In the Garden:
Inland Northwest, High Desert
'Chicago Fire' really sets the garden aflame with color in midsummer.
I'd read that daylilies are one of the most carefree and beautiful plants in the garden. I never knew why until I planted some. When they start blooming, I go out to the garden every morning to ooh and ah over them. Their colors can't be beat, they're oblivious to our harsh high-desert conditions, and there's never a bug on them.
What Are Daylilies
Daylilies (Hermocallis) aren't really lilies (Liliaceae) at all - they're distant cousins. The plants are bushier, with many flower stalks (scapes). The fragrance, if any, is less intense than that of Oriental lilies, but the flowering period is long and they're as tough as nails.
Blooms Not Just for a Day
Any garden book will tell you that daylilies got their name because their flowers last for about a day. What the books may not tell you is that although each flower lasts only one day, daylilies produce bushels of flowers over several months.
A Rainbow of Colors
You can find all your favorite colors in daylilies. Varieties come in true yellows, reds, peach, maroon, and more, as well as show-stopping combinations such as the deep-red-blending-to-yellow 'Chicago Fire' or the white- with-purple-eyes 'Pandora's Box'. Some daylily flowers are shaped like those of an Easter lily, others are frilly and fuller. Some are even fragrant.
Easy to Grow
Plant daylilies in spring or fall in any soil but heavy clay. Plant them in borders or even on banks for erosion control. As long as daylilies get a little water and a fertilizer twice a year, they'll bloom for weeks in midsummer with no further attention from you. Clean up the foliage in fall and divide them if you notice the flowering decreasing with age.
In colder areas, daylilies don't even want to be pruned back in winter. They'd prefer to have the protection their old leaves provide for their crowns. Although some bugs such as thrips, Japanese beetles, and cucumber beetles might stop by for a bite, I haven't seen any insects on my daylilies in ten years. If insects are a problem, just clean up plant debris in fall and spray with Neem oil or pyrethrum.
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