surrounding a specimen tree, daylilies give a fringe of flowers all summer.

My Dad planted them to follow daffodils in his city “Hellstrip” – that section between the street and the sidewalk.

I grow them as decorative a strip to cover the tulips when gone, at the foot of an old maple (many other plants would give up), and as a focal point at entries.

How Are Daylilies Different From True Lilies?

hemerocallis and lilium

They look similar!

Different Look From True Lilies

True lilies grow from bulbs, while the Hemerocallis have fat swelling called “tubers”.

The true lilies, Lilium, send up a tall stem with lancelike leaves, while the Daylily has a mound of leaves growing from the ground with stems that rise above it with the flowers.

There Is No Perfect Plant

I have noticed some of my daylilies have melted down in heat and drought. They don’t die and go away, they just droop and sometimes wither to a shadow of their former selves. This is not a permanent problem. They have always reappeared and looked fine in better years.

If you give them poor conditions, or have a worse than normal year, be prepared for less than stellar performance.

Even if categorized as “evergreen“, these plants will freeze and be dormant in cold climates like Ohio.

Check the cold hardiness of the variety, not all are equally hardy.

Flower Parts Of Hemerocallis

While all flowers will have the same basic parts in their anatomy, specific types can differ from each other in appearance. Not a lot, but it might be useful to review plant parts, especially before deadheading or beginning to produce your own hybrids (yes, you can do that!)

Scape

The stalk arising from the plant that holds the entire flowering branch.

Flower Stem

Green stem that attaches the flower to the scape, it is called the pedicel.

Bud

Immature flower, can be mistaken for day old flower.

Ovary

Seed forming swelling at base of flower. This should be removed during deadheading. Less strength given to forming seed means more blooms produced.

Deadheading Daylilies

Diploid and Tetraploid

Basically extra chromosomes, the tetras are reputed to have

  • bigger blooms
  • stronger scapes
  • more intense color
  • more breeding possibilities

Diploids said to have

  • better pinks
  • more spider and double forms

You decide the worth- or just find the cultivars that appeal to you.

Fun Facts

Hemerocallis means “Beauty for a Day”.

Dining On Daylilies