Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
July, 2007
Regional Report

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How can you not fall in love with a daylily this beautiful?

Oh, For the Love of a Daylily!

I have a garden full of daylilies that are just coming into their prime. I have dwarf ones that bloom off and on all season, common orange "roadside lilies," and a few specialty hybrid plants with large, amazing blossoms. I love them all; there is something nostalgic about the common daylily, especially because our grandmothers all grew them.

Daylilies vs. True Lilies
Not to be confused with true lilies (Liliaceae family) that are in bloom now as well, daylilies (Hemerocallis family) grow in clumps with 1- to 2-foot-long, strap-like leaves that emerge from the ground. Their blossoms are borne on slender stalks that usually stand above the leaves. Each stalk has several buds that bloom in succession, and each blossom lasts only for one day. They come in all shades of orange to coral, white, pink, yellow, and deepest maroon.

True lilies, on the other hand, have sturdy flower stalks lined with strap-like leaves that emerge from scaly bulbs. Lily stalks are topped with clusters of large buds that open into funnel-shaped flowers of various colors and scents. The flowers may point upward or hang down like bells.

Daylilies are often thought of as having no scent, but many of the older varieties are quite sweetly scented. I have a lemon yellow variety (it came from my grandmother, so I don't know the name) that has a delicious honey-lemon scent that fills the evening air. Unfortunately, as with many other plants that have been hybridized, daylilies that are bred for large, showy blossoms have often lost any scent.

Daylilies are treated just like other perennials as far as planting and dividing. They will stand for years in one spot, and if their blooms seem diminished, then divide them in spring or fall. Beyond this, they happily take minimal care.

After daylilies have bloomed, cut out the flower stalks to neaten their appearance. As the summer wanes, the leaves may look somewhat tatty, and I've had great luck simply cutting them back to ground level. They send out new foliage, making a bright, fresh backdrop for fall-blooming perennials.

Daylilies make excellent bank plantings because their tenacious fleshy roots hold soil in place. They also tolerate the dryness of a slope. Another difficult site that begs for daylilies is under a tree. They tolerate partial shade and will bloom quite well in these conditions. Tree roots tend to make the site dry, so again, their drought tolerance is perfect for this situation.

Even if they are considered commoners among the aristocrats of the perennial garden, try a few daylilies for summer color; I guarantee you will be hooked.

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