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Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Perennials

All-American Daylilies (page 2 of 4)

by Jack Ruttle

Shopping for the Best

You'll find the greatest selection of daylilies in the catalogs of mail-order specialists. Most varieties cost $3 to $10, but you'll see some selling for hundreds of dollars. Remember, paying a lot doesn't ensure quality, only rarity.

For the typical gardener, selecting from the thousands of available varieties can be daunting. Here's some simple advice: Focus on the whole plant. If there are 4,000 daylilies with yellow flowers, common sense suggests that not all will grow in the same way. Some of those yellows grow significantly faster, produce more flowers, and have more attractive foliage than others.

If you look car at the plants in a display garden or a nursery, there are clues as to how they will grow in your garden.

Sun/Heat Tolerance
The best time to shop for daylilies is late in the afternoon on a sunny day, when you can see how the flowers stand up to the sun. Pale and red varieties are more prone to sun damage. You can also see how they will look at the end of the work day, the time when most of us are able to enjoy the garden.

Number of Flowers
Don't settle for varieties that bloom for less than 3 weeks. If this information isn't on the tag, count the number of buds on the flower stalk. A good performer will have 15 or more buds per stalk. Each daylily flower, of course, remains open for only one day, and on the average one flower opens every other day. It's easy to count the scars where buds have fallen off to see what the total for that variety is.

Where nights are very cool, daylily flowers don't open as readily in the morning. You can solve this problem by growing "nocturnals." These are varieties with flowers that open at dusk and remain open throughout the following day.

Repeat Bloom
More and more daylilies send up a progression of flower stalks all season long. The most famous is 'Stella d'Oro'. Whether or not a variety repeats is usually noted on the label. But if you see a new scape rising at the base of a blooming plant, the plant is a repeat bloomer.

Strong Foliage
Daylily leaves will be a part of your garden far longer than the flowers, and not all daylilies have equally attractive foliage. The most beautiful varieties are dark green to blue-green and the leaves arch gracefully. When shopping, make sure the foliage covers the pot generously.

Rate of Increase
Daylilies can grow slowly, especially if the plants carry exotic blooms. A good landscape variety will at least triple in size each year. Extremely vigorous ones, like 'Stella d'Oro', do even better. Rapid growers have plenty of flower power, and you can divide and replant them more frequently if you have a large area to fill.

Spent Bloom
When flowers of the best varieties fade, they roll up like little cigarettes and drop off within two days. This is a trait that is easy to spot in the nursery, and one that is not shared by all varieties. Some hold faded flowers for days, or worse, drop them onto other buds and disfigure opening flowers.

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