About Daylilies

History

Daylilies originated in Asia and became popular in the 18th century. The six original species were either orange, as in the common wild daylily, or yellow. In the 19th century hybridizers began creating variations in color and form. Today there are over 58,000 officially registered cultivars with the American Hemerocallis Society. Colors can be anything but blue or pure white, and there are hybridizers working hard to change that. Forms, height, and flower size, as well as season of bloom, vary greatly.

Structure

First of all, Daylilies are NOT lilies. Although distantly related they belong to the genus Hemerocallis and have very different characteristics. They do NOT have bulbs. Daylilies consist of a crown, roots, leaves, scapes and flowers. The crown is a short dense structure that grows just below the surface of earth. Roots grow below the crown and leaves grow upward from it. Leaves look like overgrown grass and grow in fan-like groups. Roots can be stringy or bulbous. Scapes also grow up from the crown as long stalks supporting the flowers. Flowers usually have 3 petals and 3 sepals giving the appearance of 6 petals. Each flower only blooms for a day. Hemerocallis means beauty for a day. Of course the next day more blooms will take the place of the spent ones. daylily parts

Illustration from The American Hemerocallis Society

Pests and diseases

Daylilies are affected by very few pests or diseases. Here in Ashfield we see some leaf streak and maybe a little spring sickness. Neither one threatens the life of the plant. We have no incidents of rust which is more prevalent in the warmer climates. Just to be safe we only purchase from northern growers who specialize in daylilies. As for pests, we have encountered a few problems with voles and deer. Both are inconsistent, though. The vole population varies year to year, and the deer seem to prefer other vegetation most of the time. The other pest is our little corgi who loves to run at hyperspeed through the spring plants. Remember, daylilies are not true lilies and are not susceptible to insects that bother Asiatics.

Care and Planting

Daylilies require very little care. They accept a variety of soil ph except the extremes. They do not require fertilizer and are happiest with organic matter in the soil. We treat our soil with great compost from Bear Path Farm http://www.bearpathfarm.com/. When picking a spot for your daylilies stay away from soggy places and pure sand. Otherwise they can be pretty forgiving.

Most varieties want at least 6 hours of sun. We have certainly heard of some that do well in a more shady placement, but you will usually get better blooms with that amount of sun. The wild daylilies seem to tolerate shade better than the hybrids, but you will notice them by the road reaching toward the sun as best they can.

While daylilies can survive dry weather, they do love water. Good water management will help the blooms be more abundant and better looking.

When planting we like to place plants 2 feet apart. This is a little more than most recomendations, but we think a little air around the plant helps it stay healthy. Leaf streak starts with a break in a leaf so the less jostling the better. First dig a hole bigger than the root mass you are planting. Mix a little compost in with the soil in the bottom and make a tiny mountain in the middle. Spread the roots over this mound as much as possible, fill in the hole, water, and wait for it to grow. Pretty easy.

We deadhead our plants for looks and tidiness. Some of the really big flowers can actually interfere with new blooms when they droop. Also, the darker colors can drip color which is difficult to get out of clothes. We want to avoid forming seed pods for a number of reasons. It won't give you more buds as they are formed weeks before the blooming starts, but that energy can go into plant health instead. We don't want those seeds germinating in our gardens since the offspring would not be true to the hybrid parent.