This white picket fence is the perfect background to bring out the brilliant hues of the flowers.
William Dickey, Ralph Anderson
Traditionally, most daylilies send up their green sword-shaped leaves each spring. They bloom and then die back completely in the winter. These are called dormant selections, and they grow best in the Upper South where the cold winters would damage any exposed foliage. In the Middle to Lower South, it's possible to grow evergreen selections, with leaves that stay green all year. A more recent trend in breeding has focused on semievergreen daylilies. These die down and lose some of their leaves but retain enough foliage to be seen year-round. The majority of new selections are semievergreen, which are usable in the widest range of growing conditions.
Places They Look Great
There are a number of ways to add these plants to your landscape. As Jim says, "The only way daylilies won't be beautiful in your yard is if you don't plant them. It's that simple."
The classic look for daylilies is planted en masse, either along a pathway or drifting through a border. Mass plantings are good for erosion-prone sites, such as hillsides or gullies, and stand up to the harshest conditions. Daylilies also look great scattered throughout a perennial border. Try grouping plants in clumps of three or five for a natural feel that fits in with the other perennials. The only rule to follow is keeping taller plants in the back and allowing enough room for each clump to thrive (place about 3 feet apart).
Put Them in the Ground
Daylilies are some of the easiest perennials to plant and maintain in the South. Select a spot that gets at least six hours of sun with a little protection from afternoon heat. Dig a 1-foot-deep hole, and create a small mound in the middle. Place the plant in the ground on top of the mound, and drape the roots around the side. Backfill the hole with a mixture of compost and topsoil. Make sure that the crown of the plant is slightly above the original soil surface, and water in thoroughly.
Find the Right One
The best place to buy daylilies is anywhere that you can see them in bloom. There is really no other way to know you're getting a plant you'll be happy with unless you've seen it in bloom. For this reason, daylily farms have sprung up all over the South and offer a dazzling array of flowers. At Holly Hill Daylily Farm, Jim has more than 2,000 named selections that you can choose from while strolling through his fields. "It's not just a daylily farm," Jim says. "It's really more like a carnival with all these beautiful blooms casting a spell over you. I was so smitten by the beauty of the flowers that I ended up buying this farm just to have a place to plant them!"
"Dazzling Daylilies" is from the June 2004 issue of Southern Living.