William Dickey, Ralph Anderson
If you're like most folks in the South, your earliest memory of a daylily is probably at your grandmother's house, where long sweeps of orange flowers burst into bloom at the height of summer. It's the same today. Just when you notice the summer heat, daylilies begin to send out their long flower stalks. Soon the yard is filled with giant, colorful blooms, each lasting just a day.
While some things have changed since your grandmother first planted her roadside lilies, the bright blooms still add beauty and happiness to our summer days. But now, there are more types of daylilies than can fit into an encyclopedia, and they're just as easy to grow and propagate as they were generations ago. Jim Massey of Holly Hill Daylily Farm in Moncure, North Carolina, says, "Anyone can grow daylilies; they thrive on benign neglect." The only thing that's changed is the variety of beauty waiting to be discovered.
The Wide World of Options
While there are currently more than 50,000 named daylily selections, there are really only a few important differences between them all. Knowing what these distinctions are will help you to match your growing conditions and preferences with the right daylily.
Shape of the Flower
The most important thing to consider when selecting a daylily for your garden is also the easiest: Do you like the bloom? A daylily flower can appear rounded, triangular, star-shaped, or in a spider form. It can also have a plain appearance (tailored) or a ruffled look. With all these options, it seems that there are an infinite number of combinations, one of which is bound to suit your fancy. Newer hybrids are opening up the possibilities even more with double blossoms, night bloomers, longer bloom times, and even fragrant selections.
Time of Bloom
Planting the right daylilies to create a steady stream of flowers for the entire season is an easy way to get a big show of color in your yard. While the climate affects exactly when a plant will bloom, breeders now offer a wide spectrum of plants that flower from midspring all the way to the first frost.
At a Glance
Sun: full to partial sun
Bloom time: about three weeks
Soil: any well drained
Fertilizer: compost or a granular 8-8-8 product
Pest: daylily rust. Plant resistant selections. Or remove and burn foliage, and spray with fungicide.
Divide: In spring or fall, cut them into clumps of two or three, and replant. (New divisions may not bloom the first year.)